Levelling Up: Lace Workshop Session One

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“The air was sultry. The day was bright. The oppressive sun seared our skin as we set out across the market town of Mansfield in search of knowledge. A challenge had been set to learn to knit the fabled Cherry Leaf Shawl. The lace shawl is an intricate, delicate design that has set many a heart on fire. This blazing day, six intrepid ladies traversed the cruel temperatures on a quest to acquire the knowledge, the skill and courage to make the mythical garment. But there would be tests of technique they would need to pass….

Pass they did.”

 

Woollyelly, designed the pattern expressly for the Yankee Yarns Workshop Series. June 17th was the first of three in the lace knitting series. As with any fabled quest, there were three milestones we were meant to pass. Woollyelly (who will from now on be known as the Bridgekeeper) guided us through each of them.

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Woollelly aka Ellena Kirk

The Colour : The first hurdle we had to surmount was which colour we needed to choose. The price of the workshop included two 50g (210m) skeins of Superba Premium Superwash. It is a 4 Ply Yarn. It is 75% Virgin Wool,  25% Polyamide. It’s great for socks and typically you would use a needle Size of 2 – 3mm. But we used 4mm circular needles because we are working with lovely large holes. The stumbling block was really deciding on the colour. I changed my mind six times before finally using the red as is shown in the pattern. I thought I would be kicked out of the shop for vacillating between colour choices. When I jumped this first hurdle, I felt my energy level up and I was ready to tackle the next round which would be a contest of skill…

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The Technique: The finished shawl is a top-down shawl design and starts at the centre where the shawl would rest on the nape of your neck. Rather than casting on in a regular way, the cast-on technique is not so much started as it is “realised”. The name of this bit of sorcery is The Garter Tab Cast On. We began at the centre back, with 3 stitches wrapped around a diaper pin stitch marker. knitting off the stitch marker, it lengthens as it grows in a rectangular shape and then morphs into a lovely curved design. This technique ensures the start blends seamlessly to form the top horizontal line of the shawl. The effort not only is worth the effort but gains you valuable XP and street cred.

The bonus skill is the Yarn Over. To make lovely big holes, we learned the most efficient way to YO. Three of us were doing it backwards making holes that were far too small and would have compromised the beauty of the finished product.

“Only three rows in and already it is so pretty,” remarked Angela as she passed that crucible. “It’s RIDICULOUS!”

The Count: Spellweavers, magic users, conjurers of lacy things… this was our destiny. But we had to be mindful of our craft. We knitted four rows that made up the foundation stitches. We set off on our course to knit rows three and four for a total of 66 times until we ended up with 70 stitches. We had to stay on the path so out came the “runes”.

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Our time had been suspended in magical clicks of needles and discussions of all good things. But the sands on the glass ran out and we rambled out into the night on our individual side-quests…

 

… and to prepare for the next level at the second workshop.

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Cherry Leaf Lace & A Pretty Face…

 

Yvain modelling WoollyElly’s Cherry Leaf Shawl

 

I agreed to meet my daughter for lunch in the historic Lace Market in Nottingham. Since coming to the UK, I have been a fan of the old Victorian and Georgian architecture of this protected heritage area.

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Nottingham Lace Market

I mused over the beauty of the old brick juxtaposed by the hip and fashionable décor. I tried to imagine these buildings as warehouses and workshops when Nottingham was the centre of the world’s lace industry during the British Empire.

 

These renovated buildings are now luxury apartments, high-spec offices, academic buildings and restaurant/bars. This day, I was sitting in the trendy Annie’s Burger Shack. My daughter was running late but I had a nice drink and my knitting to keep me company whilst I waited.

Musing about the history of the lace and hosiery industry in the area got me to remembering my own great-grandmother working “lace” doilies out of silk yarn using only her fingers. lace machineShe did it as a hobby and I marvelled at her patience with it. She could do other things but it took ages to wait for anything bigger than doilies. I loved these little things but found myself shopping for machine-manufactured items because I was impatient. This was how the lace industry changed in England. The lace machines pretty much wiped out hand-knitted lace industry. But now, the mystique of hand-made pieces of art make me want to learn lace making like my great-grandmother did— Not to sell but to create beautiful lace things for my own joy. However, the task seems daunting!

Our Fearless Leader Sara, as if by magic, came up with a most agreeable solution! Why not knit up the lace as they did before the invention of the lace machine?  Yankee Yarns will host a Lace Workshop featuring local dyer, Woollyelly, who will be teaching the art of knitting her original design pattern Cherry Leaf Shawl.

Woollyelly, AKA Ellena Kirk, is an accomplished knitter. She started knitting 37 years ago as a child. As she grew older, she grew bolder venturing into the world of crochet in 1997. Then she got adventurous with her knitting. After watching a hand-spinning demo in 2007, she joined a local guild and began spinning.  Her passion for dying her own yarn and weaving with it brought her to Yankee Yarns. We have some of her 144 hand-spun works of wonder in our shop.

Our Fearless Leader Sara said Woollyelly designed the Cherry Leaf Shawl special for our workshop. The pattern is on sale on Ravelry for those of you who are already accomplished or unable to make the workshop at our shop in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire.

You can attend the workshop at 11 am over three Saturdays: June 17th, July 1st and July 8th. Each session costs £20 but if you block-book, the whole workshop will only cost £45. The price includes Woollyelly’s Shawl pattern, two balls of Rico Superba Superwash in your choice of 17 colours, refreshments and hours of lovely company. So join up as soon as you can as space is limited!
To learn more about the history of lace in Nottingham, please click here!