What stories are captured in the stitches of a knitted shawl? Every time I see a piece of historical knitting, I find myself wondering about the person who made it and the person who wore it. What might have been “said” in the knitting that could not be spoken or written in words?
Was the shawl this project is based on, see “Martha’s Lace Mystery” by Anne Berk, which was featured in the May/June 2015 issue of PieceWork, knitted by Anne Berk’s cousin Martha Morris? How did she work the unusual motif with cables surrounded by lace lozenges? While Anne was digging into her family history, I was trying to re-create this motif in knitting. So far I have failed, but I haven’t given up. I’ve gotten quite close, but some of the fine details—much like the details of Anne’s family story—have evaded me. Looking at the shawl’s minute stitches knitted with a fine wool thread is almost as difficult as looking into the past through layers of papers and family stories. Sometimes, we can’t figure out the exact details of the story or the stitches. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.
This scarf includes several of the motifs from Cousin Martha’s shawl, knitted in a thicker alpaca-silk yarn—something that makes the scarf practical and beautiful. I began with the same border used on the shawl and adapted it for a narrower scarf design. The center section of the scarf uses the mesh design from the shawl. I switched from garter to stockinette stitch and back to garter to add more body and textural interest to the scarf. Worked in two pieces from the end toward the center, the scarf can be finished with a three-needle bind-off or by grafting.
Donna Druchunas is a knitwear designer, the author of six knitting books, a contributor to many others, and co-owner with Ava T. Coleman of Stories in Stitches, a company offering historically based knitting publications and workshops. Visit her website at www.sheeptoshawl.com.
Download a copy of the May/June 2015 issue of PieceWork to knit your own “Cousin Martha’s Scarf to Knit.”