Monday, 11 November 2013

Feather and fan

Last week, we had the November meeting of the Huddersfield Knitting & Crochet Guild group - this month, a workshop on feather-and-fan given by Ann Kingstone, who is a member. 

Ann talked a little bit about the history of feather-and-fan, and showed photos of hand-knitted Shetland lace shawls in the early 20th century being stretched on frames - knitting lace items for sale was a considerable industry on the Shetlands. She explained that the term feather-and-fan was originally applied to a different stitch pattern than the one it is now usually used for. We knitted a swatch to try out the original feather-and-fan stitch - a 2 row repeat, with 6 increases on every other row, balanced by two 4-into-1 decreases in the same row. 

Old feather-and-fan
'Feather-and-fan' was later applied to a Shetland pattern that had been called Old Shale.  There are many variants, too.  They all have in common that in every pattern repeat, all the increases are grouped  together, as are all the decreases, which gives the characteristic wavy effect.  Ann passed around several swatches showing some of the possible variations - all were very attractive and would make beautiful shawls and scarves.       

Two variations on feather-and-fan
    
We knitted another swatch during the workshop, trying out a garter stitch feather-and-fan, i.e. knitting every row. And since the workshop, I have done a stocking stitch swatch for comparison, keeping the right side rows the same, but purling the wrong side rows.  Both are pretty, but I prefer the stocking stitch variant - the decreases show up better, for one thing.  (I think of the arc of increases as being the 'fan' and the decreases as being the 'feather', though I don't know if that's the origin of the name.)   

Three feather-and-fan swatches
Although the three swatches don't look very alike, each of them has two pattern repeats, and each pattern repeat has 6 yarn-over increases and 6 decreases.  

I took along to the workshop some pattern leaflets from the Guild collection that use feather-and-fan.  The earliest is a Patons & Baldwins shawl pattern, based on a Shetland original, that was reissued several times between the 1920s and the 1950s.   

Patons Helps to Knitters 56P
Feather-and-fan and other lace patterns were also popular for dresses for little girls in the 1930s:  I wrote about the one below here.

Robin No. 12 "Pauline"
 And little lacy tops for women were popular in the 1940s, when knitting wool was scarce, and  in the 1950s. 

Sirdar 1140
    
Greenock 825

Ann is planning to design a sweater with a panel of feather-and-fan running down the front centre - I'm looking forward to knitting it. 
 

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