Saturday 17 August 2013

A Knitted Lace Sampler

One of the (many) really special things in the Knitting & Crochet Guild's collection is a 19th century hand-knitted sampler of lace stitches.  Angharad and I had a photo session with it this week to try to get a better photo of the whole sampler than the one we already had.  It's  difficult to show it off properly, and especially to give a good impression of the fineness of the knitting.  Our photo includes a 50p pence for scale.   

The 1891 knitted sampler of lace stitches
Kathleen Kinder has studied the sampler in detail, and counted the gauge at 78 stitches and 100 rows to 10 cm., over stocking stitch. The yarn is a very fine cotton, and she estimates that the needle size was about 1.5 mm. There are 63 different stitch patterns in the sampler, some of them not found anywhere else, and the knitter has added the initials AF and the date 1891 (see below).  (Kathleen has recently published her study of the sampler, as a book:  Inspiration of  Lace Knitting.)  It is altogether a wonderful piece of knitting.

The sampler has accumulated several small stains since it was made, including a particularly nasty one at one end (which I am not going to show you).  It has an edging that was intended to be frilly, but has settled into folds over the years.  Altogether, it is hard to avoid it looking like a crumpled old bandage, but I hope that we have achieved that. 

It is much easier to see the quality of the work if you focus on the detail.  Many of the stitch patterns are lovely and the evenness of the knitting on this tiny scale is remarkable.     One of the patterns is similar to Old Shale, and I noticed that one immediately because it seems familiar.

But there are other stitches that you have to examine very closely to appreciate their complexity  - it feels almost like exploring a hidden microscopic world.  Some stitches combine eyelets with cables - sometimes they look very dynamic, with the stitches moving to and fro.

 Others are more open and lacy, sometimes with motifs resembling leaves or seeds.

And finally, in the last square of the sampler, the knitter worked her initials and the date 1891 in eyelets.  (I assume that it was made by a woman.)  

I wonder how she felt when she finished it?  Maybe she then went on to use the stitches in lots of other knitted articles - certainly seeing the sampler now, you get the urge to try out the patterns and make something with them.  And her efforts have had lasting value - her sampler is still inspiring other knitters more than a hundred years later. 


  1. Just ordered the book, I am knitting the lace sampler from Susanna E Lewis' book, "Knitting Lace", using size 0000 circular needles and size 30 Prescencia Fincrochet Finca cotton. This is very close to the size 50 thread used in the original. I collect antique lace, some dating back to the 16th c., and have two knitted samplers. Neither are as spectacular as this!

    1. What a super project, to understand knitted lace better. I can't find the metric equivalent of size 0000, except that it must be very small indeed. Good luck with your sampler!


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