Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Laurel Leaves of the wooly sort

Knitting instructions are finicky creations. Proof reading them is like trying to make sense of a random string of letters and numbers.  Today it's not uncommon to find erratas for the patterns published in both books and magazines. In the 19th century they skipped the erratas and left it to the knitter to figure out what the problem was. Combine the barely existing standardization, each author using her own shorthand, and the seeming complete lack of proof reading and 19th century instructions can be more a puzzle than anything else. I like puzzles so every now and then I set down and try to figure out one of the mystery patterns. Sometimes it's just because I'm curious, sometimes because someone else has run into a problem. Instead of cramming my notes into my bookshelf where they help no one besides myself I'm going to try posting them in hopes of saving someone else from counting stitches and scratching her head. 

The first installment is the Laurel Leaf from Elizabeth Jackson's The practical companion to the work table, containing selections for knitting, netting and crochet work, published in 1845. In this case the Laurel Leaf was intended for a half square shawl but other versions of it show up routinely in 19th century (as well as 20th) for various other items. It's a nice simple, slightly open pattern, perfect for a newer knitter or for working in slightly dim light. Elizabeth Jackson was nice enough to provide an illustration of the beginning of a shawl. Sometimes illustrations bear no resemblance to the  pattern, sometimes the pattern bears no resemblance to the illustration. The later is the case here. The image looks like a leaf, her instructions don't.
In fact, her instructions just don't work. Her original instructions can be found at the link above, in the interest of saving space I won't repeat what doesn't work. The problems start with the very first row, the pattern requires an odd number of stitches, she started off right but then blew it in the increases on the first row. The shawl starts at the bottom corner with just three stitches. Increases are worked along each edge at every pattern row and rows 6 and 16 have a spare set of increases (one at each end) to accommodate the pattern. My interpretation:
Work a Purl row after each pattern row

Cast on 3
1.   s1 yo k1 yo k1
2.   s1 yo k3 yo k1
3.   s1 yo k5 yo k1
4.   s1 yo k7 yo k1
5.   s1 yo k9 yo k1
6.   s1 yo k5 yo k1 yo k5 yo k1
7.   s1 yo k1 k2tog k3 yo k3 yo k3 k2tog k1 yo k1
8.   s1 yo k2 k2tog k2 yo k5 yo k2 k2tog k2 yo k1
9.   s1 yo k3 k2tog k1 yo k7 yo k1 k2tog k3 yo k1
10. s1 yo k4 k2tog yo k9 yo ok2tog k4 yo k1

11. s1 yo k5 yo k1 yo k4 k2tog k2tog k3 yo k1 yo k5 yo K1

12. s1 yo k1 k2tog k3 yo k3 yo k3 k2tog k2tog k2 yo k3 yo k3 k2tog k1 yo k1
13.  s1 yo k2  k2tog k2 *yo k5 yo k2 k2tog k2tog k1* repeat to 12 from end, finish:yo k5 yo k2 k2tog k2 yo k1
14.  s1 yo k3 k2tog k1 * yo k7 yo k1 k2tog k2tog * repeat to 14 from end, finish: yo k7 yo k1 k2tog k3 yo k1
15.  s1 yo k4 k2tog * yo k9 yo k3tog* repeat to 16 from end, finish: yo k9 yo k2tog k4 yo k1
16.  s1 yo k5 yo k1 *yo k4 k2tog k2tog k3 yo k1* repeat to 6 from end, finish: yo k5 yo k1
17.  sl yo k1 k2tog k3 * yo k3 yo k3 k2tog k2tog k2*  repeat to 10 from end, finish: yo k3 yo k3 k2tog k1 yo k1
Repeat rows 13-17
If using this for a shawl I strongly suggest slipping the first purl stitch to give a nicer edge and balance the slipped stitch in the knit rows. Below are images of samples worked by my interpretation. They are worked in a lace weight wool (akin to the Shetland recommended in the pattern) and size 3 (modern) needles.

 Pattern published for personal, non-commercial use only