No love for…

The patterns in the running for my next lace project are a nice collection, aren’t they? I certainly understand and appreciate the appeal of many of them.

Clearly the Raku Suri Stole by the Alpaca Yarn Co. was a frontrunner in my mind, since I already went through the trouble of finding three border possibilities.

On the other hand, the Fern Path Stole by Alpaca with a Twist and Sarcelle by Knitters Anonymous are knit on a diagonal, one of my favorite design elements.

But my choice was largely dictated by the nature and amount of Sea Silk. First, a pattern knit on a diagonal needs some space to fully reveal itself, and I think 438 yards would make a scarf that was only beginning to blossom. Second, when I’m describing Sea Silk to someone who’s never seen it before, I always mention that the yarn is spun very tightly, like a compact little rope. This results in very crisp, defined stitches, without any fuzziness or halo. Now consider the Raku Suri Stole – would the flower shape come across with every stitch as its own entity? I think sometimes you need a little fuzz to blur the lines and boundaries, thereby divulging the bigger picture.

On the plus side, I never hesitate to throw Sea Silk into a pattern with big open spaces – stacked yarn-overs, double yarn-overs, and the like – because I’m confident the openings will not wear out and remain crisp.


And so, while I loved all the patterns equally, I thought the Dolphin lace scarf was the most appropriate for a single skein of Sea Silk (the very last picture in my collage).

Sixty-two comments, and not a single person even mentioned the Dolphin lace scarf. No love for the Dolphin!

But it’s actually a very lovely pattern – a simple lace panel surrounded by intricate leaves on both sides. The hole in the middle of each leaf is made using the “dolphin stitch,” which involves binding off and casting on stitches mid-row. Very cool, albeit a bit tricky! By the way, in the set of Dolphin stitch diagrams, I think the caption “On next row,” belongs one diagram ‘up’.

I know many of you will like this – the scarf is entirely reversible! But this makes it difficult to keep track of the right side.

The right side?!? Shouldn’t both sides be identical in a reversible scarf?!?

This brings me to the downfall of this pattern: I think the way it’s presented in Victorian Lace Today is a bit oversimplified. The author provides a chart for the left-poining leaves, and instructs us to deduce the right-pointing ones on our own.

Now, think about this for a second. First, you have to mentally reflect the chart in your head. Second, you have to shift the chart either one row up or one row down. Third, you have to keep the garter-stitch nature of the thing straight in your head during this exercise (that is, reverse it from the original chart).

Oh, brother!!!

Why-oh-why was it so difficult to just make a second chart for the right-facing leaves?!? And while at it, to move 10 stitches from each leaf chart to the center panel, because they don’t change and follow the same geometry (2-row repeat). And also, perhaps make sure the instructions would result in a scarf that matches the one in the photograph… perhaps!


Needless to say, before I cast on for the third time, I rewrote the charts. If you’re considering the Dolphin lace scarf, I advise you to do the same.


41 thoughts on “No love for…

  1. filambulle

    I do not own the book, nor am certain to completely understand your post, but would it be possible to knit the first half of each row as right-side, then second half as wrong side, etc…

    i shoulg give something like this:

    1 – knit (or cast-on?)

    1 – 2

    3 – 2

    3 – 4

    5 – 4

    5 – …

    of course if the even-number row are all the same this would be very easy.

    Or am I completely wrong?

    Maybe I should try this tonight with another pattern. Please tell me if you see what I mean, and if it turns out to be right?!

  2. filambulle

    was it clear that I meant each line to be:

    half of the stitches – the second half

    I am pretty sure you won’t need to reverse the pattern at all, and that it will be very easy indeed.

    and sorry fot the mistakes in the spelling. I really need a long week-end.

  3. Shelda

    I so very often decide it’s a good idea to re-do the charts. I get familiar with the pattern by recharting, and then I have charts “just the way I like ’em” to knit from, and that can save me lots of frustration. I almost always find it time well spent.

    Enjoy the project! It’s looking lovely already.

  4. Chelsea

    Though I think knitting lace is fascinating, I just don’t every see myself wearing it. The start of you scarf looks great. I look forward to the updates!

  5. xtina

    I went to to see if there were errata for the book. It’s there, but they don’t identify which patterns the corrections are for, and I don’t have my copy of the book with me now to reference. But if your pattern corrections are there already, perhaps an email to XRX and there will be some there soon?

  6. Kat

    You don’t just knit each row of the lace chart twice? It would offset the columns of leaves by one row, but… if the pattern is really supposed to be reversible…

  7. Rete

    Yesterday with the collage of pictures it was hard for me to form an opinion of any of them, so I didn’t comment, but seeing Dolphin on it’s own, and especially the bit you’ve done already, I think it’s just lovely. I can’t wait til my copy of Victorian Lace gets here… damn me for being too cheap for 2nd day air shipping!

  8. DebbieKnitter

    Oh geesh, I have to say, I am NOT a fan of KNITTING lace, although I do admire and appreciate it’s beauty and I of course would wear it if I had it. With that said, I must say I am a bit intimidated by even trying to knit it and this is exactly why. I love reading your blog and looking at your knits but sometimes, I feel like what I am reading is a foreign language. I hear only wha,wha,wha,wha (imagine the Charlie Brown teacher voice) and then I get completely lost 🙁

    I must say though, the photos are really pretty.

    I’ll stick to knitting garments, socks,mitts and hats:)

  9. Sarah

    I’ve always felt that lace knitters were a particularly intrepid breed – you’re just proving your mettle! I haven’t cast on anything from VLT yet, but I do like to goggle at the freaking tableclothes she likes to call “shawls”. I’ll start knitting one if I’m ever sentenced 20 years in prison, I think. The dolphin lace is going to be lovely, and a far more manageable size!

  10. Amy

    I love the lace pattern but am feeling dumb because I can’t see the “dolphin.” I can’t even find the hole in the leaf center that you mention. Is this like one of those puzzle pictures where you can see the profiles or the vases but not both, or am I just being too literal-minded?

  11. Suzanne

    Arrrgh! Pattern errors are one of my biggest pet peeves (next to neo-Cons and people who say “nucular” instead of “nuclear”–but that’s a different blog). If I pay someone for a pattern, it really pisses me off to have to locate and correct their mistakes and then rewrite their pattern, which I paid them for. I feel like they ought to pay me for doing their job. That is why I usually end up designing my own stuff–at least then, if I have to redo something, it’s my own fault. And for all you people who are intimidated by lace–it’s really not hard! Start with a stitch dictionary, pick out a lace stitch you like, and do a swatch. It is very, very easy to do a few repeats to make a rectangular scarf, or even put two or three stitch patterns together to make a rectangular scarf. You may find that you love it and want to do more, or you may, like me, decide that it just doesn’t blow your dress up, but either way, at least you’ll have tried it. No one dies if you screw up, no matter how badly it turns out.

  12. janna

    I’m so glad to hear you say this about the Dolphin stitch pattern. When I first got Victorian Lace Today, I looked at the diagrams and went “what???” And then I realized that the complete pattern wasn’t actually there, and decided not to add this scarf to my to-do queue!

  13. Cheryl

    I did a swatch of this scarf and haven’t gone on to do the scarf yet, but I found all the exact same issues that you did. I had to make a second chart too, and I found the same issue with the dolphin lace instructions, that they were out of order. Good luck!

  14. Laura

    No I am excited to go home and look at the pattern and try and understand what you said.

    Did you intentionally change the middle panel?

  15. Elisabeth

    Thank you for pointing out the problems with the instructions in Victorian Lace Today. I just finished the scarf with French trellis border. I had to change the number of repeats for the border and then the chart and repeats for the center. I don’t think that the written instructions quite match the picture. Since I plan to knit more from this book, I am glad to know that there might be problems.

  16. Ellen

    Thanks for sharing this, Kathy.

    If I had the expertise (or interest or time) to do a chart, I would have written a book. I paid for the book to learn. This is so frustrating to have to do it myself.

  17. Marianne

    I am glad you didn’t choose Fern Lace. I have heard several times that the pattern is “unfixable”. I have yet to check the errata for it.

    What you chose is quite lovely but the dolphin refers to the stitch rather than the motif?

  18. BzzLaraBzz

    I think the picture from the collage yesterday of the Dolphin Lace Scarf doesn’t really show the pattern off very well. Your pictures today are much better!

  19. Caitlin

    Since it’s in garter stitch, can’t the right and left charts be the same, just offset by one row? I.e. the odd-numbered rows of the chart are always knit at the beginning of a row, and the even-numbered rows are always knit at the end. I think this would solve your chart-reversing problems, and your right side/wrong side problems. Plus, from your photo, it looks like the “wrong side” rows are just knit plain, which would make this even easier, without having to reverse anything. Still, it’s kind of counter-intuitive, and should have been explained better in the book, but at least there’s not some huge essential flaw in the pattern.

  20. Brenda

    Thanks for the advice on re-charting! I was looking at that pattern in the book for myself, and I came to the conclusion that the pattern and the photo did not match. I started the diamond border scarf with diamond insertion, and there again, the photo and the pattern do NOT match. The pattern calls for 4 repeats of the wide-border motif, but the photo and the schematic show three repeats (which looks much better, as each repeat forms a point). The directions for the body use the number of stitches that would result from knitting 4 repeats of the border, so the pattern isn’t wrong, per se, but I find it annoying. It also makes me wonder about all the people at the VLT KAL who need to buy more yarn than the pattern calls for. Are the yarn amounts for the pattern knit and photographed or for the written pattern?

  21. anne

    Oh, my goodness. That’s a pretty big difference between the scarf in the book’s picture and the scarf according to pattern directions. I like the simpler one (the latter) better.

    I very much like the scarf with fir cone border, but hesitate to make it as my first lace project, given the difficulties noted by so many with the patterns in this book.

  22. Nancy

    OOF! I admire you for your willingness to fix the chart. Like others have already said, I think a pattern or chart should be correct when it is sold. Small human errors are forgivable, but this sounds like more than that. Anyway, good luck with the project. I have only done easier lace projects, and have no burning desire to tackle something like you are doing. I will enjoy your progress photos very much.

  23. Ann

    Excellent deconstruction of the pattern! I am fascinated by this as I have a single skein of Sea Silk and a goal of knitting some lace this year!

  24. Megan

    I like the Dolphin Lace scarf, but the bottom just looks unfinished and slap dash. The sides have the beautiful leaf border, and the bottom just sort of ends. Have you thought about running the leaf pattern along the horizontal ends?

  25. jennifer

    Okay, I recently finished the Dolphin Lace scarf. I would like to apologize in advance if you already figured this out, but this is what I wrote about it in my blog at the time:

    When you work this pattern you actually stagger the pattern rows. So, when you are on the right hand side border you are always one pattern row before the pattern row being worked on the left hand side border. So, if you are on Row 2 on the right hand side border, then you are on row 3 on the left hand side border. Adding to the confusion, you always work the even numbered rows from left to right on the chart (like wrong side rows) and the odd numbered rows from right to left (like right side rows.) The error comes in one of the pattern charts. There is a chart which shows you which pattern rows you will be working at any given time. Unfortunately, it indicates that you work a 13 row pattern repeat insted of a 12 row pattern repeat. The first row, where the right hand side border is worked as all knit stitches, is a set up row only. Once you’ve worked it the first time you don’t need to work it again. In addition, at the end of the scarf you should end with row 12 on the right hand side border, then work the middle chart as established, then work the left hand side border as all knit stitches. This evens everything out and allows you to finish the last pattern motif on the right hand border.

  26. gilraen

    I’m glad I’m not the onlu one who had problems with patterns in this book. I love the Book but find that it’s not a pattern book at all merely an idea book with a few charts. I’m not experienced enough at lace knitting to visualise the lace from a snapshot lace chart. I admire your courage, fortitude and capabilities in managing to transform the ‘ideas’ into lace. Kudos to you and anyone else as accomplished. 🙂

  27. charli

    I think you should send this post and the

    comments to the editor!

    I could never have figured all that out!

    And, to me, the worst part of that is, that

    I think I’m becoming a “lace knitter” 2

    done so far. But the mental gymnastics these

    patterns require is far beyond my ability.

    I second the motion that Kathy get paid by

    the publishers to figure all this out!

    Truly, Kathy, I think you should be working

    in the knit world. You have no idea how much

    talent it takes to do what you do and it

    seems as if it’s all very easy for you.

    Thanks for all of your help!

  28. Amy

    I really loved that scarf when I flipped through the book, thanks a ton for sharing your hard work with us! I’ll definitely re-chart when I get there.

    (And I LOVE the color of that sea silk. I must get me some of that this year…)

  29. Kim

    I just re-read this post after reading Molecular Knitting’s post about the deviation of the patterns from the photos, and noticed that there is only one center line of holes in your scarf, but in the photo there are 3 (both have the bordering lines of holes which to me look a bit different). Is that another difference between the pattern and the photo, or did you choose to change it?

  30. Mary the Digital Knitter

    Many copiers, including my (an HP Officejet all-in-one), offer a mirror image copy as an option. The first time I used this was for an Alien Illusion scarf that I knitted with the aliens alternating up and down (I thought it looked better that way). I could have coped with just the original chart, but it was a lot easier with the flipped image.

    If you don’t have access to such a copier, drop me a note with your address and I’ll send you a mirror-image version of the charts from Victorian Lace Today. Since we both have copies, there’s no copyright problem here.

  31. Helen

    Maybe its just me, but I think the Raku Suri stole would BENEFIT from a crisper yarn. Maybe it’s my monitor, but I had a hard time seeing the design in the picture (or maybe it’s that there’s insufficient contrast between the stole and it’s background garment).

    Now, of course, you’ve gone and TEMPTED me.

    I supposed to be designing TWO other things right now… and there’s the stuff I want to knit for me…

    so little time, so many ideas… so many patterns..

  32. My Merino Mantra

    I am constantly rewriting charts; so many patterns are written poorly. Even if a designer includes a chart, oftentimes I will still rewrite it to be more legible, or I end up changing the design completely. In my opinion, it’s not so much the knitting of lace which is difficult, in as much as the charts are just plain terrible.

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