01 Sep 2010

SUMMER OF LACE: Handspun Medallion Stole by Dorothy Reade

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Successful Lace Knitting

Handspun Medallion Stole


The first pattern in Successful Lace Knitting is for this stole, designed by Dorothy Reade and knitted by Dorothy Reade and Alice Scherp. I wanted to save this for the last post in the Summer of Lace series, because it’s such a special design.

Alice told me how she came to own this stole, and why she finished the knitting:


SUMMER OF LACE: Handspun Medallion Stole by Dorothy Reade 1This shawl is the last one that Dorothy Reade was working on and was unfinished when she died. Her daughter gave it to me to finish. It is special to me because it is the only one of Dorothy’s shawls that I have. The spinning is hers also. The center pattern is Pendants, and I don’t know what the lace edging pattern is called. It took me awhile to un-knit and figure out how to go forward and get the right pattern!

Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Alice!


Knitting Tips from Dorothy Reade

Sadly, I could not interview Dorothy Reade for this blog series, but I was able to find the following knitting tips in her published and unpublished writings. Enjoy!

Your needles

One of the most interesting facts about knitting is how few tools one needs. . . . Actually all your work is done either with one needle (circular), two needles (most of all), or a set of 4 or 5 needles. This being the case your tools should be your own personal preference, so pick the type that is most comfortable and efficient for your method of knitting. I like to use a 10 inch length (with quite tapered points) as I find it uncomfortable to maneuver extra footage. If I have a great many stitches, I use a circular needle, marked on one end at the beginning of the narrow part with bright nail polish, and then I use that end to start my front rows. In this same manner: it is an excellent idea to mark one of your needles with a dab of bright nail polish or a bit of colored scotch tape. By always using the marked needle for the front of your knitting, you will immediately know which side you are working on. Using two different colors and keeping one special color for the front rows will do the same thing. You will be surprised how such a simple thing as marking your needles can eliminate so much confusion.

Your marked needles

Handspun Medallion Stole by Dorothy ReadeThese are really easier to use than the stiff round ones, and if you lose them or wear them out, it is simple to replace them. To make a loop marker, take a piece about 4 or 5 inches long of any yarn, same size or smaller than what you are using (different color please), and tie it around your needle with a tight knot so that it won’t come undone. This leaves 2 little tails which hang down over your knitting, and are excellent warning signals for the next pattern coming up. These color loops are, of course, slipped each time they arrive. Do not knit them.

Smooth edges

Many patterns call for a beginning slip stitch so the edge will not be loose; but if you are going to sew two pieces together, it always seems to leave thin spots. Try knitting the first and last stitches of the front row through the back of the loop. This will tighten and smooth your edges very neatly, and if you are joining two pieces together, will make the seam almost invisible. You need now[t?] worry about the purl side.

Making Yarn Overs

I have been somewhat surprised that even some experienced knitters are a bit hazy on how to make neat “overs”.

  • When you are working on the knit side, your wool is in the back of the needle, so you bring it from the back to the front before you knit the next stitch.
  • When working purl stitches, your yarn is being used from the front, so therefore you bring your yarn front to back (over the right needle, not between the needles), and around to the front, i.e. right around the needle.
  • When making an “over” between a knit stitch and a purl stitch, you will not get the spare loop by just bringing the wool to the front, you will have to make it go around the needle once more. This will make only one stitch when working back.
  • If making an “over” between a purl stitch and a knit stitch, you already have your wool in front, so it is left there, and the next stitch is knit without changing the direction of your yarn.

Making double “overs” 0,0

Add one extra wind of the yarn around the needle to any of the methods described above.

Working Double Overs. These are generally worked on the purl side, so are done in this manner: purl 1 into the first loop, knit 1 into the second loop.

  • If worked on the knit side they would be: knit 1 in the first loop, purl 1 in the second loop.
  • If you want to try something different so the hole would not be very large, purl 1, purl 1 tbl, on the purl side. If on the knit side: knit 1, k1 tbl.

Garter Stitch

Front View of Handspun Medallion StoleIn this, of course, you are knitting every row. When you happen to be using fine wool on rather large needles, try knitting through the back of every stitch. When pressed out, this will give a square effect, a pleasant change from the usual result. You are going to have a lot of fun trying this out, but as it has a tendency to tighten the work, be careful where you use it.


Have you ever knit two pieces exactly alike, say 2 fronts or 2 sleeves, and found when you came to block them that they were different sizes? Or having the top and bottom of a straight piece, 2 different widths? Chances are 9 out of 10 you were either: watching TV, talking to someone, reading, or listening to something. Why then, uneven knitting? You were doing it automatically. The difference in the tension of your knitting when you are looking at it and when you are not, is really remarkable. Check yourself, and if you find variations such as I have described, here is a simple solution. Have one project for working on when you can concentrate, and another reserved for TV watching, etc.


When charting patterns from written directions you find the row does not seem right, leave it and go on. Nine times out of ten, when you have finished, the mistake shows up plainly. Perhaps the directions may have said K2 instead of K3, or a comma may have been omitted. After you have become accustomed to your designs graphed out, correcting a mistake on your own is not at all difficult.


Anytime you have a knit stitch before an “over”, try knitting this stitch through the back loop. It is most amazing how this one little trick can sharpen the detail and outline your pattern. Try it and see how much difference it can make.


Choose your yarns with care, taking two things into account. First, the use to which the piece will be put, and second, what sort of pattern stitches you want to work with. If you are looking for a delicate lacelike effect, you do not use a 4 ply worsted. On the other hand, if you are attempting an Aran Island pattern, a fine 2 ply sock yarn does not do the work. In other words, if you already have your wool, the pattern must be picked to fit the material, and if you see a design that interests you, fit the material to the design. It is extremely discouraging to find when you have completed a piece that the intricacy of the pattern is completely lost in the yarn you have used. For instance, if you fall in love with a yummy shade of turquoise in a fuzzy mohair, be cautious about a lacy pattern; using one of the cable variations might be much more effective. When you have arrived at the point of understanding how these charts work, and you want to try out unusual effects, it is an excellent thought to locate a weaving supply shop and experiment with some of the fine weaving yarns. Perhaps some of you will do what I did. Not finding what I wanted in a commercial material, I experimented with my spinning, and now do all my knitting in handspun, from bulky yarns to mile-an-ounce thread, in all sorts of fibers, from cotton to cashmere. Most exciting!

The Pattern

As a general rule, the more lacelike ones are the most effective in one or two ply, and the Aran Island type in 4 ply or bulky yarns. When you are working out the design you have chosen, dig into your scrap box, and try using different kinds of wool and different sizes of needles. Then, when you have decided which one is irresistible, make a small swatch and fasten it (with a piece of tape, or staple) to the pattern chart. This accomplishes two things. First it shows you exactly what you intend to do, and second it is nice to have a sample in case you ever want to use it again. Here let me remind you to be sure to keep your charts on file. How simple to merely run through a folder of designs, with perhaps a knit sample attached, than it is to rummage through a pile of knitting books, muttering, “I know it must be in here somewhere.”


Here again the business of choosing your design. Grey, for instance. Unless you are trying for a very gauzy effect, about the best things that show up are cables, twists, and bobbles. Black is in the same category, only worse, because it is so difficult to see what you are doing. (With lace designs dark colors can show up if knit on larger needles, as you have light open spaces to bring out the pattern.) In general, however, lighter colors can take more elaborate designs than the dark.

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