Free Pattern: Did Lace Knitting Originate in Spain?

Here’s one of my past Knitty articles. I love this pattern. I think my mom stole the shawl because I haven’t seen it in a while.

Some knitting traditions are famous around the world, while others, just as interesting and beautiful, are less celebrated outside of their local areas. Such is the case with knitting in Spain.

Spanish Origins
Spain is home to the earliest — and some of the most beautiful — examples of European knitting, yet it is rarely given more than a few paragraphs in books about knitting around the world. It would be remiss to write about knitting in Spain without mentioning the colorwork pillows and liturgical gloves so well-known as being the first European knitted objects that have survived:

  • In 1994, two colorwork pillows were discovered at the abbey of Santa Maria of Las Huelgas in northern Spain. Found in the tomb of Prince Fernando de la Cerda (who died in 1275), these cushions are made of fine silk yarn, knitted in very detailed colorwork patterns at a gauge of approximately 20 stitches per inch or 80 stitches per 4 inches (10cm). With such fine detail and beautiful stitching, it is obvious that knitting had been practiced for quite some time in this region before these pillows were knit.

Click here to view and also get the free pattern.

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  1. The second round doily pictured in the Knitty article appears to be the Primula design, from the First Book of Modern Lace Knitting by Marianne Kinzel. I had thought all the patterns in these books were Kinzel’s original designs; was this doily adapted from an old Spanish pattern? I’d love to know more about this! Thanks.

  2. I don’t have Marianne Kinzel’s books but it is possible that Ava knitted at least some of her doileys from those patterns. Tracing the origins of knitted designs is so complicated and almost impossible, since so few pieces of knitting have survived over time. If Kinzel claims she made up her own designs, I am sure she did. Like Elizabeth Zimmermann said, the same things are “unvented” by ingenious knitters all the time. So seeing similar pieces from different parts of the world is not very surprising.


  3. This articles explains a lot! While living in Spain over a twelve year period, I became frustrated at being unable to find neither good wool to knit with, nor good patterns to work from. Even in the basque region, they produce marvelous merino wool, but it all goes abroad for processing, and very little comes back.

    Finally, while living in a small village near Sevilla, I joined the local women’s association, and learned the Lagarterana embroidery from the locals. Still not much in the way of knitting, but a lot of fun, and all in the colloquial Andaluz. Although the Cultural Museum of Sevilla has some marvelous examples of historic knitted items, you just don’t find many Spanish women knitting anymore. Thank you for posting the free mantilla pattern! I look forward to knitting it.

  4. That’s interesting. I’m doing something about Spanish lace socks for Piecework this year. Did you see anything like that when you were in Spain? I’ve never been. I’d love to visit someday though. I know, a lot of places in Europe are like that, it can be hard to find good knitting supplies. It’s sad.

    • Unfortunately, I never saw a single sock pattern in Spain. The few magazines I did find seemed to have been translated, probably from German, as the styles looked more Northern than Southern European. I will have to subscribe now to Piecework to get your Spanish Lace sock pattern! Btw, I did take your Craftsy toe-up class and learned all the different toes and heels well enough to use them interchangeably for lots of patterns. I look forward to learning more about ethnic knitting styles. As a former student of history, I find it all fascinating!

  5. Wow, that’s interesting. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to Spain. I wonder if there’s any knitting in museum collections.

  6. PS, glad the craftsy class was useful to you. I love that sock toes and heels are interchangeable.

  7. I love this mantilla shawl pattern! I did a swatch on #2 needles with Cascade’s Alpaca Lace Paints, which has 437 yards/skein. It came out to small for the given gauge. If I move up to a size 3 needle, will I have enough yarn to finish the project?

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