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Pink Needles
Spinning Loft
spacer model: Elizabeth Freeman spacer photos: Sylvia Hilsinger, Janice Freeman, Elizabeth Freeman


In the Mohave desert, the aeolian erosion from millennia of wind driven sand has carved a landscape of curving organic sculpture from desert rock that is home to cactus, yucca, and the twisting forms of Joshua Trees. The curves of the rock, the repetitive geometries of the yucca stalks and agave leaves, and the brief but extravagant blossoms of the desert after a rain are all echoed in this lace.

The desert embraces both slow, subtle beauty and over-the-top extravagance. Blazing heat and drifting snow.

In this design, I combine the slow patience of lace knitting, and the profligate abandon of the desert after a storm. Nupps and beads? Why not!





Handspun Flame Shoulderette
Length at center back: 27 inches
Width: 64 inches

Purple Shoulderette
Length at center back: 23 inches
Width: 48 inches

Silver Cream Shawl
Length at center back: 38 inches
Width: 90 inches


Handspun Flame Shoulderette
spacer Handspun Blue Faced Leicester [100% Blue Faced Leicester; approximately 500yd/457m and 2oz/57g skein, 35wpi]; color: yellow food coloring, Mexican Kool-Aid in Jamaica (Hibiscus) and Tamarindo

Recommended needle size:
spacer 1 US 5/3.75mm circular needle, 24 inches or longer
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]

Pink Needles

Purple Shoulderette
spacer Misti Alpaca Lace [100% Baby Alpaca; 437yd/400m per 50g skein]; color: Merlot; 1 skein
Note: The shoulderette shown required approx. 430yd/395m. Buy a second skein to be safe.

Recommended needle size
spacer 1 US 4/3.5mm circular needle, 24 inches or longer
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]

Pink Needles

Silver Cream Shawl
spacer Habu XS-45 20/3 bamboo [100% bamboo; 574yd/513m per 48g skein]; color: 2; 2 skeins
Note: Shawl required approx. 1100yd/1000m.

Recommended needle size:
spacer 1 US 2/3.0mm circular needle, 32 inches or longer

Pink Needles

For all versions:

spacer Approx. 850[2250] beads, size 8
spacer Crochet hook in size close to needle size (used for provisional cast on only)
spacer Steel crochet hook small enough to fit through holes of beads (I used size 14 / 0.75mm)
spacer Waste yarn
spacer Stitch markers
spacer Smooth string or yarn, or blocking wires
spacer Rust-proof pins

swatch chartGauge is measured over Swatch Chart (based on Yucca pattern). Correct gauge is not essential for this project unless you are working with a limited quantity of yarn (ie. if you are working the Shoulderette as written using only 1 skein of the yarn listed). However, if you do wish to swatch and measure your gauge before beginning, use the Swatch Chart provided at right. Block swatch, allow to dry, unpin and allow to relax before measuring gauge.

Handspun Flame Shoulderette: 15 sts/27 rows = 4 inches on US #5/3.75mm needles

Purple Shoulderette:
18 sts/32 rows = 4 inches on US #4/3.5mm needles

Silver Cream Shawl: 18 sts/30 rows = 4 inches on US #2/3.0mm needles
[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]
This pattern is modular. If you wish to change the size, you can do so by varying the number of repeats of the Yucca chart and Agave chart. Keep the following things in mind:
  • The Yucca chart must be worked an even number of times (ie. twice, six times) before working the Transition chart.
  • The Agave chart may be worked any number of times before working the Final Agave chart.
  • The Edging section requires a surprising quantity of yarn. For the silver cream shawl, the edging and bind-off required 45% of the yarn. For the smaller shoulderette, the edging required 65% of the yarn!

If you are using stitch markers between each pattern repeat to keep track of the lace pattern, note that there will be points in some charts where decreases within the pattern will necessitate moving the markers.

Estonian Stitches
This shawl was inspired by three stitch patterns from Pitsilised Koekirjad, an Estonian stitch dictionary. This book does not give names for individual stitch patterns. Here I refer to them by desert plants they resemble. I modified the original stitch designs so that the repeat lengths match and the patterns flow from one stitch to the next. For an excellent description of Estonian lace stitches, see this site.
For more examples of the beautiful stitches originating in Estonia, take a look at the Estonian Lace Study. For a history of Estonian lace knitting, as well as beautiful Estonian shawls, both traditional and contemporary, see Knitted Lace of Estonia: Techniques, Patterns, and Traditions, by Nancy Bush.

Crochet Cast-On
Using waste yarn, work a crochet chain several sts longer than the number of sts to be cast on. Starting 1 or 2 sts in from end of chain and using working yarn, pick up and k 1 st in the back loop of each ch until the required number of sts have been picked up. Later, the chain will be unraveled and the resulting live sts picked up.

K3tog: Knit next 3 sts together.

Sssk: Slip next 3 sts knitwise, one at a time, to right needle. Insert left needle into fronts of these 3 sts and knit them together.

S2KP: Slip next 2 sts together, knitwise, as if to work a k2tog. Knit next st through back loop, then pass both slipped sts over st just knit. This forms a centered double decrease.

sk2p: Slip 1 knitwise, k2tog, pass slipped st over. 2 sts decreased.

Nupps: 7-stitch or 9-stitch nupps may be worked for this shawl. Try swatching each kind to see which type works best for the yarn you choose.

Nupp (7-stitch – used in Purple Shoulderette): K1 without dropping st from left needle, yo, [k same st again without dropping from left needle, yo] 2 times, k same st again and drop st from left needle. 1 st increased to 7 sts. On following WS row, purl these 7 sts together.

Nupp (9-stitch – used in Handspun Flame Shoulderette and Silver Cream Shawl): K1 without dropping st from left needle, yo, [k same st again without dropping from left needle, yo] 3 times, k same st again and drop st from left needle. 1 st increased to 9 sts. On following WS row, purl these 9 sts together.

In a non-elastic yarn such as bamboo, it is particularly important to make the Nupp increase stitches very loosely; the stitches should be approx. 0.5 inch long. It helps to use a finger to hold each new stitch in place so that you do not inadvertently tighten the last increase while making the next one. On the WS row, when you insert the right hand needle to purl the stitches together, if you have made the stitches loose enough, not only should it be easy to insert the needle, you should be able to see space between the two needles. See the images below:



Placing Beads: The beads are placed on RS rows using a very narrow steel crochet hook. To place a bead on a stitch, first insert the hook through the hole in the bead, and slide the bead onto the shaft of the hook. Slip the stitch off the needle and onto the hook, slide the bead down the hook and onto the stitch. Slip the stitch back to the needle, then knit it. Detailed directions can be found here.

Placing Beads on Decreases: When a bead is to be placed on a decrease, the bead should be placed before working the decrease, as follows:
For a [ssk], place the bead on the first st on the left needle.
For a [k2tog], place the bead on the second st on the left needle.
For a [S2KP], place the bead on the second st on the left needle.

Pattern repeats when working from charts: The set-up chart shows all stitches as knitted. In the other charts, the pattern repeat is outlined in red. Knit the stitches to the right of the outlined pattern repeat, repeat the stitches between the red lines until just enough stitches remain before the center stitch marker to finish by knitting the stitches to the left of the outlined pattern repeat. Repeat on second side of the shawl.

Directions for blocking a lace shawl may be found here.

swatch chart

yucca chart

chart key

transitionc harttransitionc hart

side edge charts

edge setup chartedge setup chart


Note: The first st of each row is slipped purlwise. Bring the yarn between the needles to the back of the work before knitting the next st.

Using Crochet Cast On, CO 2[3] sts.

K 17 rows, slipping first st of each row.

At end of last row, turn work 90 degrees clockwise and pick up and k 7 sts along one long edge of work – this will be 1 st in each slipped st along edge, skipping first st.

Remove waste yarn from CO edge, placing resulting 2[3] live sts on left needle; k these sts. 11[13] sts.

Next Row [RS]: Sl 1, k1[2], work first row of Set-Up Chart, place marker, k1 tbl, place marker, work first row of Set-Up Chart, k2[3]. 19[21] sts.

The markers now in place indicate the center st of the shawl. From this point until beginning the edging, k this st tbl on RS rows, and p it on WS rows.

The 2[3] sts at each edge are the border sts; work these sts in garter st. Always slip the first st of each row.

Note: It is important to keep the slipped edge sts very loose, so the shawl will block properly. Don't worry if they look loose and sloppy before blocking.

Work Rows 2-16 of Set-Up Chart, working center st and edge sts as set. 51[53] sts when Set-Up Chart is complete.

Continue as follows, working center st and edges sts as set.
Work Rows 1-8 of Yucca Chart 4[12] times. 131[293] sts.
Work Rows 1-18 of Transition Chart. 219[413] sts.

Shawl Only:
Work Rows 1-10 of Agave Chart twice. 509 sts.

Shoulderette and Shawl:
Work Rows 1-10 of Final Agave Chart. 247[537] sts. There are 5[11] Agave motifs in each half of the shawl.


Next Row [RS]: Sl 1, k1[2], work Row 1 of Right Edge Chart, place marker, work Row 1 of Edge Set-up Chart, slip marker, work Row 1 of Center Edge Chart, slip marker, work Row 1 of Edge Set-up Chart, place marker, work Row 1 of Left Edge Chart, k2[3].

This row sets pattern for edging. Continue in pattern, working through charts as established, until Row 28 of Edge Set-up Chart is complete.

Continue working Right, Center and Left Edge Charts as set, working Rows 29-46 of Main Edge Chart in place of Set-up Edge Chart. 525[983] sts.

BO Row [RS]: Using 2 strands of yarn held together, p2, [sl both sts back to left needle and p2tog, p1] to last st, sl both sts back to left needle and p2tog. Break yarn and draw through last st.


Weave in ends.
Following directions, block shawl, first pinning out the center point of all the edging flower motifs, then going back and pinning out four additional points in each motif, in the edge stitches directly above the nupps (two points on either side of each flower center). For the spine flower, pin out points every other bead. The shawl will block to slightly more than a triangle.

Allow shawl to dry completely before unpinning.


designernameBlank Elizabeth Freeman counts trees and crunches numbers for a living, and has been known to bring her lace knitting along on wilderness backpacking trips