Knitty: little purls of wisdom
Phyllis Howe

For almost as long as I’ve been a knitter, I’ve been fascinated by the history of knitting. I’ve especially enjoyed the mind-twisting process of working with the often obtuse and obfuscatory language of antique patterns. There’s a thrill, I find, in watching a project emerge row by row and knowing that other knitters, long gone, followed the same path.

The process of decoding, testing and correcting isn’t for everyone, though; and so in this column I hope to share the excitement of the journey by removing as many of the roadblocks as possible. You don’t need to be a historian to come along–just a knitter with a curious mind.

beauty shot

translated by Franklin Habit, from The Knitters’ Friend by Jane Gaugain






spacer photos: Franklin Habit


Length: 61 inches (excluding fringe)
Width: 2.5 inches


Buffalo Gold Moon [75% tencel/25% bison down; 200 yd per 50g skein]
spacer [MC] Cranberry; 1 skein
spacer [CC] Luna; 1 skein

Recommended needle size
[always use a needle size that gives you the gauge listed below -- every knitter's gauge is unique]
spacer 1 set US #2/2.75mm needles
spacer Needles two sizes larger for casting on and binding off (see Note)

spacer tape measure
spacer blocking pins
spacer blocking wires (optional, but recommended)
spacer yarn needle


20 sts/28 rows = 4 inches in stockinette stitch
12 sts/32 rows = 4 inches in pattern stitch, after blocking


[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]

The piece is worked flat, wet blocked, and then seamed along its length before being finished with knotted fringes at each short end.

Casting on: This piece requires firm blocking (such as is normally employed on knitted lace) in order to bring the fabric to its final appearance and dimensions. It is therefore vital that the CO and BO be done loosely. I recommend using needles 2 sizes larger than the pattern requires for both. Alternatively, CO using the long-tail method over both needles held together in the right hand.

Yarnover at beginning of row: Bring the working yarn from front to back over the right needle before working the next stitch.

Counting rows:  Watch out! The pattern stitch creates columns of what appear to be plain stitches running the length of the work–but each of these stitches indicates two rows. --->This means that when you’re at the end of a 12-row stripe, you’ll count only six of these stitches from the bottom to the top. 

Joining a new color: Mrs. Gaugain calls for the knitter to “tie on” a new color when it is introduced on a RS row. I prefer, instead, to thread the strand of the new color onto a yarn needle and weave it lightly into the WS of the fabric near the edge of the work, so that the first maneuver of the row (a yarnover, because of the pattern stitch) can be performed. This initial weaving can be neatened up during the finishing process.

Carrying Unused Colors While Striping: Mrs. Gaugain is mum on the subject of what to do with the unused color while working the stripes at either end of the faucett.  As each stripe is 12 rows deep, simply letting it hang is unsatisfactory.

You could break each color as the stripe ends, leaving a tail, and join in the new color; but that will create a lot of loose ends to weave in. I prefer to leave the unused yarn attached, and pick up the working yarn from underneath it at the beginning of each RS row. This traps the unused yarn against the selvedge, and as the piece progresses the extra color will more or less disappear into the fabric. When it’s time to switch colors again, the new yarn will be exactly where it needs to be.

Information on blocking can be found here.

Information on mattress stitch can be found here.

A guide to making knotted fringe is available here.

Historic sizing: The original pattern calls for both of its variations to be worked to a total length (excluding fringes) of three-quarters of a yard, or approximately 27 inches.

Historic colors: The original pattern, which calls for Berlin wool (substitute fingering weight yarn), suggests Albert blue (a bright, rich blue somewhere between royal and lapis lazuli) with stripes of “fire colour”–presumably reddish-orange.

Historic variation: Mrs Gaugain offers a finer version of the pattern, worked in Berlin embroidery silk (as a substitute, try a silk or silk-blend two-ply lace weight). Using needle approximately size US4 or 5, CO 30 sts and follow pattern as written. Suggested colors are pink with white stripes and fringe, or all black. Block the finished piece to three inches wide, but do not seam.



With MC, loosely (see Pattern Notes) CO 21 sts.

First Stripe Section:
Row 1: [YO, sl 1, k2tog] to end.
See Pattern Notes for a tip on working the yo at the start of the row.

Work Row 1 11 more times.

See Pattern Notes for tips on joining the yarn and handling the color change.

Row 13 [RS]: With MC, yo, sl 1, k2tog. With CC, [yo, sl 1, k2tog] to end.

Optional: Break MC.

Work 11 more rows in pattern stitch with CC.

Row 25 [RS]: With CC, yo, sl 1, k2tog. With MC, [yo, sl 1, k2tog] to end.

Optional: Break CC.

Work 11 more rows in pattern stitch with MC.

Repeat Rows 13-36 once more, and Rows 13-24 again. 3 MC stripes, 3 CC stripes.

Break CC, leaving 6 inch tail.

Plain Section:
With MC only, work in pattern stitch until piece is approx 54 inches long.

Second Stripe Section:
Work Rows 13-36 of First Stripe Section 3 times.

BO loosely (see Pattern Notes).

Soak and firmly block piece, taking care to pin out with straight sides (blocking wires will be extremely helpful) and even width from end to end. Blocked width will be between 5 and 6 inches, depending upon your gauge and fiber.

When dry, weave in ends. Fold long selvedges to lengthwise center, and use mattress stitch to seam selvedges together; piece will now be a long, flat tube with open ends.

Using eight 7-inch lengths of CC, finish short edges with fringe, knotted or not according to your preference.


Franklin Habit is the proprietor of the popular knitting blog The Panopticon and author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoonslink (newly out in paperback from Interweave Press).

He thinks this darling little bandeau will look positively spiffing with his motorcycle gear.