Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Estonian lace knitting

I have chosen to republish this post about Estonian lace knitting from the first Historic Crafts blog because I can see that it has been one of the most popular posts over there. I wrote a bit about the Estonian lace while we were doing the Echo Flower knit-along on Ravelry in January 2010 and I have added bits from the different posts into this post.



Joining the Echo Flower Shawl Knit-along (KAL) on Ravelry was probably the best decision I have ever made – knitting wise. Before learning to knit lace I don’t think I truly enjoyed the process of knitting. It was more about the finished product, but I have really enjoyed the process of knitting Estonian lace and this is definitely not the last lace knitting project I am doing. I am actually already planning the next one – but more on that at a later date.

If you want to see how my shawl look in the blocking stage - have a look here!

Eddie's Echo Flower shawl

Today I will instead share with you what I have learned about knitting Estonian Lace. Donna Druchenas (from Sheep to Shawl) talks about Estonian Lace knitting that generally has a plain wrong side row of purl and where the lace pattern is worked in knit on the right side rows.

The most prominent stitch in Estonian Lace is the nupp stitch which provides texture to your work.
Faina Letcutchaia (on knitting beyond the Hebrides) explains that "to knit a nupp you knit a stitch, do not take it off the left needle and then follow the sequence *yo; k1* into the same stitch as many times as desired…on the next row all the nupp stitches are knit or purled together". You might prefer to see this in action on youtube courtesy of myrawoodoriginals & bijou3owl.

Eddie's Laminaria shawl
Estonian 3 into 3 star stitch (copyright Eddie)

Another type of stitch mentioned by Faina and used in the Echo Flower Shawl is the star technique. This can be done by pulling a number of stitches together and in then knitting with the sequence above a new set of stitches. If you pull together 3 stitches and create 3 new ones you will get a star ground stitch. This can be used as a decrease by pulling 5 stitches together and creating 3; thus decreasing by 2 stitches.

On the other hand it can also work as an increase by pulling 3 stitches together and creating 9, thus increasing by 6 stitches. The 2/3 into 9 stitch is demonstrated by this Historic Craft video below. This provides the base for the flower shape used in the Echo Flower Shawl.

Estonian 2 into 9 stitch (copyright Historic Crafts)

Eddie's Echo Flower shawl
Estonian flower stitch (copyright Eddie)

Estonian lace design is a whole subject in itself. From what I can see many modern designers mention the book Pitsilised koekiriad (which means 'finally something else' in Estonian) by Leili Reimann.
I can’t find when the book is from but it does seem to be all in Estonian. However this is not necessarily a problem due to the use of charts.

There even seems to be a blog (Estonian Lace Study) dedicated to the study of this book.
Estonian Lace patterns often use charts as a method of planning out the knitting. Eunny Knits explains the use of charts very well. They mention 2 basic rules that should be followed on all charts:
1) Charts are read in the direction of the knitting.
2) Charts are presented from the right side.

For those who are more used to row by row instructions charts can be a bit difficult at first. It can be especially difficult to figure out which charts to use when. This is why we decided to draw a triangular shawl with the charts marked out for the Echo Flower KAL.

Historic Crafts Echo Flower construction
Echo flower shawl construction (copyright Historic Crafts)

  • You basically begin the shawl in the middle of the long side (upper border) of the triangle (pink on the drawing) by making a garter stitch rectangle. For more on starting a triangular shawl have a look at Damp City Knits post on the Garter Tab Cast on. This leaves you with 11 stitches (3 on each side and 5 on the long edge).

  • This rectangular garter stitch tab is also the beginning of the garter stitch top border (green on the drawing) which you work by knitting the 3 stitches at the start and end of each row. These are not on any of the charts but remember to work them for the whole shawl.

  • The remaining 5 stitches from the long edge of the rectangle are used for the setup chart (blue). The setup chart is only worked once and includes the center stitch. Putting in a stitch marker before it help you keep track of it.

  • The flower chart (purple) makes the body of the shawl. This chart needs to be worked once on each side of the center stitch. So you work border stitches - flower chart - center stitch - flower chart - border stitches. You repeat the flower chart 8 times for the shoulderette and 13 times for the shawl.

  • The border charts (1-3) (yellow) are worked in the order they are numbered. The center stitch is erased and becomes part of chart 2.

  • Finally the edge chart (teal) is worked once continually across the whole body of the shawl.

But as I don’t want you to think the Echo Flower Shawl the only Estonian Lace knitting project in the world I will finish this post with a couple of links to patterns for Estonian Lace using a combination of the different techniques I have mentioned.

  • Echo Flower Shawl by Jenny Johnson Johnen (triangular shawl with flowers and nupps)

  • Laminana by Elizabeth Freeman (triangular shawl with star ground and flowers)

  • Aeolian shawl by Elizabeth Freeman (triangular shawl with nupps and beads)

  • Paabusall by Monica Kullarand (semi-circular shawl)

  • Pitsilised Gloves by Monica Kullarand (traditional Estonian lacy gloves)

  • Swallowtail Lace Shawl by Evelyn Clark (triangular shawl with nupps, lily-of-the-valley border and scalloped lace edge).

The images in this post are copyright of Eddie Roued-Cunliffe or Historic Crafts. You are hereby granted permission to use them for non-commercial purposes as long as you credit Eddie and Historic Crafts and link back to this page. If you are using them and talking about this post I would love to hear from you in the comments.


  1. Hello. This is a great post. I am wondering whether you have the Estonian flower stitch pattern for sale anywhere. It is wonderful.
    I would love to try it out but I don't have enough skill to reverse engineer it as it were.

  2. Hi S,
    You can see the stitch in the Echo Flower Shawl pattern -

    Good luck with it!

    1. "pitsilised koekirjad" means 'lace knitting patterns'

    2. That pattern can be found on Ravelry. It's called the Red Pepper.


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