lace cardigans

warning: lots of pictures of lace!

As I’m sure you can believe, I always have my eye out for any kind of traditional knitwear. I love Fair Isle and any kind of stranded knitting but I also love Shetland Lace, especially wearable Lace. A lot of the time you see Lace scarves,stoles and shawls which I can appreciate for their skill and beauty but I would never use them for fear of ruining them

Photo labelled 'Gems of Shetland Hosiery, photo from the Shetland Museum and Archives
Photo labelled ‘Gems of Shetland Hosiery, photo from the Shetland Museum and Archives

Shetland Lace is known the world over for its intricacy and lightness, it is mostly handknitted and even in machine knitted lace there are a lot of steps and hand manipulation. Even it looks hugely complicated once you learn the basic skills, nearly anyone can knit it. Its something I am trying to learn and understand.

Shetland Lady knitting a 1ply Shawl photo from the Shetland Museum and Archives
Shetland Lady knitting a 1ply Shawl, photo from the Shetland Museum and Archives
Shetland Women in Lace Cardigan, photo from the Shetland Museum and Archives
Shetland Women in Lace Cardigan, photo from the Shetland Museum and Archives

I already had two lovely lace cardigans, one of which I bought two or three years ago for £1.50! The other is a slightly less fancy number but on Thursday I picked up two new Lace Cardigans and I thought you would like to see my current collection.


The first cardigan I got a few years ago features a very unusual back ‘V’ and various fern and tree lace motifs all over.




The cardigan is knitted in a bleached white 2ply Woollen spun wool, the different motifs cover the arms with the Cats Paw motif filling in the V on the front and the back. I have been told that at one time in Shetland there was only one lady who made cardigans with a V like this. Id love to know if it was one of hers!

The next cardigan is more of an ‘everyday’ lace cardigan.. if there is such a thing!

IMG_1667although it doesn’t look like it in the photos this is more of a natural white shade and again in a 2ply Lace. I cant find the exact pattern in any of my lace books but its quite similar to the Flee insertion pattern. (edited to add: Im pretty sure it is the Lace Eyelet Cardigan by Margaret Stuart from the Traditional Sweater book, seen here)

IMG_1672 IMG_1670 IMG_1686

The first of my ‘new’ vintage Cardigans I bought last week is definitely the fanciest!


IMG_1685although it feels and looks like Cobweb (1ply Wool) when you look closely it is a very fine 2ply with a complicated all over lace pattern. There might be a name for this motif but again i couldn’t find the exact one, but it is similar to both the Horseshoe and Leaf Lace pattern and seems to be a hybrid of them both. (In  Sarah Dons ‘Art of Shetland Lace’ I have found a pattern just described as ‘Leaf’ which I think is the pattern on p63)


This cardigan has a very wide buttonband and a very 1940s/50s shape. I think the lace on every row pattern makes it a very light and airy top. I wanted to wear it as soon as i bought it but its still a bit too chilly in Shetland for this!


The last cardigan is something a bit different, a lovely bright yellow one!


It is also a 2ply Lace, and actually quite cosy! The colour is not coming across as bright as it is in real life but this cardigan also has a wide button band, the motif is very similar to the Dunella scarf. (I have found the ‘Lace Medallion Pattern’ in James Norburys Traditional Knitting Patterns, 1962 Edition) I think this is my favourite one.. i do like yellow!


January is finally coming to an end, the weather here has been horrendous for the past couple of weeks, rain and wind and rain and wind. Up Helly Aa,(aka my Favourite day ever) is on Tuesday and after that the days will start getting lighter!

The Waves are rolling on!!


14 thoughts on “lace cardigans

  1. Thank you for sharing the beautiful pictures…..I loved seeing all the lace! And I hope you have good weather for the Up Helly Aa next Tuesday :)

  2. Oh, these are gorgeous! I love that yellow one. It’s elegant, but in a way that you could wear all the time. I’m not sure I have the patience to knit myself a laceweight, all-over lace cardigan, but after seeing yours I think I might want to try.

  3. There is no such thing as too many pictures of beautiful lace cardigans. That second one looks like the pattern is the love child of horse shoe lace (the centred decreases) and gull lace, by which I mean if you moved the decreases of gull lace and centred them doing them with pssos you might get something similar? I’m starting to want to come to Shetland for the second hand shopping, let alone everything else!

  4. All of your new sweaters are lovely. The Thrift Shops in Shetland must be amazing. I’ve never seen anything like those in the States.
    I simply can’t imagine anyone tossing those pretties out!!

  5. Gorgeous – I think the wide bands make a huge difference to the look, too. I am currently wearning 6 layers here in the soft South, but how warm and light would a lace shetland layer be in there! Will be swatching tonight…

  6. Fabulous collection, Ella! One of my early memories is going to a wedding and watching as some of the ladies inspected, and discussed, the new lace cardigans they had knitted for the wedding.

    I remember Zena Thomson wearing a cardigan similar to your one with V splitting different patterns, and I am certain she designed and knitted it herself, and is likely to have knitted it more than once. Zena is a knitter I admire greatly and has knitted every variety of garment. Zena has some patterns in ‘A Legacy of Shetland Lace’.

  7. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a tiny bit jealous! Lovely to see your collection & to know they’re being worn and loved again.

  8. These are all beautiful, and very inspiring! I’m already planning to make a ‘Lace Ella’ in jade-green 2-ply, and now that I see the first cardigan I am intrigued at the possibility of making a cardigan version…

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