Monday, February 02, 2015

The Exciting Adventure of the German Lace Manuscript

How long ago was I in Iceland?  Good grief, 2011.

While I was there, exciting things happened–including this. (Go take a look, please. I'll wait.)

On how many trips do you find a manuscript lace chart in a pile of old books? That's a day you never forget, unless you're me. Then you forget about it for three years.

When Kristin Omdahl sent me some of her Bamboo So Fine yarn, I remembered.

Have you had a chance to handle this stuff? It's seriously groovy. All bamboo, spun and dyed in America. Fabulous drape, soft as soft gets, and the sheen is such that people keep asking me if it's silk.

My skein is the turquoise of a shady tropical pool, and arrived gorgeously packaged in a tulle gift bag with a sample of Kristin's "Wrapture" wash for delicates included. (If you like the looks of it, Kristin is offering $2 off this or her Be So Sporty yarns for the rest of the week in her Etsy shop - use coupon code FRANKLIN. I've never been a coupon code before!)

laura-yarn-bag

I hadn't been this excited by a lace weight in a long time. It needed to be knit. When I went to the shelf in search of a test pattern, lookee what fell out of one of the books I bought in Reykjavik.

german-lace-chart-ms

I took it as a sign.

Now, a few things about this chart.

First, it's tiny. The squares on the graph paper are 20 (TWENTY) to the inch. Take a moment and admire how perfectly those symbols have been drawn. Each one's about the size of a midge.

Also, it's written in German. My German is meager, to put it mildly. Most of it comes from time spent working as a drama coach for opera singers, and operatic German has a limited vocabulary. You get oaths of vengeance, declarations of love, and overheated exclamations of rapture in the face of all-consuming beauty. None of this is helpful when deciphering a lace chart.

Happily, I have a knitter friend, Karen, who speaks German and offered to translate for me. There were no big surprises, except that the lengthy chart key includes explanations for about eleven symbols that aren't in the chart.

With the translation in hand and the chart blown up to accommodate my rapidly aging eyes, it was time to try out "Laura Star" and see what I'd get. Would it work?

It worked. Even fresh off the needles and unblocked it was cute. (I know, it looks lettuce-green in this photo. It's not. The lighting conditions were weird.)

laura-unblocked

Then...sproing!

laura-full-view


laura-swirl-detail

If you've never tried one of these little doilies, this is a good starter. The piece is small, the progression is logical, and if you pay a reasonable amount of attention you'll have a dandy time.

laura-aerial-detail

There was one more surprise, which sharp-eyed readers will already have spotted; but which I didn't notice until I sat down to write this entry.

"Laura" isn't the chart I found when I first went through the sheaf of books and loose papers from Reykjavik. It's not the one in the picture from 2011. There's another manuscript chart in there waiting to be translated and tested. Um...Karen? May I have a moment of your time?

Meanwhile, have a whack at Laura. Here's the chart, modernized for your knitting pleasure. It's big, yes–so save it to your own computer or tablet or whatever you kids are using these days. It's free for non-commerical purposes.

[EDIT TO ADD: The size of the chart is causing a bit of confusion. It's all there, but you're probably only seeing the left half on your screen right now. If you pull the chart file from the blog to your own device, you'll see the whole thing, including the chart key.]

laura-star-chart

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I haven't checked it stitch for stitch, but the chart and the swirl look very similar.
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I love this little blast from the past. I might be confused, though. Does it block to an octagon or a square?
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