Beth Smith

Merino Lace…and Margaret Stove

Margaret Stove has long been one of my heroes. My spinning career began at about the same time as my discovery of my love of lace knitting. It’s no secret that I am not a fan of Merino. I should clarify. I am not a fan of spinning mill processed Merino. I love washing it myself and spinning from the lock. The yarn is so much better. I am not a huge fan of Merino yarn that was spun at the mill but! I do love a well spun handspun Merino yarn. And it all began with Margaret Stove.
This book, Merino; Handspinning, Dyeing & Working with Merino and Superfine Wools was one of my very first spinning books. Margaret’s methods for washing fine wools have made a huge impression on me and my washing techniques across the board.
The book begins with an overview of Merino types and possible history of the breed. Margaret goes on to tell in detail her washing techniques and how she holds the fiber to get a lively, springy yarn that works great for fine lace knitting.
Next she talks about spinning wheel setups including drive band materials and brake band materials. She also discusses, when spinning from the lock, which end she likes to spin from and why she thinks her method works. Then comes a chapter on how much twist and how to decide in the singles and the plied yarn. The twist chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
Finally there is a chapter on dyeing Merino as well as discussion about how this wool plays with other fibers. Lots of dyeing information about dyeing the locks in the grease and then washing the locks before spinning is covered…I, not being a fan of dyeing, have not spent very much time in this chapter.
There are then 40 pages of appendices covering everything from easy outlines of processes covered earlier in the book as well as a discussion about how different yarn thicknesses affect knitted lace and 5 patterns for Merino garments for baby and adult.
This book has been out of print for several years. I have found it for as little as $75 on Alibris which is my favorite spot for buying out of print books. I think this is a fantastic book and wish Interweave would put it back out in circulation. It doesn’t look good though.
The next book in my Margaret Stove collection is Creating Original Hand-Knitted Lace. This book was published by Lacis and was out of print for a time but is available again (and you can get it at the Spinning Loft)
This book has no spinning but is a great lace tutorial. it begins with a very in depth chapter about the history of Hand Knit lace in many parts of the world. Margaret goes on to talk about the importance of understanding the structure of lace as well as when lace is appropriate in knitting.
Chapter 4 is where we really get to the designing and begin to learn how lace stitches, and decreases affect the overall fabric based on where they are placed in relation to each other. Lots of great charts are given so you can swatch and do your own studies.
Then we get into planning projects and methods for doing this. A really fantastic part of this chapter is that Margaret Stove encourages us to make a notebook of samples we have made so far so that they will be available while we are planning. So that we can avoid mistakes and take advantage of things that worked. And then we begin. This book can be used as a textbook. Step by step you can follow along with the author and come up with your own lace designs led by a master.
She then helps us to begin to learn how to make the stitches bend to our will. Of course physics plays a big part but just by moving the position of a decrease in relation to the yarn over we can make the shapes we want.
Then to the part which has always scared me and the place I always stop…Translating sketches into stitches. How can we take a drawing of something that inspires us and change it to a lace design. This could be my year!
After these wonderful instructions we are led step by step through a Margaret Stove Design. how she went from a sketch to a finished shawl. I’ve seen this shawl in person. It was knit with white Merino and then painted. Each lace motif is a different color. The shawl is stunning in person.
The book also includes several patterns for finished objects.
This book is worth every penny of the new $29 cover price – plus it’s in hard cover!
And now for the latest offering from Margaret Stove. It’s called Wrapped in Lace; Knitted Heirloom Designs from Around the World.
This new book is published by Interweave Press and also available – surprise – at the Spinning Loft!
This book, at first glance, appears to be a book of patterns. It is so much more. I hope that you will take a moment to really look at this book. Like the other two books, it is an invitation to design and experiment and come up with your own lace. We follow Margaret through her journey over the years. She brings us along on her travels and invites us into her design process.
If you are a new lace knitter there are projects in this book that will help you be the lace knitter you are deep down. If you are experienced then this book will also be fantastic for you. There are many advanced patterns as well as the help to advance even further.
The photography is beautiful and the instructions and charts are clear. The New Zealand Tribute to Orenburg shawl is not included in the book but is available as a free download from interweave. This is already a pretty big book and the pattern for the Orenburg style shawl is an additional 18 pages which is why I expect we have the download.
If you have any interest in lace knitting and fine wool spinning I would encourage you to check out all of these books. I dream of someday visiting New Zealand and having lunch with Margaret Stove and showing her my yarns and knitting. In my dream, she is impressed:-)

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