Friday, April 24, 2009

Shetland Lace and Persian Manuscripts

In her excellent book, Creating Original Hand-Knitted Lace, Margaret Stove writes that new patterns can be developed by tweaking currently available lace patterns into the shapes that we desire. As I discovered recently, sometimes even minor modifications can make all the difference.

I needed some inspiration in designing a gift for a friend, so I turned to my bookshelf. Looking through a book of images from illuminated manuscripts, I came across a series of plates from Hamzanama (The Adventures of Hamza). This Persian classic was produced in Lahore in present day Pakistan sometime in the 16th century. In the background of each illustration, the artist filled in the space with a myriad of geometric and organic shapes that cried out to be made into lace. (You can see some of the folio pages on Wikipedia.)

I sketched some of my favorite motifs to see how they behaved as stand-alone patterns.

Sketch in hand, I looked through Barbara Walker's Treasuries of Knitting for lace patterns that reflected this Persian aesthetic. I particularly admired the hexagon and six pointed star patterns. The Shetland Twins lace pattern provided a good starting point for hexagonal lace. (Walker, First Treasury of Knitting) With that pattern in mind, I experiemented with a variety of ways to fill in the hexagons, including both traditional Shetland patterns and my own variations.
I picked two variations that I felt were most successful and arranged them in three staggered rows. Aligned this way, the empty spaces tessellate to create a star pattern like those found in Hamzanama. Shetland lace as Persian art.

Walking Meditations
Warm sunny weather and drizzly weekends have brought the wildflowers out. At present, my little corner of the woods seems to be specializing in white and purple. The violets have been out for several days. Part of the woods is almost blanketed with them.

City girl that I am, this spring is my first experience with Dutchman's Britches. Each of the flowers hangs in a row on a single stem, reminding me of small children dressed up with bunny ears for an Easter parade.

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