Nancy Bush has traveled to Estonia more than a dozen times to document and learn how to knit in the Estonian style. Now all knitters get to benefit from her extensive knowledge of Estonian lace with her book Knitted Lace of Estonia: Techniques, Patterns and Traditions.
This book is a beauty, full of lovely patterns that might feel a bit intimidating, but the more you look at them the more you start to realize that you want to do what it takes to be able to make some of these lovely projects yourself. And thanks to the inclusion of several scarves, you won't feel too intimidated to begin.
An Education in Lace
The book begins with a detailed section on the history of lace knitting in Estonia, the different styles of shawls that are traditionally knit there (as well as some more modern interpretations, such as working the border onto the shawl by picking up stitches) and the unusual techniques that are found in the projects.
Estonian lace uses a decorative texture known as a nupp (which Bush says is pronounced like soup), which is similar to a bobble in that many stitches are worked out of one stitch, which are then decreased again on the next row.
There are also some different increasing and decreasing methods that you probably haven't seen before, which Bush explains in good detail and with drawings.
Some of this information gets a little technical and can feel overwhelming if you're just reading through it, but it's great to know that information is there for when you're working the patterns themselves.
Knitted Lace of Estonia contains 14 patterns ranging from the very traditional square shawls to triangles, rectangles and scarves, all using traditional patterns and more modern variations. There are patterns involving leaf motifs, lily of the valley and other classic patterns, including one that was used in a shawl knit for Crown Prince Gustav-Adolf of Sweden in 1936.
Some of my favorites are also among the smaller projects in the book: the Lily of the Valley Scarf, full of graceful flowing flower motifs; Madli's Shawl, originally published in a heavier yarn in Interweave Knits and including a branchlike pattern; and the Raha Scarf, which includes just a single repeat of a pattern known as the money pattern.
Of course the larger projects are gorgeous as well; there isn't a single project in this book that a knitter wouldn't learn from or that lovers of lace wouldn't want in their collections. The Queen Silvia Shawl would be perfect for a wedding, and I could see the Triangular Scarf in Leaf Pattern wrapped around a baby.
I guess I see these patterns as very fancy, special-occasion type knits, but really they're meant to be beautiful additions to your everyday life. Either way this book is sure to get your palms itching to find some super-fine yarn and some tiny needles to make your own work of Estonian art.
Design it Yourself
In addition to the lovely ready-made patterns in Knitted Lace of Estonia, Bush also provides a dictionary of common Estonian patterns, including lily of the valley, leaf and twig and other nature-inspired patterns, as well as a few patterns for edgings and borders.
As if there weren't enough inspiration in the book already, these motifs are sure to get you thinking about different ways you can use Estonian lace patterns. They might not be traditional, but they will be a beautiful carrying on of the tradition of the lace makers of Estonia.
The bottom line is this is a beautiful book for any knitter. Even if you're not a big fan of lace you may find yourself drawn to these lovely designs, and if you are already a lace lover you definitely need to have this book in your collection. It's a great documentation of the history of Estonian lace as well as a beautiful way to carry those traditions into the future.
Publication date: October 2008