Étude no. 27: Kelpies hexagon designs

When I was knitting the Kelpies lace, I noticed two sections within the stitch pattern that I thought could be combined to make an attractive stitch pattern. I quickly realized there were two ways to put them together, and then saw that I could probably make some variants based on those two. I decided to use them to practice working with value in lace. (Value in visual art has to do with how dark or light a color is.)

In music, an étude is a kind of musical exercise meant to increase skill in a single technique. I used to take classical violin lessons when I was young, so I was assigned my share of études to practice at home. The études on my blog aren’t quite the same, but they’re not unlike. They’re exercises in design techniques that I’ve assigned myself to see what I can accomplish and what I can learn from them.

Two rows of one stitch pattern: hexagons with a few holes in them, placed so the second row of hexagons is offset halfway.

Then two rows of a second hexagonal stitch pattern, basically the same as the first, but with a few more holes.

Since the yellow lace is on a dark background, the pattern with more holes looks darker.

Here are those first two designs from Kelpies lace. The decrease lines make outlines that are almost hexagons.

I’m very fond of pattern permutations. (If you’ve been around here a while, you might have noticed this.) So you can imagine my delight when I realized that there were two more possible variations on the motif, as well as a simple mesh present within the three more complex patterns. The mesh is an extremely basic pattern, and is an accidental variant of the four stitch repeat of Razor Shell, as found in Barbara Walker’s first Treasury. I knit the mesh and then looked for it in my books because it seemed likely to have been used by other knitters already.

Four sets of lace hexagons, each set progressively having more open areas. At one end, there’s a set of mesh made of alternating lines of yarnovers and either decreases or knit stitches.

I realized that these variants could be knit in succession to make a lace value gradient. Margaret Stove wrote about this in more detail in her book, Creating Original Hand-Knitted Lace, but the gist is that lace has a range of densities, from plain stockinette with a few holes to open areas full of holes and no stockinette. Manipulating the density is what can be used to make shaded patterns in lace even if all the yarn is the same color.

My lace designs usually have a lot more serendipity involved than the kind of work Margaret Stove has done with designing lace patterns based on flowers and the like, but I thought it was fun to work out a set of permutations that make a gradient. Perhaps you can use them in knitting a shawl or something similar!

I’ll be publishing each of the other stitch patterns in a separate blog post:

A hexagon grid of knitted lace with only a few holes

Notes:

  • Massive edit to this stitch pattern as of 8 December 2022.
  • This stitch pattern comes in two parts: a chart and instructions for six setup rows, and then a chart and instructions for the rest of the pattern repeat.
  • Work the setup rows once, and then work the main pattern as desired, ending after row 8 or 16. (Rows 9-16 are the same as rows 1-8, just shifted sideways by half a pattern repeat.)
  • This is a stitch pattern such as might be found in a stitch dictionary. It is not a pattern for a finished object. You will need to add selvedges or some other form of knitted stitches to either side.
  • Kelpie lace hexagon 1 is a multiple of 8 + 9 stitches.
  • I’ve made a stitch map for Kelpie hexagon 1.
  • Designers, please feel free to use this in your patterns. I’d like credit but won’t be offended if people don’t give it.
  • My blog posts and free stitch patterns are supported by subscriptions on Patreon or donations to my Paypal tip jar in the sidebar. If you appreciate my work, please consider helping out. Thanks!

Abbreviations:

  • BEY (bunny ears yarnover): This turns three stitches into three stitches with a yarnover in the middle. Knit 2 together, but only remove the first stitch from the needle; yarn over; then work ssk with the second and third stitches. The middle stitch of the original three has been knit together with each of its neighbors. Blog post about bunny ears yarnover.
  • CDD: slip the next 2 stitches as if to knit 2 together, knit the next stitch, then pass the 2 slipped stitches over the third. (Stands for centered double decrease.)
  • k: knit.
  • k2tog: knit 2 stitches together as if they were 1. (Right-leaning decrease)
  • k3tog: knit 3 stitches together as if they were 1. (Right-leaning double decrease)
  • p: purl.
  • p1‑below: purl one below. For this stitch pattern, it’s not quite the same as a regular p1‑below, because it’s actually purling the bar below a yarnover, but the action is much the same. From behind, pick up the bar below the yarnover with the right needle and place it on the left needle next to the yarnover; purl both those strands at the same time. This prevents the bar from making a horizontal line in front of the yarnover.
  • ssk: slip each of the next 2 stitches as if to knit, then knit them together through the back loop. (Or substitute your favorite left-leaning decrease)
  • sssk: slip each of the next 3 stitches as if to knit, then knit them together through the back loop. (Left-leaning double decrease; substitute sk2p if desired.)
  • yo: yarnover. Bring the yarn forward between the needles so that it will make a loop over the needle when the next stitch is worked. When there are two in a row, bring the yarn forward, wrap it once around the needle, and leave the yarn in front so it makes a second loop.

Kelpie Lace Hexagon 1 setup rows

chart showing how to work the Kelpie Hexagon 1 setup rows by means of special symbols. Written instructions in blog post.
click chart to enlarge

Row 1 (RS): k3, BEY, *k5, BEY; work from *, k3. (17 sts)

Row 2 (WS): p4, *p1‑below, p7; work from *, p1‑below, p4.

Row 3: k1, k3tog, yo × 2, k1‑tbl, *yo × 2, sssk, k1, k3tog, yo × 2, k1‑tbl; work from *, yo × 2, sssk, k1.

Row 4: p2, (k1, p1) in double yo, *p1, (k1, p1) in double yo, p3, (k1, p1) in double yo; work from *, p1, (k1, p1) in double yo, p2.

Row 5: k2tog, yo, k3, *k2, yo, cdd, yo, k3; work from *, k2, yo, ssk.

Row 6: purl.

work setup rows 1-6 once and then go on to the next part.

Kelpie Lace Hexagon 1 main stitch pattern

chart showing how to work Kelpie Hexagon 1 by means of special symbols. Written instructions in blog post.
click chart to enlarge

Row 1 (RS): ssk, yo, k3, *k2, yo, cdd, yo, k3; work from *, k2, yo, k2tog. (17 sts)

Row 2 (WS): purl.

Row 3: yo, ssk, k3, *k2, BEY, k3; work from *, k2, k2tog, yo.

Row 4: p4, *p4, p1‑below, p3; work from *, p5.

Row 5: k1‑tbl, yo × 2, sssk, k1, *k3tog, yo × 2, k1‑tbl, yo × 2, sssk, k1; work from *, k3tog, yo × 2, k1‑tbl.

Row 6: p1, (k1, p1) in double yo, p1, *p2, ((k1, p1) in double yo, p1) × 2; work from *, p2, (k1, p1) in double yo, p1.

Row 7: k3, yo, cdd, *yo, k5, yo, cdd; work from *, yo, k3.

Row 8: purl.

Row 9: k3, yo, cdd, *yo, k5, yo, cdd; work from *, yo, k3.

Row 10: purl.

Row 11: k3, BEY, *k5, BEY; work from *, k3.

Row 12: p4, *p1‑below, p7; work from *, p1‑below, p4.

Row 13: k1, k3tog, yo × 2, k1‑tbl, *yo × 2, sssk, k1, k3tog, yo × 2, k1‑tbl; work from *, yo × 2, sssk, k1.

Row 14: p2, (k1, p1) in double yo, *p1, (k1, p1) in double yo, p3, (k1, p1) in double yo; work from *, p1, (k1, p1) in double yo, p2.

Row 15: k2tog, yo, k3, *k2, yo, cdd, yo, k3; work from *, k2, yo, ssk.

Row 16: purl.