If You Love All Things Light & Lacy, You’ll Love These Stitches

If openwork is your weakness, learn about these beautiful knitting stitches

If you’re anything like me, your reaction when you first came upon a piece of knitting that was light, airy, and open was twofold.

  1. “That’s so beautiful!”
  2. “… but I could never knit something like that.”

Early on in my knitting life, thought #2 almost invariably came swiftly on the heels of thought #1. Whenever I found something beautifully knitted, I automatically assumed I could never make something so lovely.

I’m happy to assure you that this is almost certainly not true!

Sure, when you first venture into the world of openwork, you probably won’t want to try something hopelessly intricate and dizzyingly complex. (That was the mistake I made when I decided to knit a lace shawl for the first time. It did not go well.)

The knitting stitches you’ll see today are not at all out of reach for even an advanced beginner or intermediate knitter! They are the veil stitch and the Old Shale stitch.

Both are fun; both are light and lovely. I suspect you’ll fall in love with both! So let’s get started…

1. The Veil Stitch

Veil Stitch Scarf - Eric Haschke
Veil Stitch scarf
Photo: Eric Haschke

The veil stitch is a fascinating stitch that is actually very similar to garter stitch. (Yes, knit-every-row, couldn’t-be-simpler garter stitch!)

The key difference between veil stitch and garter stitch is that veil stitch is stretched out. Each stitch is something like 3 times the height of your standard garter stitch. This gives it a very light and open feel.

I will also tell you that the veil stitch–while being quite simple–is very, very difficult to explain with words. I can tell you the steps, but I would be willing to bet that you will not understand them until you see a video demonstration. Fortunately, I found a great one!

The steps written here serve more as a reminder than as instructions. For instructions, go to the video.

  1. Cast on any number of stitches. No, really–it doesn’t matter how many stitches you cast on. Veil stitch is worked stitch by stitch, rather than row by row, so you can cast on as many stitches as you want.
    (If you’d like to try this out as I did–by knitting a skinny scarf–try casting on 20 stitches.)
  2. Slip your right needle into the first cast-on stitch you’ve just finished, as if you were about to knit a stitch as you normally would.
  3. With your needles crossed, take your working yarn and place it between your needles, from front to back. Then bring the yarn back to the front, allowing the yarn to swing around the needle tip that’s pointing to the right.
  4. Then, wrap the yarn around the needle tip pointing to the left twice.
  5. If you tilt the needles away from you, you’ll see an “X” created on your left needle (with the tip pointing to the right). You’re going to take the loop you see at the top of your right needle (with the tip pointing to the left) and pull it under the “X” until it’s through and resting comfortably on your right needle tip.
  6. The “X” on your left needle, you will now slip off the left needle. This will create one (1) veil stitch.
  7. Repeat steps 2 through 6 on each successive stitch on your left needle until all the stitches have been worked.
  8. Turn your work and do it all again!

Repeat on every row until your work is as long as you would like.

Are you panicking yet? No need… here’s where the helpful video comes in!

This stitch works very well for anything you want to make light and airy; scarves, wraps, even a facial washcloth.

2. Old Shale Stitch

The Old Shale stitch is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “feather and fan.” (In fact, I made this very mistake upon first publishing this post–I’m grateful to the Knitting Nuggets subscriber who pointed out my mistake!) You can see the differences in this article.

Old Shale is a classic lace stitch that anyone can use to make beautiful scarves, shawls, and wraps. My favorite thing about this stitch is that it is so easy, yet it looks so elegant. Better still, it’s extremely easy to memorize!

For this pattern, use this brief abbreviation glossary:

K: knit

P: purl

K2tog: knit two together (that is, knit 2 stitches at the same time, as if they were one stitch)

YO: yarnover (wrap your working yarn around your working needle)

To begin, cast on with any multiple of 18. If you want to use border stitches, which is often a good idea with lace, be sure to include those stitches in your cast-on count. For instance, if you wish to use 4 border stitches on each side, you’ll cast on any multiple of 18 plus 8.

(Multiples of 18 include 18, 36, 54, and so on.)

Once you’ve cast on, you’ll continue to knit as follows. (Directions do not include border stitches.)

Row 1: K every stitch.
Row 2: P every stitch.
Row 3: *K2tog x 3; YO, K1 x 6; K2tog x 3; repeat from * to end of row.
Row 4: K every stitch.

Repeat these 4 rows until your work is as long as you’d like.

Feather & Fan shawlette
Old Shale shawlette
Photo: Eric Haschke

You can see that with the Old Shale stitch, I created this lovely little shawlette. With the veil stitch above, I knitted that fun little lightweight summertime scarf.

So if you’re ready for light and airy and want to create something spectacular, I hope you’ll consider both the veil stitch and the Old Shale stitch. You’ll undoubtedly receive many compliments, whether you use these knitting stitch patterns for yourself, for gifts, and/or for charitable giving!

Light & Lacy Stitches

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  1. I have done the feather and fan stitch before. I found that it helps to keep track of which of the 4 rows you are on. Getting off by one row can make the design turn out backwards with the right side facing the back instead of the front. I either use a counter or pen and paper to check off 1, 2, 3, or 4 as I knit.
    But it is “not a mistake, it’s a design element”.

    1. I agree–it does help to have some way to keep track of which row you’re on! And I love “it’s not a mistake, it’s a design element”!