Feather and Fan versus Old Shale

Sometimes one person’s slip can cause decades of error.  This is definitely the case with the two separate and different Shetland patterns.  Feather and Fan is NOT the same as Old Shale. It never was and never will be.  Someone, somewhere, about WWII made the slip and it went to the States to be handed down from generation to generation.  No one seems to know who first made this error (and it was before the maverick who, in the 1950s, brought knitting to the fore but never let the truth get in the way of a good story!!).

I have been meaning to do a swatch to show the difference for ages, and as the topic came up on the Traditional Knitting Yahoo group I have done one!  I have deliberately done it in thick yarn so that the structure of the stitches is seen more easily.  Note that there are 2 repeats worth of stitches for each pattern:

If you look at the two patterns (we will come to names in a minute), you can see they are not very much alike at all (apart from the fact they have holes in rows!)  The left hand one gives a very definite VVV shape, while the right hand one gives a wavy line, with no sharp changes.  The left hand one has more holey rows and has definite columns of holes and solids, whereas the right hand one is more diffuse.

Now the names – the left hand one is Feather and Fan, the right Old Shale (which is really called old SHELL – shale is how the Shetlanders pronounce shell – the dialect form is probably shael)  The wavy lines of Old Shale look a bit like the pattern on a clam shell, while in F&F the solid decreases look like a feather and the open bits like a fan.  (The latter is more noticeable when worked in fine yarn.)

This difference in shape is caused by the way the stitches are decreased.  In F&F, there are TWO decreases for 6 yos – k4tog and k4togtbl.  In other words you have columns where you are stacking up a load of stitches on top of each other, and this results in the V shape.  The stitch between the two decreases is (usually!) a purl, and that forms the spine of the feather.  F&F is a 2 row/round pattern so has holes on every odd numbered row/round:

In OS, you have SIX decreases for 6 yos – k2tog six times.  This gives the long sweep of the curve.   The pattern has 4 rows/rounds, with only one holey row, so there are fewer holes in OS:

The actual way the pattern is written depends on whether it is being worked in the round or knitted to and fro. It also depends on whether you are knitting up the way or down.

BASICALLY, Old Shale  has an 18 sts,  4 row repeat.  Feather and Fan has a 2 row, 14 st repeat.

Old Shale:

Looked at from the RIGHT side, there is a row with holes, and BELOW this as used is a row of PURL BUMPS.  Above the row of holes there are TWO rows of ‘plain knit’

SO… if you are working it as a shawl edging from the INSIDE out, in the ROUND, you work 2 knit rounds, one holey round and 1 PURL round.  Working it TO AND FRO gives k 1 row, p 1 row, holey row (k) and KNIT the 4th row (forming the purl bumps on the right side. If working from the BOTTOM UP, however, (are you concentrating?!) you would work the purl bumps, the holes and the two ‘knit’ rows/rounds in that order.

In this sample I was working from the bottom up, and to and fro, so what I actually knitted was:

row 1 knit

row 2 knit (ie purl bumps on the right side)

row 3 *k2tog three times, [yo, k1] six times, k2tog three times.  Repeat from * as required

row 4 purl

If you are working OS as the border of a hap shawl (where it was usually used) you would be working from the top down and in the round. In this case the pattern would be:

round 1 knit

round 2 knit

round 3 *k2tog three times, [yo, k1] six times, k2tog three times.  Repeat from * as required

round 4 purl

This is the classic Old Shale – 18 sts giving 6 holes per repeat.  But on corners you can increase to 24 or 30 sts, giving 8 or 10 holes per repeat.

Feather and Fan:

The holey rows are every alternate row and the ground is stocking stitch for thicker yarns and garter stitch for thinner ones.  The basic pattern is the same whether you are working up or down.

The usual pattern repeat is 14 sts and if worked in garter stitch would be:
row 1 *k4tog, yo, [k1, yo] five times, k4togtbl, p1.  Repeat from * as required
row 2 k

I was working to and fro in stocking stitch, so my second row was

*k1, p13.  Repeat from * as required

This gives a line of purl bumps up the centre of the ‘feather’.

So that is the Shetland version.  You will, however, never convince folk who have never been to the place that this is ‘correct’ and they are wrong…!!