Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Free Pattern: Good Old Old Shale

A free pattern seems like a good way to start the New Year!  It's short and sweet, and you can skip down to it below, or read all about it first.

Bear-Bear looks happy!  Little Bear looks more subdued.  He prefers to celebrate in a quiet way.
A little champagne, a little caviar, and off to bed.

A few months ago, a lady hired me to knit a baby blanket for her.  She wanted a traditional knitting pattern called Old Shale, also widely known, apparently incorrectly, as Feather and Fan.

Now, before you get your feathers ruffled and your fans in a flap, before you grasp your knitting needles like daggers to attack, check out this link written by Elizabeth Lovick, and see what you think!

I decided last night that, for fun, I would research this traditional pattern and post a bit of history on my blog.  (My idea of fun is pretty tame.)  Along the way, I found the website above, and it makes a lot of sense.  Before I finished reading, I thought, "Uh-oh, now I have to change the title of my blog entry."  I was so sure I had been knitting Feather and Fan!

Well, I kept reading and it turns out, I was indeed knitting Old Shale, at least according to Elizabeth Lovick, and I have no reason to doubt her.  This pattern really does look more like shells, which is apparently what "Shale" originally meant, as opposed to "rock" as we might have thought, and the other pattern she shows really does look more like feathers, at least, if not fans.

Regardless, you who have been knitting for a long time may be thinking, "Ho-hum, another Feather and Fan/Old Shale pattern, big deal."

True, this stitch pattern appears in many stitch dictionaries; all I offer here is a "recipe" in which I have done some math so you don't have to do it.

There's a reason this stitch pattern has remained so popular:  it looks delicate and classy, and once you learn it, it's easy.

But the woman who hired me was new to knitting.  She wanted to make the blanket herself, but was having trouble with the pattern.  I remember when I first started knitting years ago, this one was about as complicated as I could handle.  There were many dropped stitches or yarn-overs omitted.  There was much tinking and gnashing of teeth.  Now it's a piece of pie!  Persistence pays off.

However, this otherwise perfectly nice lady who was offering me actual money to knit for her also wanted me to use her sport weight yarn.  (Ominous music now plays in the background.)

The adventure begins

Having made a baby blanket with sport weight before, I had vowed that I would never make another, as it takes FOREVER, but she was going to pay me, so I relented.

Never say never.

Now, about that "forever" business:

The best way I have found to know if you have made your blanket long enough is to hold up your work-in-progress from one side, not from the top.

If you hold it up from where you are knitting on the needles, the weight of the yarn makes it look like it's long enough.  It isn't.  Sorry.  You have to keep knitting.  It's sport weight.  It feels like it will never be done;  trust me, I know.  You have my deepest sympathy.

Are we there yet?
After you have knitted for a few more hours, days, or weeks, just hold the blanket up from one side, then lay it down on a table or on a nice, clean floor, perhaps, and get out your measuring tape, and measure down from the needles.  Then pick it up and keep knitting.

Almost for forever.

Then one day, suddenly, you're done!

Doesn't look bad from the "wrong side" either!
Sign up to follow my blog and be among the first to know when I post a new free pattern!  And if you like this pattern, you might also like the Tuck Me In blanket or the lacy Milan Scarf.


© 2013 Reyna Thera Lorele
YIYO Designs

Finished size:  36" x 42"
Materials needed:
1500 yds. DK or sport weight yarn
#5 needles, 29" circulars
Gauge:  5.5 sts per inch

Note:  pattern repeat is 18 sts.  I have added a garter st border of 6 rows to begin and end the blanket, and 5 sts on either end of each row.  You may want to place a marker after the first 5 sts and before the last 5 sts so you don't forget to do your border once you start the Good Old Old Shale pattern.

CO 208 sts.
Knit 6 rows.

Row 1 (RS):  k
Row 2:  p
Row 3:  *(k2tog) 3 times, (yo, k1) 6 times, (k2tog) 3 times*, rep from * to * across.
Row 4:  k

Repeat rows 1 through 4 almost ad infinitum, until blanket measures about 41 inches.  Then finish with 6 rows of garter st, i.e., k every row.

BO, weave in ends, block, and take a much-needed rest!

BO = bind off
CO = cast on
k = knit
k2tog = knit 2 together
p = purl
RS = right side
st, sts = stitch, stitches
yo = yarn over


  1. Whichever pattern you call it, it's a lovely piece of work and it looks more difficult than it is. I too think it looks delicate and classy. Thanks for sharing the history of it, always good to know the background.

  2. It always looks so classic and elegant in white!

  3. Love your blanket!! I'm going to do this pattern, but in a scarf. Much quicker - LOL!
    I agree with you about the differences between feather and fan and old shale. Old shale does look more like little shells. I enjoy knitting both patterns! I'm a big feather and fan and old shale "fan" - no pun intended!

    Linda in VA

    1. An Old Shale "fan"--I love it! And I think a scarf is a brilliant plan!

  4. love the history ~ love the blanket ~ and I love this part of your blog post: “keep knitting. Almost for forever.” Laughed so hard - tis so true!

  5. Thanks for verifying the history and explanation. I've linked MY Old Shale Baby Blanket blog page to yours. I have about the same threshold for "fun" as you do. Cheers! and Happy needlework. (I am PainterWoman on Ravelry)

    1. Cool! Thanks, Dana--I will have to go check out your Ravelry page.

  6. Can you help me with some math? If I wanted to make this in worsted weight yarn and want to do it in the round, how many sets of 18 should I put on the needle to use on a twin bed?

    1. Thanks for your interest in this pattern. I'm not sure I understand what you mean by doing it in the round, though. If you're starting from the center and working out, you will need to use increases. If you're knitting back and forth, as this pattern is written, I suggest doing a swatch in pattern with the yarn and needles you want to use, then measure, and you will know how many repeats will give you the size you want. You can measure the bed and decide how far you want the blanket to drop down over the sides, or google standard sizes for twin beds. Hope this helps!

  7. I want to knit a parisian style afghan for my grandaughter' wedding shower.... I don't really kniw what a parisian style is??? Would fan and feather qualify? Shower in July 2016.. so I have time.
    Roxane Telesha

    1. Sorry, but I have never heard of a "Parisian style" afghan. Where did you hear of this?

    2. My grandaughter 24 is planning parisian style for her post wedding bedroom? I am so clueless?? I just ordered a book from a library on parisian home decor fir a.honeymoon house?
      thank you for trying to help.

    3. Sounds like a good plan! Doesn't it seem anything classy and classic would do? Maybe art-deco-y? Not ultra-modern? What about The Ribble? (Shameless plug for my own pattern, :)). Good luck! Hope you find the perfect thing!

  8. I wanted to do a Mermaid tail blanket using either this or feather and fan, but can't find a pattern. Can you help?

    1. Have you checked Ravelry? There might be something there. Good luck!


I love getting your comments. Thanks for sharing!