How to Knit a Vintage Lace Edging

I’ve never knit a lace edging, the one that is knit separately to be attached later on to bohemian dresses, fancy blouses and handkerchiefs. The one that is often used in haute couture, especially now when lace is having an ultimate comeback.  

So when I’ve got a request to make a tutorial about a sideways knitted lace trim (thank you, Venette 🙂, I was quite excited to dive into an amazing world of vintage lace.

The pattern I’m going to share with you in this tutorial comes from an old book called “The Lacy Knitting of Mary Schiffmann” by Nancy Nehring.

Mary Schiffmann was an incredible knitter. Most of her life she collected patterns of knitted lace. She would search vintage and antique knitting books, notes left by knitters in her own family, and she would make charts of lace she found in various historical museums. The book features some of the patterns in her collection.

The pattern we’ll be following with you today was developed by Mary herself in 1953 to make a gift for her mother. She called this lace “Mother’s Handkerchief Edging”.

Before we cast on, first let’s talk about the choice of yarn. Traditionally, lace edgings were knitted with cotton or silk. Rayon, modal and bamboo yarns will also look great thanks to the beautiful drape and sheen they all have. 

If you want to make a delicate lace, use a fine thread. If you plan to make a rustic-looking edging, use a slightly thicker yarn.

As to the needles, the choice is yours – thinner needles with make your lace edging denser, thicker ones will make the lace looser and airier.

In this tutorial, I’ll use bamboo yarn in DK weight (digit 3 on the yarn label) and 4mm (US size 6) needles. This yarn is slightly thicker than the yarns I would choose for this project, but it is perfect “for training purposes” – the stitches are quite big, and you can clearly see them in the photos and the video tutorial.  

The pattern starts with 6 stitches. Cast on 6 stitches and knit all stitches for 1 row.  That’s the setup. Now we are ready to move on to the pattern.

If you are a visual learner, click here to watch it in a video tutorial. I’ve also added links to the video to each row number. If something is not clear, click the number of the row and watch how to work each stitch in this row.

Row 1: knit 1, make a yarn over, purl 2 together, knit 2 together, knit 1 = 5 stitches

Row 2: make a yarn over, knit 2, make a yarn over, purl 2 together, knit 1 = 6 stitches

Row 3: knit 1, make a yarn over, purl 2 together, knit 1, make a yarn over, knit 2 = 7 stitches

Row 4: make a yarn over, knit 4, make a yarn over, purl 2 together, knit 1 = 8 stitches

Row 5: knit 1, make a yarn over, purl 2 together, knit 3, make a yarn over, knit 2 = 9 stitches

Row 6: make a yarn over, knit 2 together, knit 2 together, knit 2, make a yarn over, purl 2 together, knit 1 = 8 stitches

Row 7: knit 1, make a yarn over, purl 2 together, knit 2, knit 2 together, knit 1 = 7 stitches

Row 8: make a yarn over, knit 2 together, knit 2 together, make a yarn over, purl 2 together, knit 1 = 6 stitches

These 8 rows form the pattern. Repeat them to make your piece of lace as long as you like. When you finish knitting, bind off all stitches and block the piece.

The pattern is quite simple. In fact, it is such a pleasant knit that sometimes you might lose your spot in the pattern. Let’s say you finished a row and you are not sure which row comes next. In this case, count the stitches on your needles. 

As you’ve probably noticed, the number of stitches changes with every row. That makes it easy to find the row you’ve just finished. 

For example, if you have 6 stitches on your needles, you’ve just finished either row 2 or row 8. If you have 9 stitches on your needles, there is no guessing – you’ve just finished row 5.

The pattern doesn’t have a right or a wrong side. It is fully reversible, as you can see in the photo below:

Another great thing about this pattern is that the piece on your needles grows super fast. It takes about 3 minutes to knit a full repeat, so your lace gets longer and longer with every minute. So gratifying 🙂

I haven’t changed the pattern because I want to keep it a vintage masterpiece it is. But if I decided to improve it, I would add a slip-stitch selvedge to the side that gets attached to a dress or a handkerchief (or any other project you have in mind). This side is formed by the “knit 1” stitches that are highlighted in the pattern. That selvedge will give the pattern a more polished look. 

Otherwise, it’s a lovely vintage lace stitch that is as special as you are 🙂


If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:

“Neat Side Edges” Book

Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.


Happy knitting!

Maryna Shevchenko - www.10rowsaday.com

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Vintage lace edging | 10 rows a day
How to knit vintage lace edging | 10 rows a day
Knitted lace edging step by step | 10 rows a day