Lady Arlington’s Warm Shawl by Donna Druchunas & Ava Coleman

Lady Arlington’s Warm Shawl

September 2015
Sport (12 wpi) ?
15 stitches and 25 rows = 4 inches
in Barège Knitting
US 5 - 3.75 mm
US 7 - 4.5 mm
450 yards (411 m)
Width: 78" / 198 cm by Length: 44" / 112 cm
Flag of English English

When the War Between the States broke out, Mary Custis Lee was fifty-five years old. The daughter of George Washington Custis and the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, she had spent nearly her entire life across the Potomac River from Washington at Arlington, her family home. She had been courted and married there, her children were born there, it was the only home she had ever known. Surrounded by furnishings and heirlooms from Mount Vernon, she cherished the house and all that sur- rounded it. Even when she was posted to various U.S. Army military facilities with her husband, Robert, she always thought of Arlington as her one and only true home… read more in Stories In Stitches 5.

This pattern was inspired by photographs of women in the Civil War era and the warm shawls they wore, knit in a solid color with a two-color patterned border. I found this pattern for “Barège Knitting for Shawls” in The Hand-Book of Needlework by Miss Lambert (1842). Barège means “a light, silky fabric, typically made from wool,” and the pattern says, “The wool suitable for barège knitting, is known as four-thread embroidery fleece. It may also be done in fine cotton.”

I used the stitch in a heavier yarn to create a warm shawl, and I charted it for working a triangular shawl. I also added a second color to work stripes in the border, imitating the patterns from the photographs. In the nineteenth century, the border would have been knit as two separate strips and sewn along the top straight edge of the shawl and along the bottom edge, being gathered in at the point. I knit mine on a long circular needle around the whole piece with mitered corners.