Old Shale Stitch

The Old Shale Stitch Banner Title

The Old Shale Stitch


The Old Shale stitch is a beautiful, rather delicate looking member of the Eyelet & Lace Stitch family.

The stitch resembles the shell of a clam or scallop, which is how it came by it's name. The style of knitting comes to us from the Shetland Islands in Scotland, where the inhabitants or Shetlanders, have quite a distinct accent* and tend to pronounce "shell" like "shael" which to a non-Scottish ear sounds like "shale". It should be noted that this stitch is often erroneously given or interchanged with the Feathers & Fans stitch which seems to have come about in the early part of the last century when the stitch arrived on American shores.

Scallop Sea Shells

So, what is the Old Shale Stitch? The stitch is distinct for it's series of 6 holes in each repeat, generated by yarnovers that are sandwiched between a series of knitting two together on either side. The act of alternating between the eyelets in the yarnovers and the decreasing caused by the series of knitting two together creates this wonderful wavy, wavelike pattern, which when combined with the fanning of the vertical wales producing the shell or "shael" like texture.

This stitch is commonly used as an edging pattern, such as for a babies blanket or as I have once witnessed, a tea-cosy. A simple reason for this is that it is easy to shape corners by simply increasing the stitches to 24 or 30 stitches for several repeats, thus creating 8 or 10 holes a repeat.

*Not that I can really point fingers as I come from a different part of Scotland and to non-Scottish ears also have quite a distinct accent.

Old Shale stitch example & Title Slide for


Cast on multiples of 18 stitches for your project.

For the first two rows, simply knit every stitch (essentially knitting a garter stitch for the first two rows). In the third row begin a repeating pattern of knitting two together three times, followed by alternating between a yarn over and a knitted stitch six times (for 12 stitches total) and then finishing the repeat with another three knitting two together. Keep repeating this pattern for as many repeats as you wish. Then purl every stitch in the fourth row.

Once you have completed row 4, simply reverse the fabric and continue repeating rows 1-4 until you have the desired size.

Further finishing touches can be added like adding a further border as we have done in the example swatch, or to help with shaping a corner by adding in extra stitches to create additional eyelets.

NOTE: the example swatch in the photos is a double repeat (36 stitches across) of the stitch and is cast on and cast on with multiple rows of the garter stitch before the Old Shale begins proper.

Difficulty Level:

Intermediate Knitting Stitch

Cast on:

Cast on in multiples of 18 stitches.

Techniques Used in this Stitch:


Traditional Instructions

Row 1: k all stitches.
Row 2: k all stitches.
Row 3: *k2tog three times, [yo, k1] six times, k2tog three times; repeat till end of the row .
Row 4: k all stitches.

Repeat rows 1-4 to desired length.

Old Shale Stitch Chart

Click to enlarge the chart.

Old Shale Example - Right Side

Click to enlarge the swatch example.


Old Shale Example - Wrong Side

Click to enlarge the swatch example.

Knitting projects using the Old Shale Stitch

We currently don't have any projects to show. If you would like to share your project using the Old Shale Stitch, then get in touch using the comments box at the bottom of the page or through our contact page.


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Stitches & Instruction by Alison; Article by Brian

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