Feather and Fan and Old Shale Pattern

Feather and Fan is a classic knitting stitch pattern that should really be called Old Shale.
Feather and Fan -- or more accurately Old Shale -- is a classic knitting stitch pattern with a distinctive look. Sarah E. White, licensed

Feather and Fan is a classic knitting stitch pattern that sometimes causes confusion among knitters.

That's because there's another common stitch pattern, Old Shale, that is similar to but not the same as Feather and Fan, and the two terms are often used interchangeably when they don't exactly produce the same fabric.

Some knitters are willing to use either term when talking about a scalloped fabric formed with yarn overs separated from their corresponding decreases, and some people call both patterns Feather and Fan, which is why it is sometimes confusing.

What's the Difference Between Feather and Fan and Old Shale?

Feather and Fan and Old Shale are both traditional Shetland stitch patterns, and they're worked in similar ways but they are not the same pattern.

The website Northern Lace has a good discussion of the differences, but the easiest way to spot the difference in a stitch pattern is that real Feather and Fan is worked in multiples of 14 stitches, while Old Shale is worked on multiples of 18 stitches.

So what I have always called Feather and Fan is indeed Old Shale, and I'm not alone in that mistake, which is so common I'm not sure you can really call it a mistake any more.

In fact, in her Treasury of Knitting Patterns, Barbara G. Walker calls the 18-stitch pattern "Feather and Fan Stitch, or Old Shale," and notes that the basic premise of pattern is so simple there are dozens of variations and "it is said that in the Shetland Islands no two families of knitters work the pattern alike."

When searching Ravelry you will find a lot more patterns looking for Feather and Fan than you will if you search Old Shale, even though they mostly all use what's actually the Old Shale pattern.

No matter, let's take a look at both patterns.


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How to Knit Old Shale

Old Shale, then, is worked on multiples of 18 stitches.

Row 1: Knit.

Row 2: Purl.

Row 3: Knit two together three times, (yarn over, knit one) six times, knit two together three times. Repeat across the row.

Row 4: Knit.

Repeat these four rows for pattern.

How to Knit Feather and Fan

And Feather and Fan is worked on multiples of 14. Northern Lace describes it as so:

Row 1: k4tog, yo, [k1, yo] five times, k4togtbl, p1. Repeat as needed across the row.

Row 2: Knit

It's no wonder people don't knit this version as often, because a knit 4 together through the back loops sounds pretty awful, doesn't it?

Feather and Fan Knitting Patterns

OK, OK, I should call them Old Shale knitting patterns, but if it's good enough for Barbara Walker it's good enough for me.

Here at About I have used the stitch pattern in a dishcloth and a wide scarf.​​

The Old Shale Smoke Ring from cosymakes is lovely and would look great in a lot of different kinds of yarn, which is the beauty of this stitch pattern.

Kali Berg's hat Old Shale uses the stitch pattern at the bottom of the hat in a contrasting color, which is really striking.

Amanda Clark has worked ridges of the pattern into her Old Shale Shawl, which makes it a great entry-level lace pattern.

Changing to patterns with Feather and Fan in the name, check out the Jewel Lace Kardi from Kristi Holaas or Red Heart's My Fair Cardi, both lovely uses of the stitch pattern on springlike cardigans. Lion Brand has a cute kids cardigan with some Feather and Fan detailing (free registration required).

A Feather and Fan afghan like this one by Jennifer Penney is a classic, and a great use of leftover yarn if you work it in a scrappy, stripey fashion.

Cascade Yarns has a hat with an allover Feather and Fan pattern (scroll down on the page to download).

You can even knit a pair of socks (Wendy Johnson) or a French press cozy (Claire Byus). How fun is that?