Here is the fourth “Tech Talk” from Jude Skeers, our esteemed guest in October 2015. As noted in the first Tech Talk article (posted January 15) he has sent these articles to Roisin to be shared with us. 
The article was first published in the Australian magazine Yarn which you can see at the store.
In this article he continues the fascinating (inconclusive) story of the stitch sometimes known as “Feather and Fan.”

Feather and Fan – The Pattern
by Jude Skeers
In the last Tech Talk, Feather and Fan or Old Shale?, the focus was on the history and heritage of the names given to the pattern that has become known as Feather and Fan Pattern. This Tech Talk will look at the pattern and some of its variations and permutations.

It was Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns (1968) that had the clearest description of Feather and Fan Pattern: “The number of stitches to a repeat can be greater or smaller; the bands of purl across the pattern can be spaced differently, or placed on another row, or broader, or not at all; the row count can vary and so on. But the basic principle of the pattern row is always the same: half decreases, grouped together, and half increases, likewise grouped together.”

The most common knitted Feather and Fan Pattern is worked in multiples of 18 stitches. The repetition in the pattern row has six separate decreases, followed by six increases. It also has an extra knit stitch after the increases. Following the pattern row is a row of garter stitch.

Figure 1. Multiple of 18 sts.  Row 1. (Right side) – knit  Row 2. Purl  Row 3. *(K2 tog) 3 times, (yo, k1) 6 times, (k2 tog) 3 times; repeat from *  Row 4. Knit.

For some time I have been intrigued by the extra knit stitch after the increase stitches. This means that the pattern is asymmetrical. The original Old Shale Pattern on which Feather and Fan Pattern is based is symmetrical. I kept coming back to the question, why was the extra stitch added to the pattern? It didn’t balance the finished design.  It is my conclusion that the extra knit stitch is thanks to the pattern writers. A friend, who is a pattern writer, told me that the reason she included the extra knit stitch is because when the pattern section finishes with a yarn over, knitters invariably leave it out, thus messing up the pattern.

There are many variations of this pattern. One of the other Feather and Fan Patterns is quite different from the one above. It is a multiple of 14 stitches and has 2 decreases where 4 stitches are decreased to make single stitch. The increases used to balance the decreases are knitted in the usual manner by yarn forward and there is no extra knit stitch after the increases. It has an extra knit stitch in the centre of the two decreases. This keeps an even number in the pattern and makes it symmetrical. The pattern also incorporates stocking stitch into the centre of the increases stitches.

Figure 2. Multiple of 14 sts. Plus 1.  Row 1. K.1, K.4 tog., (yo, K.1) 5 times, yo., K2 tog., p2.s.s.o., rep from + K.1.  Row 2. K.4., P.7, K.3, rep from + K.1.  Row 3. Knit.  Row 4. Purl

An unusual variation found in my research was in Mary Walker Phillips’ Knitting Counterpanes (1989). Her pattern titled Feather and Fan shows little resemblance to any of the traditional patterns. The pattern has a multiple of 25 stitches. The increases are in row 1 where as the decreases are in each of the other 3 rows. It has stocking stitch in the pattern area and garter stitch in between. In Figure 3, the pattern is written the way that Phillips wrote it.

Figure 3. Multiple of 25.  Row 1: P4, K3, LRD, (O, K1)7x, O, RLD, K3, P4.. Row 2: K4, P2. PRD, P15, P2tog, P2, K4.  Row 3: P4, K1, LRD, K15 RLD, K1, P4.    Row 4: K4, PRD, P15, P2tog, K4.  LRD – Left-right decrease.  RLD – Right-left decrease. PRD – Purl reverse decrease. (Mary Walker Phillips, Knitting Counterpanes (1989).

If you are puzzled by all the variation of Feather and Fan Pattern, you can be excused. Rae Compton, in the first book in which she published the pattern, The Hamlyn Knitting Guide (1980), has a pattern titled Feather and Fan Lace. It is identical to Figure (1). Her next book, The Complete Book of Traditional Knitting (1983), has two patterns one titled Feather and Fan that is the same as Figure (2). The other pattern, titled Old Shale, is very similar to her 1980 pattern. Five years later in her book, The Illustrated Dictionary of Knitting, (1988) Compton changes back to the 1980 pattern and uses the title Feather and Fan. I have been fascinated as to why these changes occurred. What were the influences that caused her to change her pattern and title?

The Feather and Fan Patterns illustrated above and variations of them are printed with a variety of names, including Old Shale, Fan Stitch, Feather Stitch, Ridged Feather Stitch, Shell and Feather and Peacock Stitch.

Others aspect of the Feather and Fan Pattern is the use of garter stitch as a feature in the pattern and the use of colour. It is common for a row of garter stitch to be included after the pattern row, although in some patterns garter it is included in part of the pattern row to highlight the decreases. Another variation that has become common is the use of colour to accentuate the scalloping that is occurring with the pattern. Traditionally Feather and Fan Patterns are knitted in a single colour. This is probably because the pattern was mostly commonly used in baby wear, shawls, counterpanes and other white work where the curves and raised purl stitches are seen to advantage. When the pattern was incorporated into garments it was more appropriate to use contrasting colours.

To end I have come to the conclusion that there is no definitive Feather and Fan Pattern. If the pattern used creates a fabric with, deep scallops, that looks like feathers and fans and you call it Feather and Fan Pattern, ‘ipso facto’ it is Feather and Fan Pattern.