Behind the Veil

This is not actually the pattern for Blue Stocking. (I’m not that fast!) But at least part of the material for this post is destined to be incorporated into the pattern, so… it’s a start.

Blue Stocking is worked in a variant on Veil Stitch - and that requires some explanation. Wait! Come back! Veil Stitch, at least the way I do it, is a lot easier and less tedious than you probably think! Honest!

I couldn’t blame you for being tempted to flee at the name. If memory serves, Montse Stanley has confessed to a special weakness for Veil Stitch, and that is certainly understandable given how cool it looks.

Veil Stitch Swatch

BUT…! When you consider how it is traditionally worked, it’s a wonder anyone ever uses it at all.

I first encountered it courtesy of Barbara Walker (First Treasury of Knitting Patterns), who describes it as follows:

Barbara Walker on Veil Stitch

Here are Mary Thomas’s instructions, from her Book of Knitting Patterns:

Mary Thomas on Veil Stitch

You know, I’m not sure having the drawings is a good thing. It makes it that much clearer how incredibly awkward this stitch is to work. You actually have to take your hands off the needles, and you do all that winding, back and forth and over and under, and then… more than half the time you snag on one of the wind-y bits and lose the relevant loop as you’re pulling it through, and it’s all for naught.

So why would I make a “simple” sock with this stitch? Because it doesn’t have to be that way!

I may not be the first person ever to have figured this out - I only know that I’ve never seen it documented elsewhere. One way or the other, here is my blinding epiphany: the result of the completed Veil Stitch is EXACTLY the same as if you had knit a stitch normally, then twisted it around with one full turn of the right needle.


The result of the completed Veil Stitch is EXACTLY the same as if you had knit a stitch normally, then twisted it around with one full turn of the right needle.

If your browser is still loading pictures, my apologies. It gets pretty graphic-intensive from here on out, because I’m going to show you exactly how I do it.

Method #1: Beginning of Row

For the first stitch of a row, you can do the whole thing with the right needle only. You’ve just worked the plain knit stitch:

First Stitch #1

and the tip of the right needle is going to circle in the direction of the arrow, that is, up and back behind the stitch, then coming forward and up underneath it.

First Stitch #2

First Stitch #3

First Stitch #4

First Stitch #5

First Stitch #6

What’s on your right needle now is a completed Veil Stitch. All you have to do is pull back the slack on the working yarn, and you’re ready to move on.

Of course, as a rule you don’t have room to execute this maneuver anywhere else in the row - you can’t pull your right needle far enough away from the work. So you have to use the two needles together. I have two methods for that, and I haven’t actually decided which I prefer; I use them interchangeably.

Method #2: Stitch Still on the Needle

You’ve worked your knit stitch but you haven’t yet pulled it off the left needle. Holding the old stitch securely in place with your left hand, pull the new one up in front of the tip of the left needle.

On Needle #1

Again the tip of the right needle is going to follow that same trajectory (yes, I even used the same arrow), but this time it’s going to describe its circle around the left needle, wrapping the worked stitch back over, and then forward under, its tip.

On Needle #2

This puts the same twist on the stitch itself. Once that’s done, pull the stitch off the left needle and take up the slack.

Slight hazards of this method: if you’re working at very close quarters you may catch the working yarn (or the running loop between stitches) at the back/bottom of the circle; also if you’re too close to the end of the left needle… well, you can probably guess what happens. It takes a little practice to work up a rhythm and a comfort zone. (So what else is new. If that ain’t Original Remark #407A, I don’t know what is.)

Method #3: Stitch Already Off the Needle

You’ve worked the stitch and pulled it off the left needle. Now bring the tip of the left needle to the right, so that it’s in front of the new stitch.

Off Needle #1

You’re going to pull the stitch forward over the left needle, and then, holding the right needle so it points upward, move the right needle in a clockwise circle underneath the left needle, so that the needle crosses from right to left behind the stitch; meanwhile you prevent the stitch from slipping off by keeping the point of the right needle always in contact with the underside of the left needle.

Off Needle #2

Off Needle #3

(See above re practicing, etc.)

I have to admit it seems pretty convoluted as I write it. I can only tell you that in practice the methods I’ve described here are inestimably easier and more fluid than the one in the traditional books. Believe me, if that weren’t the case I would never have inflicted this stitch on myself - or you - for the duration of an entire pair of socks!

Disclaimer: as you can see, I’m a Continental knitter. I use English for some kinds of stranded colorwork, but other than that I’m not comfortable with it, and I haven’t fully thought out its implications in relation to this stitch. I think these methods should apply equally well to English-style knitting, because the actual maneuvers take place after the stitch is worked; but I’m not positive. If any English knitters out there would like to play with it and confirm/deny/add/amplify/suggest, I will be only too happy to benefit from your efforts and to share their results.

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the stitch pattern for Blue Stocking doesn’t look like the Veil Stitch swatch above. That is because Blue Stocking only uses half the stitch (I think of it as Un-Veil, or Half-Veil). The original Veil Stitch is really, as Mary Thomas says, an elongated twisted garter stitch, and it looks the way it does because it’s worked the same way on both sides. It isn’t difficult to work a full Veil Stitch in the round, but I liked the twisting spiraling effect I got from using only what is in effect the first row of two.

BTW on Blue Stocking #2 I’m playing with twisting the stitch in the opposite direction, so the socks will mirror each other even in the texture of the fabric. This will be an optional feature, but so far I must say it’s looking mighty good!


P.S. I only have two hands, and in this instance they were both needed for knitting. My grateful thanks to The BoyTM for taking all these not-very-enthralling-to-muggles pictures!

10 Responses to “Behind the Veil”

  1. Beth in WI Says:

    Wow. I know I don’t completely understand all this, but I get the impression it’s like yarning over a whole stitch. And when it drops away, you get the elongation that’s characteristic of the stitch. Close?

    I love the concept of the mirror image socks. (Make ‘em for kids and sneak Ls and Rs into the toes?)

  2. Astrid Bear Says:

    I like the nifty, high-faluting arrow you changed to on the pictures! On the stitch, I’ve finally had a chance to give it a go: the idea is basically just to twist the stitch after it’s made? And you are knitting in the round? All rounds are done in the same way? I’m intrigued by that spiraling effect, which my flat sample does not exhibit at all.

  3. The Tsarina Tsays… » Blog Archive » Blue Stocking Pattern Update Says:

    […] up. With the possible exception of the Veil Stitch tutorial, for which I will probably refer you to the appropriate blog entry until I can pull that part together […]

  4. =Tamar Says:

    You are absolutely brilliant! I’m sure that is what the inventor of the stitch really did.

  5. Mariana Says:

    i wish i can knit but im still learning.. i want to create something cool.. and useful.. but i have only a dark yarn and i don’t know what to do i can’t knit a sweater is too hot for that.. well .. can u just tell me what can i do with this yarn? =D thanks..!


  6. catherine Says:

    oh THANK YOU… just a few nights ago I was trying to decipher the Walker veil stitch pattern instructions and finally just GAVE UP… so happy to find your instructions!

  7. Nan Says:

    You are brilliant! I was trying to imagine how this stitch might be done by a continental knitter. Thank you so much!

  8. uta Says:

    Thanks a lot - it works and looks good - and is easy as you described it!

  9. barbara Takumi Says:

    In a 5 step veil, after the one you describe is a line of following :

    P1, over 3 stitches( p3together, yo, p3 together) all in the same 3 stitches.
    Continue to end of row.

    I cannot figure out how to do the p3together, yo, p3 together in the same 3

    Have you ever encountered this?

    Thanks for you help.

  10. tamarque Says:

    It sure would be nice to see a video of this. I cannot figure out the needle wrapping at all–

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