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Shell Counterpane from 1860

Knitted motifs in a shell shape for making bedspreads
Click here to download the original 1860’s version of the pattern in pdf format.

The following is my interpretation of the original instructions.


Inc = increase by knitting into the back of the next stitch without dropping it off the left hand needle, then knit into the front as normal.
Yo = yarn over


Materials, gauge and needle size are up to you. To find out how much yarn you need for your project, knit and block one shell. Measure the size and how much yarn you used. You can then use this information to figure out how many shells you’ll need to make, and how much yarn that will require.

Cast on 3sts

1st row: k1, inc, k1

2nd row: k2, inc, k1

3rd row: k2, inc, k2

4th row: k3, yo, k3

5th row: k3, p1, k3

6th row: k3, yo, k1, yo, k3

7th row: k3, p3, k3

8th row: knit

9th row: k3, p3, k3

10th row: k3, (yo, k1) 3 times, yo, k3

11th row: k3, p7, k3

12th row: knit

13th row: k3, p7, k3

14th row: k3, (yo, k1) 7 times, yo, k3

15th row: k3, p15, k3

16th row: knit

17th row: k3, p15, k3

18th row: k3, (yo, k2tog) twice, (Yo, k1), 7 times, (yo, slip 1, k1, psso) twice, yo, k3

19th row: K3, p23, k3

20th row: knit

21st row: k3, p23, k3

22nd row: k3, (yo, k2tog) 4 times, (yo, k1) 7 times, (yo, slip 1, k1, psso) 4 times, yo, k3

23rd row: k3, p31, k3

24th row: knit

25th row: k3, p31, k3

26th row: k3, (yo, k2tog) 6 times, (yo, k1) 7 times, (yo, slip1, k1, psso) 6 times, yo, k3

27th row: k3, p39, k3

28th row: knit

29th row: k3, p39, k3

30th row: k3, (yo, k2tog) 8 times, (yo, k1) 7 times, (yo, slip1, k1, psso) 8 times, yo, k3

31st row: k3, p47, k3

32nd row: knit

33rd row: k3, p47, k3

34th row: k3, (yo, k2tog) 10 times, (yo, k1) 7 times, (yo, slip1, k1, psso) 10times, yo, k3

knit 3 rows and cast off.

The original version of this pattern is in the public domain. The updated and corrected version as presented on this website is copyrighted Sarah Bradberry 2004.


    • Sarah

      Hi Michelle,
      Inc means to knit into the front and back of the next stitch, so after working row 3 you would have 6 stitches.

  1. Hooker Leo

    would i be correct by presuming – via the image – that the “counterpanes” are sewn together? I thought I might be able to connect “counterpanes” without taking off needles, but my brain can’t think of a way.

      • Robyn

        I am new to knitting but was able to follow the pattern, and my shells look mostly right – the top curves as it should, the holes are even, etc… except that the bottom sides don’t curve in like they do in the picture. They’re just straight, and they don’t fit together without big gaps. Any ideas what I’m doing wrong or how to fix it?

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