Sometimes I just (virtually) browse through my public library's shelves. Last week, I turned up this book.
I had never heard of Knitting Counterpanes, but I had heard of Mary Walker Phillips. I don't know how well-known she is to people who don't comb the bibliography sections of older knitting books, and it's a shame that this and her other knitting books all seem to be out of print, and, therefore, pretty expensive and hard to come by.
In her preface, Mary Walker Phillips credits a second-hand copy of Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns (that she bought for $1.50!) with giving her the technical knitting background needed for her own work.
Her research for the book started in 1970, and ended, I imagine, just a bit before the publication of the book in 1989.
The patterns for counterpanes are organized into five sections: flat patterns, embossed patterns, strip patterns, fan and shell patterns, and lace and border patterns.
Many of the patterns have whimsical names, sometimes named after the friend who owns a counterpane made in that pattern.
The patterns are not charted, but are given in written form only. The language of the patterns is a little old-fashioned, but easy to decipher. There is a glossary at the beginning of the book so that you can tell, more easily, what is meant.
Frankly, I think one of the main reasons we use charts so much now is that it is hard to read a pattern that says "Row 149" and not feel a little scared. Somehow, it's easier to take when you see it laid out on a chart.
If you can find this book, grab it. Even if you think you will never knit a counterpane, it would give you a thorough understanding of stitch structures, lace, and shaping that would be hard to get, as well, anywhere else.
And, as Mary Walker Phillips herself says, the patterns could be used, "for a full counterpane or for curtains, a wall hanging, a panel on a garment, pillow covers or whatever else comes to mind."