It’s time for our daily lesson!
It had occurred to me recently that a knitting blog should offer the occasional advice on knitting related topics, especially since I know that there is a possibility that some of my readers are beginners. I really believe that knitting is a superior hobby (it’s been around for hundreds of years, not just as a hobby, but as necessary way to create fabric and items to keep oneself warm, clean, clothed, etc), and I believe that knitting “elders” have the responsibility to pass on knowledge and wisdom learned from projects gone by. I certainly don’t consider myself a master or advanced knitter, but I do believe I have a fair bit of experience and knowledge under my belt; enough to pass on certainly.
One of my favorite knitting techniques is lace. I love lace. I found this definition of knitted lace from an About.com website:
Lace knitting is a specific genre of knitting that uses yarn over increases paired with decreases to form a design on the knit fabric. The yarn overs produce holes in the knitting, while the decreases maintain the knit piece at a consistent size.
That means that you are deliberately putting holes in your fabric! Now, for some projects (say, a warm winter hat or a pair of gloves or mittens) this technique doesn’t make any sense, but if you are knitting a shawl, or a summer tank, or a pair of decorative socks, or even some actual lace edging for a project, holes are the desired effect. Here are a few examples of projects I have done that have used a lace technique:
My recent design, On Cloud Nine socks uses lace to outline the shapes of fluffy clouds. Lace outlines and defines the stem and veins of leaves on my first ever project that incorporated lace – My Nicki Epstein scarf (I call it my Nicki Scarf because the pattern came from her book Knitting on the Edge). But lace can also be incorporated into a project that is much more open and airy too.
In the cases of the Forest Canopy Shawl and Icarus Shawl, there are more holes than solidly knit fabric, and they can create the outlines of all sorts of designs and shapes; wings, feathers, leaves in a canopy, baskets of flowers, the list goes on and on.
Probably the most difficult part of getting started with lace knitting is NOT jumping into lace-weight yarn right away. Lace yarn is basically plies not much bigger than thread twisted together. It’s fine, it’s often slippery, and it’s tough to see and fix mistakes. My advice is to start with something simple, like my scarf, or, if you just can’t start with something less than a lace shawl, find a pattern that can be done in fingering weight (sock) yarn, like Shoalwater or Leaf and Flower Shawls:
There are a few things to keep in mind when knitting lace. The first, is to understand the nature of yarn overs. Most shawls will ask you to yarn over at the beginning of a pattern row, as well as on either side of the center stitch (which is marked on either side by stitch markers), and then the end of the row. But, if you are not careful, yarn overs can jump ship, and try to fit in with the stitches from the “wrong side of the tracks.” Observe:
This yarn over is laying on the correct side of the marker that marks the center stitch.
But here, it’s migrated over to the center stitch. This cheating little two-timer can be hand or needle manipulated back to the proper side of the stitch marker. It doesn’t take much for these little guys to move back over though, so keep that in mind when working the wrong side row of a shawl, that your center has only one stitch, and that your border hasn’t acquired any extra stitches either.
Lace shawls have another way of messing with you. The pattern repeats are sometimes worked dozens of time between the border and center stitch and it can be really easy to forget what you’ve done. I don’t know how many times I have gotten to within a few stitches of the center stitch (or end of row) to find that I’ve done an ssk, k1, k2tog twice in a row, where one was supposed to be replaced by an sk2p, or something else. What I do at that point is stop what I’m doing, right there, and go to the beginning of the row (or center, whichever side the mistake lands on) and go over each stitch, one by one, until I find the mistake. Then, I take a stitch marker that can open up and slip it onto the needle between the mistake and the last correctly done repeat, like this:
Now, you only need pick back to the marker, instead of trying to stop and figure out again where the mistake was, and if you’re there yet. (Guess how many times I knit shawls before I figured this little trick out). My advice is to place the marker after the last correctly done repeat, and not the last correctly done stitch. The reason for this is that once you’ve finished picking back to that marker, you don’t want to have to look at those tiny stitches again to figure out where to carry on. You can just simply start at the beginning of the repeat again, and go from there!
My last piece of good advice I don’t have a photo for. It’s called a Life Line, and it’s simple a piece of waste yarn (or unwaxed dental floss, I’ve heard of that being used before) that is threaded onto a tapestry needle, and then strung through all the stitches on the needle, after a correctly done chart repeat (and take the time to make sure it’s correctly done. Look at the pattern for mistakes, count your stitches, etc). Then, you carry on knitting! If you make a really big mistake later on down the line, you just have to take your needle out and rip back to where the Life Line is. You will be able to pick your stitches right back up and carry on. Don’t forget to write down somewhere or mark where your Life Line is! Some shawls call for a specific amount of repeats, and you don’t want to forget how many you’ve done!
So, give some of these tips and tricks a try, and knit some lace! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, that’s what life lines are for, after all!
And oh yes! Today is Canada Day! I have celebrated it by wearing only clothes that came from Canadian companies, by knitting a Canadian yarn (Fleece Artist Handmaiden Sea Three), and I’ve said “eh” a few times. We are going to see the fireworks this evening, and who knows, I might eat some poutine! I won’t be drinking any beer though!). Happy Canada Day!
For a much better post about Canada, visit the Yarn Harlot’s Blog: http://www.yarnharlot.ca/blog/