Knitting Lace

Recently, I realized that my knitting was becoming somewhat routinized. I’ve been knitting the same patterns (mainly socks) over and over. Don’t get me wrong. I love knitting socks, I love having socks I knit. But I’m getting a touch stale. There is a lack of challenge in socks. It’s not like…lace.

Lace is a challenge. Lace is an adventure. Lace is something, that when you screw it up, you have to rip it all the way back to the beginning (or, if you are very clever and put in a lifeline, to your last lifeline). Lace is intricate and complex and detailed work. To do lace, you need to concentrate. So I said to myself, “let’s do some lace.”

I cast on my 56 stitches for 3 repeats of the pattern (18 stitch repeat with 2 stitches at the end). It’s not a particularly complext pattern, just 12 pattern rows (which you then repeat until the scarf is the desired length). I got through my first set of 12 rows, and realized that instead of the predicted 6 inches wide scarf, mine was closer to 12. Now, this isn’t a terrible problem, but it is wider than I wanted the scarf to be. So I ripped the whole thing out, and cast on 38 stitches (2 repeats of the 18 stitch pattern plus 2 stitches at the end).

That’s when the trouble began. I got six rows in, and realized I had the wrong number of stitches. Out came the needle and I rip out the six rows.I cast on again. Four rows in, one of my repeats of 18 stitches is 20 stitches long. Pull out the needle, rip out the knitting. Cast on again. Two rows in, and my stitch count is wrong. Rip it out again.

Tonight, after letting it lie fallow for about a week, I cast on again (after discovering I had to rip out, again). I’ve gotten through the first 12 rows, and so far so good. I’ve made an adjustment: I’ve added stitch markers every 9 stitches to keep track of my place in the pattern. It makes it easier to catch mistakes before I get too far. As I say, so far so good.

This would be the point when I would normally insert a photo, but my camera batteries are currently charging, so while I could insert a photo from my walk to work this morning (of flowers, not of lace), I don’t think the picture would illustrate any of my points particularly. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a thousand off topic words in a 600 word post seems like a bad idea.

David’s rules for knitting lace:

  • Never knit lace after any alcohol.Trust me, when you pick up again the next day, the stitch count won’t be right.
  • Lace knitting is not for meetings; you have to concentrate too much (or at least I do) to be able to fully pay attention to the meeting.
  • Don’t knit lace while tired. See above under “alcohol.”
  • Put in lifelines frequently (a piece of yarn threaded through the stitches of a row which lets you safetly rip back to that point). OK…so far I’m failing this one.
  • Be committed to the process not the finished product (be prepared to rip out a lot, and be okay with that).

I’ll point out that these rules for knitting lace are all lovely, but I do much of my knitting during meetings. Often I knit when I’m too tired to do other work. Occasionally I like to knit while sipping a glass of wine. And I’ve never quite gotten good about putting in lifelines. Nut I’m quite skilled at ripping out my knitting.

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2 Responses to “Knitting Lace”

  1. Emily Says:

    For what it’s worth, I have never used a lifeline. Too much of a pain! After a while I just got good at understanding how to put those yarn-overs back on the needle in the right direction, and now I can rip out back to the problem row like any knitting. I think learning that particular skill is easier with faintly sticky yarn, like merino (or my “flat kitten” angora), rather than something like bamboo or silk, because the yarn-overs keep themselves looped into the right spots more readily. Maybe it’s also easier for “snug” knitters than loose ones? Anyway, good luck with your scarf!

  2. Heidi Says:

    Chatted with you at BarCamp about your sock technique & will bug you one of these days soon to teach me, too! I’ll trade for some homemade cookies or some other goodie. In the meantime, I’m waiting on that lace photo!


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