Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lace Q&A.

LisaMae asked, in the comments, for some suggestions for a first lace project, something like a shawl. Instead of a list of patterns (though I will give a few for ideas), I'm gonna give a list of things to look for in a first lace pattern. This is an extension of the 'what do you consider hard?' discussion we had a few months back.

-Make sure it's something you really like because you'll probably wind up tearing out parts of it and re-knitting at least once, and loving the project will help with that.

-Avoid hard-to-unravel yarns for the first go; stuff like mohair that clings, and fragile yarns like single-ply laceweight.

-With tearing out in mind, make sure to use a life-line as needed. At the end of a repeat, or any hard bit of knitting, when you are SURE the pattern is correct, get some smooth thread/yarn and thread through all the stitches, either while they're on the needle, or in the row below the needle. Then knit on. That way, if you screw something up horribly, and you have to tear it out, you can unravel down to that line of thread and KNOW that the stitches will be there to pick back up again.

-Two-row lace is definitely easier. That means lace where there's a row of action (yarnovers, decreases, whatever) and a row of plain knitting or purling. (One-row knitting means a pattern with action every row.) The plain row 'resets' the stitches on the needle and makes them much easier to work on the next action row.

-Try to find a pattern that contains stitches you already know - knit, purl, knit two together, slip slip knit, yarnover. MANY lace patterns contain just those. Try to avoid odd things like 'knit and purl into back of stitch twelve times' or what have you. Save that for the second project.

-Patterns with smaller repeats (less than ten stitches and rows, ish) are easier to remember and anticipate, and therefore usually go faster. But it's not a vitally important thing.

-I've found that gauge doesn't matter as much as yarn/thread color does. I'd rather knit a light colored thread on 0000 needles than black yarn on size tens. It's just easier to see what's going on.

-Knitting something flat (back-and-forth) and square is, in general, easier than anything shaped, or center-out. (In the case of center-out, it's the cast on that's most of the trouble. If you're used to doing toe-up socks, you're more than capable of a center-out shawl or doily.)

-Knit-on edges are kind of tricky, and in my mind fall between easy and hard. Once you get the hang of them, they're quite easy. Getting the hang of them can take a while, though. This one's your call.

-Whether you read charts or written directions, make sure whatever you'll be using is clear enough for you to understand. I often re-write charts with symbols I prefer, if I'm going to be looking at them for a long time.

-If you're up for a challenge or really in love with something, ignore any and all of these suggestions, as needed.

Some suggestions:
Anything marked 'easy' in Victorian Lace Today.

The "La Traviata" stole in "Second book of Modern Lace Knitting" by Marienne Kinzel is awesome and I've been wanting to knit one for myself for a while now.

I've just had a quick look through Elann, and most everything they have in the free pattern section is reasonably easy. The SunRay Shawl looks particularly simple, and yet impressive when finished.

Anybody else got a suggestion?


Terby said...

In terms of patterns, Evelyn Clark's Lace Leaf or Leaf Lace (I can't remember which one) is simple once you get past the initial cast on, which is mildly tricky the first 4 time you mess it up. After that, it's a breeze. The ubiquitous Flower Basket Shawl is also a good starting point. And Branching Out of Knitty fame is an excellent tutorial.

I would definitely recommend starting with sock yarn, and probably not metal needles.

Amy Lane said...

Ooooh...gonna have to bookmark Elann, aren't I?

I've done lace in various forms...but I do have this hankering to do a shawl... (my LYS just came out with this lace yarn that's SOOO gorgeous...that woman is diabolical.)

Sheepish Annie said...

I'm gearing up for my first "real" lace project. (a shawl for my brother's wedding) I've pretty much read the pattern 8000 times and really made sure that I understand everything that is coming my way well before I get to it. This is not my usual style, but this one has to work since it's for a wedding and all. I also made the investment in a good lace cable needle. I'm not going to last if I have to go through what I suffered with on the last lacy project that caught on the join every three seconds. (which you had posted about the day before I bought the cheapie needle and which I thought I was above...I was humbled. Deeply)

Katie K said...

Of course it's important to use very pointy needles. Addis Lace look perfect (I'm using Knitpicks Options which have some problems). Using charts, I find it helpful to color code the symbols. With patterns such as the Diamond Fantasy Shawl, I've retyped the instructions to be more legible. Also, if you've had to rip out and the yarn is looking fuzzy, spit on it and roll it between your fingers to reset it. One last thing-- blocking wires are worth the investment.

Amy S. said...

I am delurking to suggest the Koigu Charlotte' Web shawl. It was my first real lace project and it fits most of your criteria. Plus, it is fingering weight yarn so it is a little faster/easier to deal with. It is also triangular so it teaches you how triagular shawls are constructed (which entertained me quite a bit).

Rose Red said...

I agree with all of your tips - having recently started my first real lace project using a mohair blend and a one-row pattern with long repeats. Which means, for me, that I'm knitting it slowly, so I get it right and don't have to rip it!

debsnm said...

Place markers between each pattern repeat. That way, when you get to the end of the row, you can go back and count stitches between markers and pretty quickly find where you missed the yarn over or decrease, or whatever. That one saved my sanity!

amy said...

Wow, what a bunch of good suggestions from you AND the commenters. Excellent! Thank you all. (I haven't done much real lace knitting. Can you tell?!)

NeedleTart said...

Just a thought, Knitters magazine has apparently made this the year of lace. There is a mildly interesting shawl (OK, it's garter sitch, but fast and mindless) with an edging where you pick up and knit "bell edging" on. From a quick skim through, the pattern seems to be designed to get one used to working with thin yarn on big needles and I *think* they are going to print a harder (more involved) lace pattern in each issue this year.

Mary the Digital Knitter said...

I've got a couple of recommendations, too. Use fingering weight (sock) yarn. It looks good, it's more resilient than the finer lace weight, and it's a lot easier to manage. I'm a very experienced lace knitter and I don't really like lace weight yarn. I find it exasperating.

My other recommendation is the Forest Canopy Shawl. It's very attractive and very easy to knit, with an eight-row repeat. It's easy to memorize and easy to find your place in, which is always good.

Feather and fan makes a nice stole, too. I'm not just saying that because I've recently made one, either, but I have and it did.

Louiz said...

I get confused with lace - are you supposed to be using small yarn big needles, or is it small yarn small needles? This is why I don't do lace at the moment!

Maggie said...

You're threading the stitches idea is brilliant! That would have saved me some tears when I knit my first shawl.

allicats said...

Jared of BrooklynTweed has taken a doily pattern and used a heavy weight yarn and 6mm needles to make a really lovely and lacy lap blanket. It could a nice first project. She can join a KAL at:

Also both Kinzel books are included in Amazon's buy 3 get 1 free deal going on right now.

allicats said...

Well, obviously neither url can be entirely seen. If she's interested, have her email me at allicats at gmail dot com.

Roz said...

Knitting in a cat-free environment is key. (Ask me how I know..)

I've also found that actually cracking open a Barbara Walker book and making swatches of her lace patterns is a good way to get the rhythm of knitting lace into my fingers and practicing the VERY PAIN-IN-THE-ASS process of blocking.

Now, if I could just get my hand on some patience, I'd be golden!

lisamaesc said...

Thanks for all the suggestions! Mary the digital knitter recommended teh Forst Canopy Shawl. I just bought that pattern.

I'd like to say I've bought the yarn and will be starting it soon, but I've been sucked in by the Hemlock Ring Blanket.....