Sunday Lexicon – Lace For Beginners

Knitting lace in public draws a lot of attention. Lace is impressive, especially to non-knitters or even new knitters. What I love about lace is it is often REALLY easy! Stop laughing, because I’m quite serious.

I’m going to assume you know how to do a long-tail cast on, a stretchy bind-off, and of course, how to knit and purl. The key to basic lace is knowing four more simple stitches and one technique. Unless you are working on Estonian or Shetland lace, well known for their complicated stitch combinations, lace work is often less confusing than cables.

Rather than try to explain how to do each stitch, I’ve linked to video tutorials. If you can master these five things, YOU can knit lace! If you like a video tutorial, please be sure to leave a nice comment on youtube for that video. It takes a lot of work to make an easy to follow tutorial, so show a little love ❤

Yarn Over (YO): The YO is what gives lace the holes. It’s what makes lace…well, lacy! It’s as simple as moving your working yarn from the back to the front (if doing a YO between two knit stitches), wrapping it completely around from front to front (if going from a knit to a purl or between two purls), or leaving it in front (if going from a purl to a knit).

This video by iknitwithcatfur shows how to do every combination of yarn over.

 

Slip Slip Knit (SSK): This creates a left leaning single decrease, often used to emphasize a V shape of some kind. While reading patterns out loud to myself, I refer to it as a “sskitch,” as in slip slip knit stitch. Video by The Knit Witch.


Knit Two Together (K2Tog): This creates a right leaning single decrease, also used to emphasize a V shape. Video by The Knit Witch

 

Centered Double Decrease (CDD), also known as Slip Two, Knit One, Pass Slipped Stitches Over (S2, K1, PSSO): This decreases by two and leaves a raised stitch. I love putting beads on CDD (S2K1PSSO) because the raised stitch makes beads stand out even more. The key to beading a CDD using the crochet hook method is to put the bead on the second stitch before slipping the first two stitches. Your bead will be front and center when you are done! Video by New Stitch A Day.

 

Lifeline: The most important thing to know about lace, especially if you want to avoid pulling out all of your hair in frustration, is how to use a lifeline. This is not a stitch, but a technique that will keep you from insanity when something goes more than a little awry. I generally use white sewing thread on a tapestry needle, but you can use waste yarn or the ever popular dental floss. Floss is extremely hardy and cheap. Leave about six to eight inches hanging on each side so it doesn’t get sucked all the way in to your work. If you put a lifeline in the row after each repeat (set of rows), not only will you have a spot to frog back to, you can keep track of how many repeats you’ve done. Video by The Knit Witch.


Many mistakes have quick fixes that don’t require tinking back a row or two or frogging back to a lifeline. Have an extra stitch? Just knit the next two together. Missing a stitch where you need to k2tog? Just knit one. Missing a stitch where you need one? Knit through the front and back loop of the next stitch (or previous stitch if that’s more appropriate), or do a Make One (M1).

My favorite super easy beginner knitted lace shawl is the Kuura (free pattern on Ravelry). I can whip it out in a week, and I’m a slow knitter. The pattern is easy to memorize and it’s very forgiving of mistakes. Just make sure that your CDDs match up and everything else will fall in place. Gauge isn’t important, but it does affect the size. If you want a fast shawl that is a good length and width, use a worsted weight yarn and a size 9 needle. Faster and easier? Use a bulky yarn and a size 11 needle.

Believe it or not, Morrigan (also free on Ravelry) is another very simple pattern that just looks crazy impressive. Technically, I’m just about done with it but I want it to be longer and wider so I have to add a few more repeats. Again, gauge affects the size, so if you want fast and easy, use the same recommendations above. With Morrigan, just as with Kuura, as long as your CDDs match up in a straight line, the rest is pretty forgiving.

You don’t have to be smack dab in the middle of a shawl to practice these stitches. Knit up a swatch in garter or stockinette, then start playing around. That’s the best way to see exactly what each stitch looks like and how it behaves. Once you’ve got the hang of it, jump right in. You’ll be the center of attention in public and your non-knitting friends will think you are a knitting genius. The simplicity of knitted lace will be our little secret!

P.S. As of August 1, all new content will only be posted to my new site, www.knitpurltink.com. Just click that link, then click the “Follow” up near the top left!

Sunday Lexicon – Swatch, Gauge, and Tension

Note: A day late, but for a very good reason! I got to spend a rare date day with my husband and totally forgot to post 🙂

We bitch, we moan, we cry, beg, rant, rave, plead, and promise. I don’t know a single person who enjoys swatching, but if you want your sweater, socks, or hat to fit you or the person you are making it for, it’s a necessity.

Swatch: A test square used to determine if your yarn, your needles or hook, and your stitching match up to that of the pattern designer. Although a swatch is usually 4″ by 4″, it’s often a good idea to make your square bigger so when it is washed and blocked, it will still be at least 4″. While you can make or use a tension square (a square with a 4″ x 4″ hole in the center), you can also measure 4″ with a ruler and place a pin to mark. Do this for each side, then start counting.

An Addi tension square. The holes are for checking the size of your needles. Vintage needles don't always have the size on them.

An Addi tension square. The holes are for checking the size of your needles. Vintage needles don’t always have the size on them.

Gauge: How many rows per inch and stitches per inch. Yarn weight, needle or hook size, and tension will all effect your gauge, which is why you should always swatch before beginning a fitted project.

Tension: How tight (or loose) a particular crafter’s stitches are.

Tension is most often affected by mood, especially with new yarn crafters. If you are anxious, angry, or worried, your stitches may be tighter than if you are relaxed. If you find that your hands are cramping after a short period, you may just be holding your yarn and hook/needles too tightly. Put your project down, take a few deep breaths, fix a cup of tea, and come back with a clearer mind. Of course, we all have those moments when we are knitting for sanity; that’s when you want to work on a project where gauge doesn’t matter so much, like a scarf or afghan.

What to do if your gauge doesn’t match the pattern gauge? If you have too many stitches and rows per inch, use a bigger hook or needle. Too few stitches and rows per inch, use a smaller hook or needle. If your stitches match up but your rows don’t, side with the stitch count. It’s easier to add a few rows here and there than it is to mess with stitch count.

If you are using a lighter weight yarn (such as DK when the pattern calls for worsted), you will likely need a larger hook/needles to compensate for the thinner yarn. A tight stitcher can also compensate with larger hook/needles. Likewise, if you are using worsted when a project calls for DK, or you are a loose stitcher, then using a smaller size should make up for it.

Always wash and block your swatch before checking the gauge. The yarn may shrink, the stitches may tighten or loosen, or you may find that the yarn you’ve chosen just doesn’t drape as well as you’d like after it is washed. Just because the pattern designer chose a particular yarn doesn’t mean you will like it too. You may prefer something softer, or perhaps something with a little more body. This is YOUR project, so it helps if you love your yarn. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with that skein, so make sure you want to be its friend before you invest all that time and effort.

And here is my cautionary tale regarding swatching: Friday On The Needles. The hilarious thing is that I wrote this post several days before I washed the hat. Yeah, following my own advice might be kinda klever.

Follow me over at Knit.Purl.Tink, my new home for my knitting adventures, tales of yarn woe, and reviews! As of August 1, all new content will be on the new blog, so I hope to see you there!

Sunday Lexicon – Weight

At today’s knitting group, someone asked what “DK” meant. Although she’s a long time yarnaholic like the rest of us, she’s never really learned about the differences in yarn and how they can affect a project. That inspired me to start a weekly lexicon for those who may not necessarily be new to the craft, but are new to the terminology. This week, let’s talk about weight.

Weight is another way to refer to a yarn’s thickness. It is highly variable, depending on the manufacturer. The most standardized way to determine a yarn’s thickness is WPI, or Wraps Per Inch. To determine the WPI, take a ruler, or anything you can make a one inch measurement on, and wrap your yarn around it. Count how many lines of yarn you see between one inch. Easy, right? Now it doesn’t matter who makes the yarn, you can easily ensure you’re using the same weight of yarn called for in a particular pattern.

This WPI sheep is adorable!

This WPI sheep is adorable! Sold on etsy by MoonsongFiberworks. Click the pic to go to their listing.

 

Starting with the lightest weight:

Cobweb: 40 or more WPI, about 1200 yards per 50 gram skein

Cobweb is often used for shawls and other lace projects. It is super-fine, sometimes thinner than sewing thread. NEVER try to wind cobweb weight yarn without a yarn swift, trust me.

Lace: 36 to 40 WPI, about 440 yards per 50 gram skein

Lace is also used for shawls and other lace projects, but can also be used for colorwork if you want to keep the thickness of your final project manageable.

Fingering: 24 to 30 WPI, around 220 yards per 50 gram skein

Fingering, also known as sock yarn, is most often used for…socks! It’s also popular for baby items, fingerless mittens, and gloves. It’s easy to work cables in fingering, too.

Sport: 18 to 24 WPI, around 120 yards per 50 gram skein

Sport is popular for socks, baby items, hats, gloves, and colorwork. It’s also great for summer weight tops and sweaters.

Double Knitting, or DK: 12 to 18 WPI, about 120 yards per 50 gram skein

DK is perfect for, well, double knitting! DK and Sport are often interchanged, so be sure to compare the WPI of your chosen yarn with the WPI of the yarn recommended for your project.

Worsted: 10 to 12 WPI, around 110 yards per 50 gram skein

You may hear the term “worsted weight” a lot, as that is what most big box store acrylic yarn is, particularly Caron Simply Soft, Red Heart Super Saver, Lily Sugar ‘N Cream, and much of the Lion Brand line. Worsted is the go-to yarn for many items, particularly sweaters, slippers, and bags. It is the workhorse of yarn craft. Anything from slippers to afghans, hats, gloves, baby items, bags, scarves…anything you can knit, you can knit with worsted (and yes, I do mean lace!).

Bulky: Less than 8 WPI, around 60 yards per 50 gram skein (although most often sold in 100 gram skeins)

Bulky is great for rugs, heavy jackets, and bags. It’s also great for felting, as with felting, projects need to be knitted larger so that when it shrinks, it is the right size. Larger yarn means fewer stitches, and since you’re felting it anyway, who cares?

Chunky: Less than 6 WPI, around 50 yards per 50 gram skein

Chunky is also known as super-bulky, and is also good for rugs, heavy jackets, and bags.

Don’t think that this will save you from making a gauge swatch, though! If you’re making a fitted item, swatch, swatch, swatch. But if you are making a blanket and don’t mind if it’s a bit off, or like the pattern but want your product to be much larger (or smaller), knowing the weight of your yarn vs. the recommended yarn weight will help. Personally, I love shawls, but spending a month or more to make a lace shawl isn’t always do-able, particularly if it’s a gift. Switch over to worsted weight and a larger needle or hook, make fewer repetitions, and finish a whole lot faster!

Weight isn’t the only factor in determining how your finished fabric will look and feel, but it is definitely important. Hook/needle size, tension, and the yarn itself will all play a role, but weight is the first thing to consider when trying to figure out how your chosen yarn will compare to the recommended yarn.

Enjoy and remember, “Knit through everything!”