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!