Lace Knitting – Top 6 Tips #knittingtips


Looky here, a gift – all the way from Alaska! Only a true knitter would go all the way to “The Last Frontier” and find a yarn shop…Behold, the newly crowned wilderness knitter, my mother-in-law. So, fresh from the land of grizzly bears and dog sledging, comes my latest challenge. Lace knitting.


Many, many abandoned projects have languished in its wake, but this time I AM GOING TO FACE MY CHALLENGE. I shall knit these mitts, if it kills me! So, a change in approach is called for. Rather than dive straight in, needles first, wailing and thrashing when it all goes wrong, I am going to take a more ‘cerebral’ approach. I am going to consult a book. Not just any old book either – The Stitch ‘n Bitch Superstar Knitting book beyond the basics. Ironically, the chapter in Debbie Stoller’s book is titled “Lace, the final frontier”, which considering my challenge has come all the way from the “Last Frontier” I am going to take this as a sign from the knitting gods.


So like a knitting detective, Poirot if you will, these are the clues I have gleaned so far…

  1. The holes in lace knitting, completed with cunning YO (yarn over) manoeuvre, are allowed. They do not spell disaster, as they would with other knitting. They do however create an extra stitch, which can be left if you’re making an ever-increasing shawl shape, or can be counteracted with various ‘knit two together’ variations. So far, so good.
  2. Pick your yarn carefully. The thinnest yarn is lace weight, but in theory any weight yarn can be used. Avoid the very hairy yarns, such as eyelash yarn, or yarn that has bobbles on it or changes size, as nobody will see your beautiful lace pattern. That just won’t do. Also, for maximum compliments, stick with one colour (rather than variegate) yarn, in order to see the pattern clearly.
  3. When picking needles, avoid slippery ones where the fiddly work might slide off in some devastating disaster of lost work and gnashing teeth. Also, those less-than-smooth circular needles should be banished to the knit box to avoid delicate lace work snagging…nobody wants their YO to KO.
  4. Lace charts look a bit like some sort of ancient Egyptian treasure map, but a few clues and they aren’t too bad. Read from the bottom row up, and hunt for the number 1. If the number 1 is on the left-hand-side then you’ll be starting work on the WS (wrong side) of your knitting and following the chart from left to right. If you discover the number 1 is on the right-hand-side, then you’ll be working on the RS (right side) of your knitting and reading the chart from right to left. Got that?
  5. Finally, remember that charts DON’T INCLUDE EVERY ROW! The numbers next to the row should give you a clue – if they jump from 1 to 3 to 5, then the pattern only corresponds to the lace pattern. Every other row is worked plain – for example the back of the work is plain purl (unless in the round, where it would be knitted).
  6. Get yourself some Post-it notes to keep your place…oh and one more thing, go and Google ‘knitting lifelines’. LouBug swears by dental floss, but you can just use opposite coloured yarn. This will mean, if you make a mistake, just ripping your work back to a safe place, rather than high kicking your work over the fence and screaming into a pillow.




I Couldn’t Resist!


I will admit it, it is starting to nag at me. But I will never power through finish-up February if I don’t stick to the “no casting on” rule. For those that don’t know, finish-up February is an annual (self-imposed) task aimed at finishing or frogging long-term projects. Each year I attempt to end February with six free row counters and a spring cleaned project box. Not casting on is the real toe curling, mind bending, teeth suckingly difficult part. The only exceptions I make are to ensure that I have my “ready to go: easy sock” knitting (as there is no way I am knitting a blanket on a train or trying to knit lace at knit-night). Even then I have to be strict about when I knit it.


Winners so far have been my orange socks, green mittens, shawl/blanket and Hooty the owl. So with those fresh under the “done!” banner, my eye now turns to the sad pile of forgotten and unloved project bags. I have already gone through these and I was pleased to find that there were no projects so far gone that the only hope would be to frog and return the yarn to the tender embrace of the stash. The downside is no easy row counter wins! However, I am pleased that I have racked up four so far.


So, the remaining projects have been aired and ranked. The plan is to focus on one at a time and power through. With a half term holiday’s boost, the current next-to-the-sofa knitting is this silk shawl. You might remember it from last year, as it went along in fits and starts (the chart is a bit eye watering). I picked it back up ready to finish and then threw it at the wall. It hit a tiny little whale sized snag that basically involved frogging the whole damn thing and restarting. Yep. A big time rookie error meant that I forgot that lace charts traditionally only show half the chart (it is repeated to make two identical triangular parts).

I realised a problem was brewing when I tried laying it out flat and the stupid thing pointed at the top not the bottom. Perplexed, I looked at the picture and with stomach dropping dread I realised that the book had two triangles meeting in the middle and I only had one.


Such was my horror, upset and anger that there are no photos to mark this horrifying discovery. Please enjoy a photo of Cat looking cute instead. You might have heard the unearthly howl. That was me. I am feeling much better now.


I ripped it back, had a medicinal glass of wine and Let It Think About What It Had Done for a week. I have now restarted it and have only just reached the point where frogged yarn meets new yarn (the crimped curl starred at me every time I looked at it).


Thankfully, the chart seems much less daunting and with my unintentional practice go, knitting quite quickly. The silk is hard to see in the picture, but it does have a really nice sheen to it that should block like a dream and whisper soft kisses to me every time I wear it. Fingers crossed I should have it done in the next week or two!


I must not cast on, I must not cast on, I must not cast on, I must not cast on, I must not cast on, I must not cast on, I must not cast on…




Just In (Knitting) Time


Snow seems ever closer (ok granted, the Highlands of Scotland isn’t that close), and I am pleased that the super speedy mittens have leaped across the finish line.


Started last week and on my hands today, I could get used to this crazy knit speed! They should be suitably wind-proof (as they are so thick they feel like iron) but the merino should soften over time.


I like the contrast palm chart (definitely something to do again) but I need to tweak the thumb, as nature has put thumbs on the side and not growing out of our palms! I either need to include more stitches (possibly decreasing up the thumb) or place the thumb half on the front and half on the back. Instinct tells me that afterthought thumbs have been around a while (so it is unlikely that they are all a bit odd), so it might be time to hit the books and research the technique some more.


This seems to be the week for finishing things, so say hello to my “Weasley” socks (carefully modelled by Cat). These were started just before the mad Christmas finish up with the orange chosen in self defence against the dark winter.

Perhaps I should use the left over yarn to knit Cat some matching booties….



Knitted Mittens – Latvian Mittens


The kits have been started, but I am currently distracted by colour-work mittens. The cold weather is making mittens less of a fashion statement and more of a necessity and I am loving the wonderful thickness that colour-work gives.


Ok, so folk may have made this discovery a few thousand years ago, but I never really thought about it before and I am very impressed by the happy mix of pretty with functional. The ones I made earlier this year I made from a technical challenge angle (and the wave mittens were definitely a challenge to my attention span), but now I am all about the warmth.


At Ally Pally I treated myself to a Latvian mitten kit (to be given to Santa until Christmas). Ok, so the instructions are Google translate at its very “best”, but the yarn and chart make it still a good buy. Having never worked on 1.5mm needles before I have discovered a whole new world of pain, not in the fact that 1cm of knitting is almost 10 rows (although that is quite painful), but the kind of pain that needs a thimble. I am not a big fan of thimbles, as my child-size hands find them clumsy and a bit sweaty, but apparently I use my left index finger to push the needle back. I have never realised this before (I don’t really think about how I knit, I just knit) but I reflexively do this to the point that I fall over my fingers if I try to stop and do it differently. Pain first drew my attention to this (1.5mm is roughly the size of a darning needle) and even wearing a thimble I cannot knit them for too long before the jabbing of the needle and the tightness of the yarn make hurty hands.


I think you will agree that the pain is worth it, as already they look amazing but they will take an age to complete. Perhaps they will be ready for winter 2047? Here’s hoping!


While knitting on tiny needles create a jewel like charm, knitting on thicker needles/yarn has a charm of its own. Humble DK feels like rope after the delicate-less-than-4ply yarn and gloriously (it is knitting up a heck of a lot quicker)! For Christmas I wrote to Santa (also known as the Amazon wish-list) and popped a few Scandi-knit pattern books on there. Well, Santa was kind to me and I have been carefully reading and choosing motifs for my new mittens.


I decided to pair olive with dark green and make a pair of spring flower mittens. Going all of the way, I decided to do a proper palm chart (which will make a denser, harder wearing fabric) but wimped out of a complex thumb and opted for an after-thought one instead. I did briefly dabble in the idea of using left-over purple yarn to make the flower pretty, but after only five rows of tangled hell I decided that the two-tone mittens looked much better and frogged back.


One mitten down and it is looking good. It is still a bit of a wing and a prayer if I will get it all out of the two 50g balls (which is why I haven’t done the thumbs yet). The downside to having a long-term stash is that my chances of buying another ball in the correct dye lot on both colours is zero to nothing (the plus side is that I started these late in the evening after a quick rummage). Still, all being well I should have enough yarn to do a stranded thumb. Plan B is an alternative row stripe thumb. Plan OMG (if I run out of yarn for thumbs) is to unravel some of the cuffs and see what I can do. Absolutely Plan Z (if there isn’t enough yarn for the main mitten) is to unravel both cuffs and knit them in a contrast colour and then knit the thumbs to match.


And people say knitting isn’t an adrenaline kicker….


Cracking The W.I.P


Two projects are now gleaming in the “done pile”. Mittens and jumper done, oh so many still to go!


First up. Bye bye ruby slippers. These have been malingering for over two years and re-started more times that I can remember. The fun left the building a long time ago and now it is time to pull the needles. Bye bye ruby slippers; hello yarn for fabulous red and white (with a sparkly red thread) snowflake mittens. Amusingly, the pattern I plan to use was from a pair of mittens that got pulled several years ago mainly because I kept having to restart them (the small issue of them being pulled too tight to get over my child-like hands). So maybe the ruby slipper will rise again!


Second up. Hello first finished Christmas hats! Two cat hats for my nieces to make them look extra cute in the cold weather (ears and bow to follow). Time allowing I might make some matching mittens, but if I am honest it will probably be teamed up with a teddy or colouring book.


Thirdly, I have finally cast on my Brioche scarf (you might remember that I played around with this technique about 6 months ago with face cloths). I think I have my head around it and progress is slow, but (fingers crossed) no frogging so far. I am liking the way that the purple seems to be light/dark striping up the stitches and the charcoal black is showing it off nicely. It is also ridiculously soft. Alpaca purple and blue face Lester black, combining to be so very snuggly it is a crime to put it next to a kitten (as the kitten would cry, broken hearted in jealousy).

Time to crack on!


Nothing New Under The Knitting Sun


So, this was to be my big blog about how I had finished my wonderful and fabulous, and of course totally unique, waving mittens. As you know, part of the knitting joy is that I have something that no-one else on the planet has (usually because I have worked it all out myself) and I have thus shown my genius and mighty skills.


Sadly, I am an accidental ideas thief! While I was finishing up my epic magazine sort out (started in the summer to finally file the patterns from my hoarders worthy Magazine Mountain) I came across a very familiar looking mitten in my “gloves and mittens” file.


The worst of it is, I think the designer (many years ago) used to go to my knit night and I do have a vague memory of her test knitting the colour-work part. This could (of course) be false memory syndrome, but I cannot deny that it is a foxy little pattern and we must have referenced the same pattern directory (although to be fair it is a classic colourwork pattern). I have used two colours (opposed to the three she has used) but I cannot deny that they are the same pattern. Pity I didn’t find it before I sweated and cursed my way through designing these!


With baited breath I “fulled” them in a little bath. I was a little worried as I noticed that the dark blue transferred dye onto my fingers when I wound up the left overs, so I will admit that I did put a “colour catcher” sheet in the sink. The water did go a bit blue, but thank fully not enough to affect the light blue parts (and barely any on the sheet).


Here is a close up of my mighty fine thumb gusset. Please ignore the subtle tension switch from main body to thumb, it should fade over time and I think it was just where I pulled a bit tight on the body and relaxed when I switched to the round of the thumb. There is also a bit of a learning curve to be climbed on how to control which colour pushes itself forward (not that noticeable in the photo, but there are patches where the light is pushed slightly forward and patches where the dark is). I shall hit the books on that, but I suspect it is down to which yarn was being held in which finger.


Next time, I think I will check the folders first…


Baby, It’s Cold Outside…The WIP Box


I really want to start playing with my new Ally Pally kits (teddy, Coast blanket and Latvian mittens). Two things are stopping me at the moment – First the need to wind the yarn into yarn cakes (I love my ball winder); second the sheer number of WIPs. As mentioned, things have got a little out of control in my WIP box and I am committed to having a bit of a knit down to try to finish things, while it is still cold enough to wear them! I am resolved; I will re-boot some stalled projects, inject new life into the forgotten and just plain peck at the hulking heap of WIPs.


In my last post I publicly admitted all of the projects in my WIP box, and now I would like to show you my first finished. This isn’t too much of a surprise, as I love the fluromania colours, pattern and (let’s face it) socks. Also (to be fair) they were pretty much done! But here I am, one less to go and not auto-casting on another (like a chain smoker in a 1960s action movie). I am also edging closer to finishing the red jumper (one sleeve done, next one picked up and 120 rows to go) and the green cardi (no new progress, but only the trim to go).


But, let’s face it, these projects were already surviving near the top of the to-do pile and don’t really count amongst the legion of stalled projects. To help edge the poor forgotten knits along, I am also committed to knitting at least an inch on every stalled project (which might help re-boot my interest). First up in the re-boot is my wave pair of colour-work mittens (hey, I want to knit mittens, let’s go with that vibe). I even wound the yarn in the same way they did in the book (inside each other) as this apparently stops it tangling (after some snarl ups, I am not convinced and I plan to rewind them into separate balls when the first mitten is finished).


These came bouncing, puppy like, into the WIP box earlier this year after finishing my lovely green and purple pair. These won my heart as I successfully did a complex stranded pattern without messing it up or leaving it to quietly decompose in the corner. Flush with success, I decided to make another pair, but when I bought the yarn I made a rookie error and chose the colours without considering the weight. The lovely purple pair was DK (4mm DPN), the wave pair is 4ply (2mm DPN). Which is great for the pattern, as it allows more wave repeats, but is twice the number of stitches per row and easily twice the number of rows.


Snails have moved faster than this knits up. Not since the glacial slowness of the double knitting star scarf (shortened to a snood) has progress felt this painful. It does look epic, it will be super snug, and it even has a foxy little thumb gusset, but I need to seriously re-set my knit-expectations. It will also be good practice, as the lovely Latvian mittens will be on a wincingly small 1.5 DPN (so small, I will have to buy the needles, as even my mammoth hoard doesn’t have them) and will be equally slow progressing.


There is also the small matter of the other three socks. The colour-work sheep socks I think might be better after the mittens, the CookieA heart socks are a tinsey bit involved, which leaves me the long forgotten Ruby Slipper socks. These will look excellent (basically they will look like I am wearing ruby slippers with white ankle socks on) but they have been re-started so many times, due to changes in ankle pattern, approach and frustration. The new plan is to now follow the EZ moccasin sock pattern and hopefully they will actually happen. If not, they will be formally frogged and the yarn re-purposed to make tiny Christmas decorations.
As long as the siren call of the sock stash can be quelled….


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