Lace Knitting – Top 6 Tips #knittingtips

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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.

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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.

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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.

KnitWit

 

I Couldn’t Resist!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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…

LouBug

 

 

Zokni’d Out

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I am proud to say that I have now completed one of the first (could even be the first) sock patterns I ever printed out. Flushed with the success of the famous ‘first ever socks’ (and already in love with sock yarn) I plundered Ravelry like a starving student at an “all you can eat” Chinese buffet. A whole new world of patterns and ideas had suddenly been opened to me and I dived right in.

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But these socks defeated me before I even attempted to cast them on. The pin prick to my balloon of puffed-up pride. I adored the look of the socks, but felt my stomach drop at the mere sight of the lace pattern. What were these crazy things called YO, SSK, K2TOG? What the sock did the symbols mean? How on Earth could you possibly follow a pattern AND knit a sock? What crazy talk is this?

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So I sighed, and focussed on easier, self-striping patterns (I finally cut my pattern sock teeth on the ever popular “Monkey” by CookieA).

A year or so later, the lovely American lady at my knit group did a yarn run for us, on her holiday trip back to the States. This gorgeous pale super soft green yarn was my prize and I went back to my pattern folder to find it a friend. Zokni (by Pepperknit) seemed a perfect match (it even looked like the one in the picture) but yet again I bottled it.   The yarn was just too nice (and irreplaceable if I mucked it up). The pattern was still too hard. But the pattern was also too perfect a match to re-purpose the yarn. Big sigh, and back into the stash it went.

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And then, earlier this year a lightning bolt struck me. I realised that I was trapped in the pattern of buying nice yarn but then failing to use it, which basically left me a dream stash full of unusable yarn. I either needed to stop buying the good stuff or start using it (or failing that, accept my place on hoarders TV). So I got the lot out and consciously broke the mould and knitted a plain sock with my much coveted Jitterbug. Lightning didn’t strike, the Monty Python foot didn’t squash me and the world’s sheep didn’t suddenly go bald. Nope, all I got was some damn fine socks. So I re-examined the Zokni pattern and realised that it wasn’t as terrible as I remember. Its moment had finally come.

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I have been power knitting through these (with a brief brain frazzle that meant a side track back to plain and pink socks) and now they are done. The scary ten row repeat is actually very logical and I can see it creeping into other projects as it was fun to make.

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Lace socks can be hard to photograph (so bear with me) but trust me that their beauty and glory would make a poet cry. I just hope they don’t felt…

LouBug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bright Knitted Lap Blanket

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As the week progresses, so too do my works in progress. However, as it is half term this means that everything is destined to go at a snail’s pace. Getting out of the house, sloth-like. Getting places, glacial. Knitting my new lap blanket, just taking it one row at a time. Like a deep-sea diver in a ten tonne suit, I have been presiding over my domestic arrangements in sloooowwww motion.

Trying to leave the house one day this week, Boy #1 arrives in full Peter Pan costume closely followed by Boy #2 in a swimming suit.  I miss the days when I could have bundled them both into a double buggy, thrown a blanket over any unsuitable horror outfits, and marched on out of the house. Suffice to say, trying to leave the house this week has been somewhat…trying. It has involved a lot of clapping and bellowing.

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Worry not, dear readers, all has not been lost! A reward! A teeny glimmer of hope in my domestic desert. Two days, and most importantly an undisturbed overnight stay at LouBug HQ. Three wedding dress shops, a trip to the yarn shop, a Chinese take-away and an evening with the Colchester knit ladies. I must have been a saint in a former life.

After my (second) tragic effort at lace knitting (crime-scene evidence below), I half heartedly started knitting the George Bear from the latest Let’s Knit freebie knit kit. The lace knitting horror killed my mojo, and the bear is knitted but has been left abandoned waiting to be knitted together. Knitting lethargy all round. Boo hoo.

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LouBug to the rescue though – and back to the familiar and most favourite chunky. Like a nuclear pink shot of Calpol, this Liquorice Allsort coloured chunky lap blanket has brought me back to full health. I even purchased some 6mm circular needles for the occasion.

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The pattern, a LouBug special, is reasonably basic and perfect TV fodder. All knitted in garter – I’m sure I could even manage the next series of The Killing without botching it.

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The orange is going to be substituted with the blue, and away I go. With only 6 weeks until The Summer Holidays, one must knit fast (and complete any urgent tasks that require full use of my brain and two hands). The final count-down has begun, gah!

KnitWit

 

A Time For Growing Things

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The foxes can now see! Yep, the buttons arrived and have been suitably placed to give maximum cuteness. So KnitWit, how’s your one fox pillow going….?

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Now I have the glory of a newly finished project behind me, my nose has started twitching as the air of spring is here. In the name of spring-cleaning I have had my stash box out and started dreaming of new projects.

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First up, I have made a good start on my pink sparkle scarf. This has been frogged from an unsuccessful crochet scarf and one of the first casualties from Finish-Up-February. Incidentally, despite only finishing two things, I did reach my goal of six row counters and I think it has helped my knitting mojo to know that the there are no unloved projects lurking around. This yarn is a prime example. It was sitting unloved for the best part of six months and now it is back and knitting up fast (I only cast on last week and I have already reached the halfway mark).

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It is based on the central panel of my disappointing cobweb scarf (ok, I am being unfair, the scarf is fine but it was such a trauma to finish it, I can’t bring myself to use it. Time will heal that I am sure. After knitting with cobweb yarn (think sewing thread), this 4ply is flying along, helped by the fact that it is only 30 stitches (not 60 stitches) wide. The colour transition works nicely and fades from almost white to a dark wine purple. There is also a “Crystal Barbie” coloured thread running through it (hard to photograph) that twinkles in the light.  

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I am also happy to report that by tracking and counting the colour changes I am comfortably sure that I will not run out of yarn. This is a blessed relief after the trauma of being short on the cobweb one! I am already debating using the rest to put a trim on the short ends. Failing that, I might have enough to make a skinny jacket scarf.

So, what yarn have you recently rescued from an unloved corner of your project box?

LouBug

 

All Hail the Mighty Conqueror!

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The lacy cobweb scarf is done!  It was chugging along nicely but then disaster hit.  Despite being 99% sure that I bought three balls of the Kid Silk Haze, I obviously hadn’t as I ran out with one short side of trim to go.

Admittedly I bought this yarn about four years ago. Admittedly I had frogged it from a less than successful snood (and if anyone has ever frogged mohair then they can understand why I chucked most of the cast on edge in the bin rather than face hours of horror). Admittedly I should have weighed it before starting.

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For anyone that is interested, it takes almost exactly 90 minutes to unthread a row from the bottom up (no exaggeration folks and it did involve quite a lot of swearing).  Strike one was when I started (a bit sensibly) by nipping out the bottom 4 inches – snipping a strand and unthreading it before frogging the start.  I then had to repeat this fiddly unthreading two more times to try to re-cover more yarn.  Each time I got heartbreakingly close to the end…but no joy.

After three goes round this I declared that the party was definitely OVER and elected to sub in yarn to cover the last two triangles.  It was either that or snip it into a thousand pieces, jump up and down on the bits and then torch them in a brazing hearth (I can do that, my workshop classroom is well equipped).

So I washed it, blocked it and it grew an impressive 20cm through careful and targeting stretching.  Job done.

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Do note the dodgy colour change in the last corner.  So it is not perfect, but it is finished and it does look glam.  For the moment it is in the naughty corner because I cannot face looking at it (let alone staring at the dodgy corner).

LouBug

Finish up February – the Big Knitting Push

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Momentum is building, Rows are being worked through. Things are being done.

Nothing has actually been finished, but I have been quite disciplined and focused on a few older projects which has helped them to gain momentum.

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I started my main push on the double knitted star scarf, which was progressing well (two more stars done) but I have hit the wall.  Double knitting is interesting (and in fairness I plan to use it again) but it requires full attention at all stages which makes it feel frustratingly slow moving.

Admittedly this is because you are knitting the front and back at the same time – so obviously it takes longer as it is twice the amount of work. It can be disheartening to spend a full evening and only progress by 11 rows.  I am totally with the plan of shortening it to a snood (paging KnitWit!), but that still leaves three (to be honest probably four) stars to go.  Hopefully it won’t have to have another 18 month time out….

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This weekend I have been blasting the cobweb scarf and it has grown impressively since I last blogged about it.  The main panel (58 stitches wide and a staggering 264 rows long) is done!

It was going nice and quickly by the end as I got into the rhythm of the pattern and I am already considering using the lace pattern to use up the recently frogged pink sparkly yarn.  My advice for anyone doing this is put a stitch marker between each repeat as it really helped me to speed along as my brain keyed into “stitch marker means YO” so all I really had to do was keep track of whether it was a knit or purl row.

I have now started on the trim, and after a few false starts I have got my head around how it joins to the sides.  The next challenge is the corners (I will have the book clutched to me like a security blanket), which I think I understand but I am a little wary of.

Definitely time to insert a life line!

LouBug

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