Lace is a not-so-secret obsession of mine. There’s just something about the intricate look, the deceptively easy (or difficult!) stitches, the beautifully delicate yarns. I can’t help but see lace in everything and during the sticky summer months it’s hard not to think of light airy knitting. I mean, what’s more perfect than the portable one skein projects that lace knitting provides?
This obsession within obsessions finds me with an obnoxious stash of lace yarn. I just can’t help myself. Like sock yarns it offers a one skein project buy and it comes in such wonderful hand dyed colors and textures. So it’s really time to get cracking.
While I was sifting through patterns and gift ideas I realized that a lot of customers I talk to are intimidated with the prospect of beginning their first lace project. Somewhere between the delicate hand and complicated look of lace most people pass. But if you can increase and decrease you’re mostly there! To demystify this process a bit I thought I’d pass along a couple of tips and recommendations I’ve found along the way.
First, familiarize yourself with following a chart, Charts Made Simple by JC Briar is a great new resource for just this, and many lace resources offer a good primer as well. I was such a neophyte on my first chart I ended up reworking a lot of sections. Why didn’t I just take the time to learn it? Perhaps I was just impatient to cast on! Learn from my mistakes, please.
Another way to simplify chart visibility is to stock up on highlighter tape. This product is priceless for following tiny charts that so often accompany lace knitting. This semi-tacky tape brightens the line you are concentrating on and easily transfers to the next row without marring your pattern. It helps to enlarge the chart as well, for easy reading. (Your local copy shop can help with this).
Next, choose an appropriate needle for your project. Nothing is more difficult than trying to pierce your stitches with a dull needle. Especially for newbies having adequate tools makes learning easier. I recommend Skacel Addi turbo Lace needles, they have a bit more grip than the standard Addi Turbos to keep from slipping stitches and a much sharper point to allow for ease of knitting. I generally work a US size 5 on lighter yarns, but everyone has a different preference.
One underestimated tool for repetitive charts is stitch markers, allowing you to mark repeats with ease. We have handy lace and sock stitch markers that are smaller in size and have a little grip. You could also try the locking stitch markers to easily move your markers when repeats change.
Finally and most importantly for beginners, the lifeline! Buy a small skein of undyed mercerized cotton yarn, such as Nazli Gelin Garden 3, to strand through your stitches after each repeat or section. A mercerized cotton will not stick to or shed on your knitting (yes, I learned the hard way).With this handy and simple step you can save hours of frustration. If you drop stitches or find yourself impossibly stuck you can rip back to your lifeline and start fresh! I usually include lifelines at the start of a new section or after a sizable section… or when I decide I’d cry if I had to rip back!
If you are looking to start a beginning lace project find a simple repetitive lace stitch, like Valley Yarns pattern 120, Falling Leaves. It utilizes a heavier yarn and allows you to build confidence before working with finer yarns and more complex patterns. Another simple approach is Valley Yarns Basic Triangle Shawl (B6), a simple clearly written shawl with a lace border knit with Valley Yarns Semi-solid Handdyed sock yarn.
There is such a wealth of lace books it’s hard to choose, but here are some of my favorites:
Most lace patterns use fingering or lighter weight yarns. Generally speaking the more complicated the shawl the less nuanced the color. Let your stitches do the talking and the hand dyes take a back seat, simpler shawls can accommodate lots more color variation. As with other projects there’s a yarn for every color and fiber preference.
Don’t miss our very own Kangaroo Dyer’s 2/14 Alpaca Silk in gorgeous and hefty skeins! Or our new Valley Yarns Charlemont in solid and kettle dyed colors. I personally cannot keep my hands off of Jade Sapphire’s Cashmere Silk blend. The colorways are brilliant and the feel is unmatchable. One of my go-to lace yarns is Classic Elite Silky Alpaca Lace. It comes in beautiful solid and handpaint colors with a polished finish, buoyant drape, and silky hand. The new Juniper Farms Findley is an extremely comparable yarn with bright colors and a merino/silk blend. The new Rowan Fine Lace looks like a lovely alternative as well with an alpaca and merino composition. Most importantly, find one that inspires you.
Yarns listed above:
Top left to right: Jade Sapphire Silk Cashmere in 140, 82 and 69