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Lace Knitting: What does "no stitch" mean?

Mar 3, 2014

    
Penobscot Silk Scarf
by Cyrene Slegona
Knitted lace is one of the most beautiful things to make with yarn and needles. There seem to be infinite lace stitch patterns, and you can use them in so many ways, from an intricate lace stole to a bit of lace inserted in a hat or collar.

Lace looks so complicated, but it's really a series of increases and decreases worked strategically to create holes in knitting that form a pattern. Lace patterns are almost always accompanied by charts, and it's important to know how to use these charts to knit lace successfully

In Lace Knitting for Beginners, Editor Amy Palmer has pulled together eleven lace projects, plus a guide to following lace charts.

One of the questions I get a lot on Knitting Daily is "What does ‘no stitch' mean in a chart?" Here's Amy to answer that for us!

No Stitch? Huh?

Things get more complicated when the stitch count does not remain constant. The Double Fern Edging chart, below, shows what happens when yarnovers are not matched with the same number of decreases every row.

    

Lace Poncho by Susan Sternlieb

The first big question: What are those gray boxes in the middle of the chart? These shaded boxes are "no stitch" symbols. They are inserted in a chart when a stitch has been decreased and therefore leaves a hole where there was a stitch previously.

You can see on Row 2 that two stitches are decreased (with k2togs) without compensating yarnover increases. This effectively removes two stitches from the row, leaving you two fewer stitches to work individually on Row 2 and, subsequently, Row 3.

By placing a no-stitch box next to each decrease, the chart-maker is telling you, "This stitch will no longer exist and should not be worked on this row." The k2tog is worked over two stitches but is represented by only one stitch box. Therefore, the second stitch box, removed by the decrease, because the black hole we call the "no-stitch box." Just ignore the no-stitch box and do not work it. Work the stitch before the no-stitch box, then the stitch after the no-stitch box, and continue on your merry way.

—Amy Palmer, from Lace Knitting for Beginners

    
Lady Tea Towel by Courtney Kelley

For more about knitting from lace charts, get yourself Lace Knitting for Beginners! Both the eBook and the printed book are on sale now. Be sure and check out our collection of free lace knitting patterns, too!

Cheers,

P.S. What was the most challenging thing you faced when learning to knit lace? Leave a comment below and tell us about it.


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Comments

karensegovia wrote
on Oct 28, 2014 7:17 PM

I am working on a lace pattern that has 81 stitches on the needle.  You knit 4 stiches, then there are 12 "no stitch" boxes, followed by k1, yo, k1, yo, k5, followed by 12 "no stitch boxes" with a bracket at the bottom of the chart stating "repeat 11 times.  BUT, row 2 starts with 12 "no stitch" boxes then p4, k5, 12 "no stitch" boxes and ending in p4.  No matter what I do, the stitches do not even out, and if I keep decreasing, I will have no stitches left on the needle.  It appears every 4 rows, you are supposed to decrease the "no stitch" box after each knit and purl pattern.  I am completely confused!  Can you help me?

on Jun 18, 2014 7:46 PM

The most challenging thing that faced me when knitting a prayer shawl for my granddaughter was how to do Nupps.  I had never heard the term before and went on the internet to learn how.  There were many different ways and since I was using pure silk yarn (that was no heavier than sewing thread), I found the usual method of purling through all 6 stitches almost impossible.  I devised my own way of doing Nupps, and the shawl then took only a few weeks to finish.  I had anticipated several months of intense work since I was doing an Estonian Lace pattern and thankfully, it only took me a few weeks.  It is done, it is beautiful, and I am making one for myself now that I have mastered the process.

knitting grandma

on Jun 18, 2014 7:46 PM

The most challenging thing that faced me when knitting a prayer shawl for my granddaughter was how to do Nupps.  I had never heard the term before and went on the internet to learn how.  There were many different ways and since I was using pure silk yarn (that was no heavier than sewing thread), I found the usual method of purling through all 6 stitches almost impossible.  I devised my own way of doing Nupps, and the shawl then took only a few weeks to finish.  I had anticipated several months of intense work since I was doing an Estonian Lace pattern and thankfully, it only took me a few weeks.  It is done, it is beautiful, and I am making one for myself now that I have mastered the process.

knitting grandma

lemony wrote
on Mar 9, 2014 7:27 PM

Thank you for this article - I have not tried lace knitting and the chart was puzzling to me. I hope you do more articles on this in the future.

on Mar 9, 2014 10:08 AM

I'm a novice at lace knitting but I have done a few complicated repeats.  Nothing beats a lifeline when you have a multi-row repeat that is difficult to keep track of.

Eva A wrote
on Mar 9, 2014 12:08 AM

My biggest challenge is having a glass of wine and following a chart at the same time. I invariably have to rip out my knitting form that evening.

bonitaraye wrote
on Mar 8, 2014 2:46 PM

The most challenging thing was how to handle YO or yarn overs. If the stitch after the YO is a knit stitch, the YO has to end at the back. If it is a purl, the YO needs to end at the front. Also, in teaching lace I find many students tend to knit the YO on the next row so as to twist it and get rid of the hole. Of course, if you have a YO, you want the hole. Once students get past all the fine parts of the YO, they can usually do lace just fine, as long as they can keep track of the count.

bonitaraye wrote
on Mar 8, 2014 2:46 PM

The most challenging thing was how to handle YO or yarn overs. If the stitch after the YO is a knit stitch, the YO has to end at the back. If it is a purl, the YO needs to end at the front. Also, in teaching lace I find many students tend to knit the YO on the next row so as to twist it and get rid of the hole. Of course, if you have a YO, you want the hole. Once students get past all the fine parts of the YO, they can usually do lace just fine, as long as they can keep track of the count.

jsvans wrote
on Mar 7, 2014 6:11 PM

Thank you for this, I am just beginning with lace, and trying to learn how to read charts, and I was feeling like the blank "no stitch" on the pattern was matching up to a "blank" spot in my brain. :P

elbutram wrote
on Mar 5, 2014 2:27 PM

Keeping track of where I was in the chart was challenging in my lace scarf project - there were 4 charts, one of which was repeated every 10 stitches and the others every 20 stitches. I found that stitch markers for each repeat of the chart became a life saver...that way if I made a mistake in one repeat it wouldn't mess up the rest of the row. It turned out very nicely in the end, but was also not a mindless knitting project.

alison.vogel wrote
on Mar 3, 2014 9:49 PM

My biggest challenge in knitting lace is recovering from a mistake, which often entails carefully undoing several stitches or even a whole row or two (depending on how vigilant I've been). It helps to keep track of which stitch I'm undoing by matching it to the chart, but even then I can get rather lost. I've resorted to just starting all over on more than one occasion! But oh how I love lace.

Suzie92234 wrote
on Mar 3, 2014 9:45 PM

The  most challenging thing I've faced doing lace is knowing how to correct mistakes, which I still haven't learned.  Thank goodness for life lines.  :)

MaggieB@13 wrote
on Mar 3, 2014 8:06 PM

Constant counting and keeping my place in charts are my biggest challenges. I prefer not to use charts because I have difficulty keeping track of where I am and I have always been better with "words" rather than symbols.  Love knitting lace though, and have made a lot of lacy items over the years.

MaggieB@13 wrote
on Mar 3, 2014 8:06 PM

Constant counting and keeping my place in charts are my biggest challenges. I prefer not to use charts because I have difficulty keeping track of where I am and I have always been better with "words" rather than symbols.  Love knitting lace though, and have made a lot of lacy items over the years.

MaggieB@13 wrote
on Mar 3, 2014 8:05 PM

Constant counting and keeping my place in charts are my biggest challenges. I prefer not to use charts because I have difficulty keeping track of where I am and I have always been better with "words" rather than symbols.  Love knitting lace though, and have made a lot of lacy items over the years.

MCortada wrote
on Mar 3, 2014 7:35 PM

I've only one done lace project, a scarf with a pattern that was different for each of 25 rows.  It was difficult keeping track of where I was.  I had to pay attention to what I was doing the whole time.  Although the result was lovely, I couldn't mindlessly knit while watching TV or listening to an audiobook.