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Tips for Better Lace Knitting

Sep 1, 2014

    
Blue Dahlia, by Andrea Jurgrau, from New Vintage Lace
Knit lace is worth the effort. I can say that now, after learning some tips and tricks from some great lace knitters!

Here are the tips that allow me to enjoy knitting lace.

Use very pointy needles. It's so much easier to work the decreases that are innate to knit lace if you have sharp tipped needles. In my experience, it's almost impossible to work a purl 3 together with blunt-tipped needles. We're lucky, because there are so many quality, sharp needles on the market now. Check out our Guide to Knitting Needles to see some of the options that are available.

Use a sticky note with your chart. I always place a sticky note above the row I'm currently working. It helps my eye from wandering, and I can see what I've already knit.

Enlarge your chart on a copy machine. Sometimes those charts are so tiny! I always enlarge my charts on a photocopier—it's okay to photocopy from a publication you own if the copy is for your own use. Larger charts are so much easier to use.

Color code your chart. If you're working a particularly complicated chart, it's sometimes helpful to color code certain elements. A highlighter works well for this.

Get a good magnet board. Keeping your chart on a magnet board is really helpful. You can get strong magnets that keep the chart in place and long, skinny magnets to keep track of your row. If you can't find a large enough magnet board, raid your bake ware collection! Older baking sheets are usually magnetic.

    
Sand Dollar Wrap, by Andrea Jurgrau, from New Vintage Lace
Giverny Beret, by Andrea Jurgrau, from New Vintage Lace
Place a marker at the beginning of each pattern repeat. Isolating a repeat between markers is extremely helpful. If you're supposed to knit two together at the end of a repeat and you only have one stitch left, you know you've messed up somewhere between your markers. You won't have to wait until the next pattern row to discover your mistake.

Use a lifeline. Lifelines are named aptly because they can save the life of your lace project. I like to place one every three inches or so. If you make a mistake, your lifeline is there, holding a row of stitches, so you can rip back to it and start again. You won't lose all of your work, and you're less likely to throw in the towel, or shawl, as it were.

Invest in blocking wires. These invaluable tools are relatively inexpensive—anywhere from $20-$30. Pinning a lace project always works, of course, but blocking with wires is so much easier! You simply weave the wires through the edge of your project, stretch it out appropriately, and place a few pins to hold it in place.

These are just my favorite tips; they make lace knitting easier for me. For more ideas for successful knitted lace, I recommend a new video from lace expert Andrea Jurgrau, who also happens to be the designer of all of the beautiful projects shown here.

Andrea's tutorial focuses on all of the techniques you'll need to knit vintage lace patterns, updated to today's sensibilities. It's so interesting! Get the DVD or download the high-def video of Knitting New Vintage Lace.

Cheers,

P.S. I've shared my tips, now I invite you to share yours! Leave a comment and tell us what makes lace knitting easier for you.

    
Andrea Jurgrau's book is full of beautiful, wearable lace patterns, plus clear lace-knitting instruction. Both the book and the eBook are on sale as part of our Labor Day Sale. Get your copy now!


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Comments

JuliAnnePD wrote
on Sep 21, 2014 9:53 AM

I have a hard time with charts and seem to prefer written instructions. I write out each row of a lace pattern repeat on a separate index card, hole punch the corner, then put a ring in it. A paperclip holds the row I am working on top. I keep the ring attached to the drawstring on my project bag and never have to dig for it.

This helps me remain conscious of the pattern I am working for the row. Most of my mistakes come from a drifting mind or glancing at the wrong line in my pattern.

SUSAN@156 wrote
on Sep 9, 2014 6:34 PM

I place my pattern in a plastic sleeve, and use Highlighter Tape on the row above the one that I am working on to keep my place.  I prefer pink, but it comes in many colors, and peels off the plastic sleeve very easily to move to the next row when  you are finished with the row you are working on.  

I totally agree with your comment on the "pointy" needles.. they are the best.  I have just purchased the interchangeable Karbonz needles from Knitter's Pride and love them.... pointy attached to a comfortable carbon fiber and fabulous cable that never kinks or comes apart!   Doesn't get any better.  Once you try them you will be hooked!  

SUSAN@156 wrote
on Sep 9, 2014 6:34 PM

I place my pattern in a plastic sleeve, and use Highlighter Tape on the row above the one that I am working on to keep my place.  I prefer pink, but it comes in many colors, and peels off the plastic sleeve very easily to move to the next row when  you are finished with the row you are working on.  

I totally agree with your comment on the "pointy" needles.. they are the best.  I have just purchased the interchangeable Karbonz needles from Knitter's Pride and love them.... pointy attached to a comfortable carbon fiber and fabulous cable that never kinks or comes apart!   Doesn't get any better.  Once you try them you will be hooked!  

SUSAN@156 wrote
on Sep 9, 2014 6:34 PM

I place my pattern in a plastic sleeve, and use Highlighter Tape on the row above the one that I am working on to keep my place.  I prefer pink, but it comes in many colors, and peels off the plastic sleeve very easily to move to the next row when  you are finished with the row you are working on.  

I totally agree with your comment on the "pointy" needles.. they are the best.  I have just purchased the interchangeable Karbonz needles from Knitter's Pride and love them.... pointy attached to a comfortable carbon fiber and fabulous cable that never kinks or comes apart!   Doesn't get any better.  Once you try them you will be hooked!  

Ena Latham wrote
on Sep 7, 2014 6:14 AM

Thank you for these interesting tip on lace- knitting. they have encouraged me to give it another try. Ena Latham

bridgielace wrote
on Sep 6, 2014 2:12 PM

I've been knitting lace for decades, and, while I agree with most of your advice, I take exception with two things.  I had never heard of a lifeline until five or so years ago, when someone asked how I used them in knitting a wedding veil.  The veil I knitted had about 750,000 stitches, and I can't imagine taking the time or energy for installing lifelines.  Never used them, never will.

Second, I had not used blocking wires until this summer, when I bought some and used them to block two large shawls.  What an unremitting pain, and what danger to the very fine yarn.  No thanks.  I will return, happily, to my old tried-and-true fishing line, which is far more portable.  By the way, I have two (barely used) sets of blocking wires for sale.

DUCKY711 wrote
on Sep 6, 2014 12:18 PM

Thank you, wibekah, for the referral for the Intwined Studio software.

Having a burning desire to turn my garment industry knowledge into being a knitwear designer, and having a passion for lace, this software is just the ticket.

Thank you again,

MJ

Jesusan wrote
on Sep 6, 2014 11:23 AM

Lace is my favorite thing to knit these days, and I really like these tips.  I've tried using a life-line a couple of times, and must not have done it right because I ended up way more confused with it (knitting the row following placement) than without.  Are there instructions anywhere for inserting a life-line?

Juliest wrote
on Sep 6, 2014 6:19 AM

Someone mentioned frogging mohair... it will frog easily if it is very cold.  Put your project into a zippy bag and put it into the freezer.  When it is good and cold it will frog easily for about 20 min, until it warms up.  Then just put it back in the freezer for another go round.

Julie in San Diego, where I'm knitting lace  ;>)

Juliest wrote
on Sep 6, 2014 6:19 AM

Someone mentioned frogging mohair... it will frog easily if it is very cold.  Put your project into a zippy bag and put it into the freezer.  When it is good and cold it will frog easily for about 20 min, until it warms up.  Then just put it back in the freezer for another go round.

Julie in San Diego, where I'm knitting lace  ;>)

Craftygirl00 wrote
on Sep 2, 2014 9:20 PM

I just wanted to say thank you for writing this! I've been knitting lace for a few years, and I really love it, but it can get so confusing! Thank You So Much!!!!!!!

hiliijaa wrote
on Sep 2, 2014 10:55 AM

Several.addition.tips.I.found.helpful:

Use.WOODEN.needles.so.stitches.don't.slip.off.as.easily

Use.rubber.stitch.markers.for.same.reason.as.above.

Make.sure.you.only.knit.with.very.good.light.

Only.knit.with.black.lace.when.you.are.young..(need.very.good.eyes)

And.lastly...know.when.to.say.you.are.too.tired.to.knit.lace.

Barbara2237 wrote
on Sep 2, 2014 9:00 AM

Instead of a sticky note that I find falls off and often doesn't cover the whole width of the chart I use removable highlighter tape, it comes in different colors and is translucent enough that if you need to refer to the previous row of the chart you can read it through the tape. Some yarn stores including Paradise Fibers are now stocking it.

EllenT@11 wrote
on Sep 2, 2014 7:39 AM

Is this the same book/ ebook that was offered a couple of months back? I thought there was a book or DVD that focused on lace knitting but had tips on doing Yarn Overs so that you didn't get big holes. There were other tips too, but this would really help me. Does anyone know what the title is and where I can buy it? Ellen ectom527@aol.com

MeganH wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 10:43 PM

Sharp needles are great for lace. However, my aunt's abiding memory from her early childhood is her mother getting a surprise and driving the knitting needle into her leg.

fisherslee wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 4:41 PM

I like enlarging the chart and the life line especially.  I've done some simple things and had to rip them out and start over and the thought of doing that on something larger is daunting.    I'm keeping patterns digital using pdf's and It's easy to expand the charts though not so easy for sticky notes.  I try to keep a row count with my knitting and some projects just have to have their own bag.

Knithappy55 wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 2:53 PM

I can't stress enough how much easier and more fun  lace knitting is with Knit Companion. You can set it up with your charts in any configuration or size you need, and make parts of them larger to see with just a finger wave. Row counters are automatic and highlight the row your on, and you can add any markers, highlights or note to the chart that you need, all without changing losing or marking the original pattern. Plus it keeps all my patterns on my iPad (or in Dropbox), so those random pages don't go missing or smudged. I have it on my iPad mini, lightweight and fits easily in my project bags. I guess this sounds like an ad... But I don't have anything to do with these companies, I just love working with these products.

suzy7746 wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 2:10 PM

I've been using Knit Companion on my iPad and I love it.  I also use lots of markers and a life line after a purl row every few inches.

While I appreciated the free e-book on needles, I don't know how you could possibly have a chart with all the needle sizes and NOT include a 2.5mm which is a US 1.5--probably the most common sock knitting needle out there!  Your chart just skipped right over 2.5mm!  

Also, Kollage square needles work very well for me--I normally avoid metal needles because they're too slippery but the square shape of Kollage means I can knit comfortably without a death-grip on my needles.  They've recently redesigned them and they now have sharper points--great for lace knitting!

BJKnitter wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 1:30 PM

I love my tablet to be able to enlarge the chart and highlight the row I am working.

cleverclogs wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 1:26 PM

I have no comments - but I attempted to change my email address on the Interweave sight -  but still received this on the old one, which I'll no longer be able to do as of September 2.  New email address - cajen38@gmail.com

Thank you.

martha63 wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 1:19 PM

I put my life-line in after each pattern repeat especially if there are 16+ rows for each repeat. Then it is easier to find where to start again on the chart. A magnetic chart reader is good, and there are apps for counting rows and keeping track of the repeats. Some apps have a note section where you can easily record any interesting  happenings as you knit (a sort of knitting journal).

BeagleFan wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 1:01 PM

I will second the advise of using a lifeline. Just go on YouTube and search for "knitting lifeline" for a plethora of demonstration videos. Find one that works for you and your needle type. In my case, my Knitpicks needles have a little hole where the cable attaches, so I just put a thread through the hole and the lifeline is automatically added to the row as I knit.

And, Barbara Becker, that idea is genius!  Funny how we miss the obvious. As a beginning knitter, I find lace very difficult and the fine yarns difficult to frog. I have a tangled wad of mohair, for example, that I might give up on completely.  Practice scrap!  Genius!

Melva L wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 12:33 PM

Could you give more instruction about using a lifeline?  I have not heard of this before.

MariaEdZed wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 12:21 PM

My favorite tip? Put that chart into a sheet protector! the pattern will

last longer. Sticky notes and magnets will still work. No spills to ruin

your pattern if you are knitting in public. If the pattern progresses

through multiple charts, they are all in one place. When you are done with the lace item, just stick the pattern, still in its sheet protector, into a

3-ring binder for the next time you want to use it.

JayeeH wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 12:17 PM

If you cast on (or off) using a slightly larger size needles, it is a LOT easier to pick up the stitches to add a border or other pattern when you are done with the body of whatever is being knit!

on Sep 1, 2014 12:00 PM

Before beginning a lace project, I've found it extremely helpful to work a few repeats of the pattern on scrap yarn, to familiarize myself with the pattern, whether or not I will need to move markers, etc. If the project will be worked in fingering or lace weight yarn, as lace often is, I recommend doing the "test pattern" in a heavier weight yarn, such as DK or worsted. This makes it very easy to see exactly what the pattern requires, and where the potential trouble spots may be. Doing the test on scrap yarn also saves the project yarn from potential damage from frogging if there are problems getting started. I hope others will find this helpful!

wibekah wrote
on Sep 1, 2014 11:59 AM

The two things that have made the biggest difference in knitting lace for me are two pieces of software.  Intwined Studio, http://intwinedstudio.com/, is software for your pc or mac that is intended for those who design lace. At $44.00 it is a steal.  Whether or not you design lace, it is, hands down, the best way of following a lace pattern.  Even fairly complex patterns can be re-charted with Intwined Studio in a reasonable amount of time. And I've found that in the process of doing so, I gain a better understanding of the pattern and that it is well worth the time.  Once the pattern has been entered in, you can knit from the screen of your computer, highlighting the row you are knitting with ease.  You can use color.  You can also create PDFs and use the highlight functions of the PDF reader.  With Intwined Studio, it is easy to make any changes you want to.  The program is a little rough around the edged, there is no right-clicking for options and some of the steps are unintuitive but for $44.00, it cannot be beat.

The second piece of software is Good Reader for the Ipad.  This was a recommendation from the Yarn Harlot, and it is super and was only $5.00 when I got it. You can mark PDFs with ease.  I make a movable box I use to highlight my row. You can use color, underlining, mark your spot so you know where you are when you come back to your work.  You can expand and contract the screen at will.  It works great with PDFs from Intwined Studio or patterns that are purchased as PDFs.  I see no reason why is wouldn't work with a scanned document.  

Either or both of these programs make following a pattern a snap.