If you feel even the slightest temptation to try lace knitting , give in to it. Knit lace is a classy fabric to work with, and even the simplest stitch patterns look intricate and impressive.
There isn't much you need to know before diving in, but a few beginner lace-knitting tips will help get you started.
First of all, choose a lace pattern you'll love. You want your hard work to be worth it. You might want to pick out a pattern that's free to start, or one you can look over, or one with a really detailed description.
Is it a written pattern or just charts? Or a combo? You may need to develop your knit graph reading skills before you begin. You won't be sorry you did: That skill comes in handy in all aspects of knitting. The sooner you get comfortable reading a chart, the sooner the world of knitting will be yours, all yours.
If possible, use the yarn recommended for use with the pattern. If you're not doing that, find one in a similar yarn weight. A gauge may not be listed, but for once, gauge isn't all that important. You want your tension to be loose (you'll have to use a larger needle than you normally would with that yarn), but you'll be blocking your finished item to the specified dimensions.
The fiber is more important. Wool is ideal for winter, but if you're knitting a stole or shawl for the warmer spring and summer months, you may want a plant-based fiber. Natural fibers are popular and far, far easier to block.
You'll be using a larger needle than you're used to with the yarn you choose. For lace, sock or fingering weight yarn and a 4mm (US 6) needle are excellent choices. Use what the pattern calls for, or at least three sizes bigger than the package suggests.
It always helps to have a set of double-pointed needles and a circular or two (16-inch and 29-inch are good sizes to use) of the same needle size. You can fit A LOT of stitches on a 29-inch circular, so it's rare to need anything bigger, unless we move into lace blanket or tablecloth territory.
The needle material isn't all that important, but many knitters prefer the smoothness of metal and the way stitches glide more easily on it.
Other Useful Notions
- Stitch markers can help you keep track of stitch repeats.
- Spare (smooth!) yarn can be used as a lifeline.
- A crochet hook can pick up dropped stitches; you can also use it for casting on or for borders. (Hooks are the best, so you should have a bunch on hand anyway.)
- Foam or towels are great for blocking on.
- Pins and wires; the latter are less important, but you do need pins.
The Knitty Gritty
Gather your materials and find a quiet spot. It's time to start. Read through the pattern once or twice (or more) to get a feel for how it will develop. Surprises in knitting are rarely awesome.
Use a lifeline to make you feel less anxious about messing up. Frogging hundreds of stitches is no joke, but it's infinitely better than frogging thousands. A lifeline is simply a piece of smooth yarn or floss threaded through a row of your knitting. If you mess up a few rows after a lifeline, you only have to frog back to the line instead of frogging your whole project. It makes sense to add a lifeline every 10 rows or so, or after you complete a stitch pattern.
After binding off, you'll have a weird lump of knitting that's maybe pretty, if you're lucky. Really, though, you'll likely question why you just spent hours upon hours working on this. Has it all been in vain?
Learning how to block your knits is relatively easy and can be done in just a few simple steps.
1. Fill a tub, bucket or bowl with warm water and a drop of conditioner, lanolin or even baby wash. Gently submerge your fabric and let it soak for a while. Try your best not to agitate it too much, but make sure the water completely permeates the fibers.
2. After your fabric has thoroughly soaked, empty the water and very gently squeeze the excess water from the yarn. You might even want to wrap the piece in a towel and squeeze. Try to get it to a stage of dampness that doesn't involve dripping.
3. Lay the fabric flat on towels resting on foam or on a bed (hint: something to pin on), and start stretching and pinning the lace to the shape you want. Adjust the pins as necessary, and let the fabric dry overnight or put it next to a fan for a few hours.
Now you know what all that hard work was about. Now it was worth it, wasn't it? Now you just want to knit lace all the time, for everyone you know, right? Or maybe that's just us.