Monday, June 02, 2008

First Encounter with Lace

The commissioned scarf is finished. The weather is heating up—finally. Hockey season is almost over. I needed a new knitting project that factored in all of the above.

“Lace!” I thought. I have a) the pretty Kraemer Sterling Silk and Silver yarn, and b) the incredibly expensive Quiviuk I bought in Banff. I figured I would do a practice scarf with the Kraemer Sterling so I don’t mess up the incredibly expensive Quiviuk.

I got out my newly acquired copy of Arctic Lace (which you wonderful RTY folks recommended) and really applied myself to it. What a great book! It has the best instructions for doing a long tail cast-on I’ve ever seen. The explanations of lace stitches are terrific. The patterns are easy to read.

Even more amazing, Arctic Lace author Donna Druchunas convinced me to do swatches. I NEVER do swatches. I’m one of those I-refuse-to-do-any-knitting-that-doesn’t-contribute-directly-to-the-project’s-progress knitters. If I make mistakes, that’s what frogging is for. However, Ms. Druchunas’ arguments for swatches were so persuasive that I followed her progression almost to the letter.

Here’s the first swatch, knitted with worsted weight wool on size 7 needles in a simple pattern. But I was proud of it.

Then I graduated to the Kraemer Sterling yarn I would really use and did a more complicated swatch on size 3 needles. (Okay, I skipped the size 5 needles I was supposed to use.). I got this one right too. You will notice that I never actually finish the swatches. Ms. Druchunas’ powers of persuasion were powerful but not quite up to that.

I highly recommend swatching if you haven’t knitted lace before. It made me familiar with the look of the stitches, with reading the pattern, and how the different stitches worked on top of each other.

Most important, I learned that lace knitting requires TOTAL CONCENTRATION. I could not watch a hockey game and knit; I inevitably lost my place. I have started over with my lace project (the Möbius Scarf, only not as wide, in Arctic Lace) three times because either the Penguins or the Red Wings scored at inopportune moments in the pattern.

Fortunately, it is now baseball season. My DH is a die-hard Yankees fan and likes to have me keep him company when he’s engrossed in a game on television. I find watching baseball less exciting than watching grass grow so lace knitting is perfect. I don’t get distracted no matter how loudly he admonishes Derek Jeter to “hit the ball!” because I just don’t care what Derek Jeter does. I don’t even think he’s good eye candy. I prefer Hideki Matsui personally. That’s totally irrelevant to this blog and I don’t know why I even mentioned it.

Back to lace. Here’s my question: how do you pick up stitches in a lace pattern after you rip out mistakes? It’s the one thing I can’t figure out so I keep having to frog the whole darned project back to the garter stitch border when I make a mistake. Is there a trick or do I just have to use trial and error and hard experience?

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Blogger Nephele said...

Best advice: use life lines often so you can rip back to them. Make notes on which rows they mark so you'll always know where you are in the pattern after frogging.

Witout lifelines, if the lace has plain rows - ie: purl all wrong side rows - rip back so that you're picking up one of those rows, no yarn overs or decreases to mess you up.

If there are no plain rows rip back all but one row then 'tink' that last row carefully undoing each decrease and putting each stitch back on the needle as you go.

Before knitting forward again, be sure to count your stitches. It's easy to drop a yarn over when ripping and you don't want to do it all again, right?

3:52 PM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

Life lines! What a great idea! I assume that just means you thread a different color yarn through a whole row at various points and, as you say, note where in the pattern it is. I love that concept. I'm going to do that right away.

My pattern does have plain rows but even those I have a problem picking up because of all the yarnovers. It gets confusing as to whether it's a stitch or a mess-up.

Nephele, you may have saved my sanity!

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto the advice on lifelines. I put mine in every x number of rows depending on the pattern repeat so I always know where the lifeline is. Another words if the lace is a 10 row repeat the lifeline is every 10 rows. The key is not to make so many lifelines it takes away knitting time but not to do so few that ripping out to the lifeline is a heartbreak of epic frogging proportions.
Holly in CT

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Cathy said...

I agree with lifelines. And if you're using an interchangeable needle system (like Knitpicks or Denise) there is a little hole at the end of the needle that you can thread some fine cotton or dental floss through (I like the dental floss--cheap and readily available) and then just knit your "rest" (or plain) row with the lifeline threaded through the needle. Just make sure you remove any stitch markers (or that they're the removable kind) otherwise they're staying on that row.

10:13 AM  
Blogger georg said...

Do a lifeline every 10 rows. Be religious about it. Not only will they rescue your rip back stage, you can easily look and count what row you're on. (Or if the pattern repeats every X number of rows, do a lifeline at line 1 of every repeat).

10:25 AM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

I love this life line idea! Since all of you obviously use them to good effect, tell me more about actually doing them: what sort of yarn do you use to make your life line? Does the life line just pull out at the end of the project?

10:32 AM  
Blogger Turtle said...

life lines...yup! that is a great book, i borrowed it just last week from the library and loved it, so full of good info!

10:49 AM  
Blogger Penny said...

I like to use dental floss or crochet or tatting cotton. They are all small enough to thread through the stitches with a darning needle (or through the little hole on the Knit Picks cords). They are also smooth enough that they don't stick to the wool you are knitting with. That makes threading them through and pulling them out a breeze!

11:03 AM  
Blogger dobarah said...

I agree with everyone...Lifelines! But, I am a bit lazier than others...I use a smaller circular needle as my lifeline. The length of the circ depends upon the width of the lace, but I like the fact I can easily thread back to the lifeline or move it just as easily. The idea is still the same!

11:10 AM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

Dental floss! I love that! I have lots and it is wonderfully slippery so pulling it out will be easy.

I also think the idea of small circular needles is fabulous because then it's already on a needle ready to knit if I need to.

You guys are the most amazing resource for an amateur knitter. Thank you so much for all your help!

3:37 PM  

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