Knitting Different Kinds of Lace

Knitted lace is varied enough that different categories have been created to describe (loosely) the different types, such as eyelet lace, open lace, and faggot lace.

The divisions between one kind of lace and another are porous. Better to think of lace patterns as belonging on a continuum — the more solid fabrics with scattered openings (eyelet) at one end, the lacy and open fabrics (allover and faggot patterns) at the other. The lace patterns in this section provide a good introduction to lacework for both beginning and intermediate knitters.

If you're really interested in lacework, here's a project that gives you a lot of practice and lets you create something useful: Make a series of swatches using all the patterns in this section and then sew them together — or simply work one pattern after the other — to create a great scarf. Use the same yarn throughout unless you want to observe the effect of different yarns on the same pattern. Lace worked on light-weight yarns intended for lace looks very different than lace worked with a worsted-weight or chunky yarn.

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If you have lace squares knitted in different weights of yarn that don't line up perfectly to be sewn together side by side, turn them so the upper right corners of the squares are pointing up, and overlap each upper right corner to the center of the next square. Stitch along the upside-down V shape using one of the same yarns you used to knit the squares. These offset lace squares form an appealingly uneven edge for a retro, vintage look.

No matter how many stitches and rows it takes to make a repeat, knitted lace is built on a pairing of two simple knitting techniques: a yarn-over increase and a decrease, as we explain earlier in the chapter. This marriage of increase and decrease is easy to see in simpler lace patterns and a little harder to track in more complicated ones. With practice, though, you'll quickly see how they work together, and you'll be able to work any lace pattern you fancy with confidence.

For your first forays into lace knitting, choose easier patterns. Specifically look for

Patterns that tell you right at the beginning to purl all the wrong-side rows: In general, the simplest lace patterns call for yarn-over/decrease maneuvers on right-side rows only. More advanced patterns have you make openings on every row.

Patterns made from vertical panels: It's fairly easy to tell if a pattern is organized as a series of vertical repeats because you'll see "lines" running up and down the fabric. You can place a marker after each repeat and keep track of one repeat at a time.

Patterns that maintain the same number of stitches on every row: To maintain the number, for every yarn-over increase there's a decrease on the same row. Other patterns call for a yarn-over increase on one row and the corresponding decrease on another. In these patterns, the stitch count changes from row to row. Often, the pattern alerts you to these changes and tells you which rows you have to look out for, but even at that, this type is still a bit more challenging.

When you knit lace, always work the edge stitch (or two) in plain stockinette stitch to stabilize the sides of your pieces and make it easier to sew them together. The same is true for cast-on and bound-off edges. If you use stockinette stitch at the edges, be sure to include these selvedge stitches in the number of stitches you cast on. (Selvedge stitches are extra stitches at the edge of your knitted fabric that serve to create an even, stable border.) For example, if the lace pattern calls for a multiple of 6 stitches plus 1 more and you want to include 2 stockinette stitches on either end, you add 4 selvedge stitches to the total cast-on count.

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