The One Time You WANT Holes in Your Knitting

64 Arts

That’s right, friends, we’re moving from one needle-art to another and starting off the topic of lace!

26 Lacemaking

Crocheting thread or vegetable fibers to create a net, showing, with holes and crocheted areas, patterns of birds, animals, temples, houses, etc.

And even though this art specifies crocheting, I’m going to start with knitted lace because that’s what I’m slightly more proficient at.

Among knitters there seem to be two camps equally divided between two impressive skills: cables and lace. Cables are, of course, those patterns featuring a braided look like on the bulky fisherman’s sweaters and so forth whereas lace is the art of putting holes exactly where you want them. Both are complicated in their own right, but I’m fantastic with cables and lousy with lace.

Well, not altogether lousy, just not as skilled–but I’m getting better with each project.

For instance, years ago I was involved in a shawl swap and received this lovely, gossamer wrap as my gift.

A sage-green knitted shawl

It’s beautiful, don’t you think? And at over 6 feet long I shudder to think of how long it took her to knit!

This Braching Out scarf pattern from reminds me of it and says it’s fairly easy to knit. Maybe I’ll give it a whirl next time I’m looking for a project.

For that same swap I attempted to knit my partner a similarly lacy shawl only to repeatedly get off-pattern. After at least 3 restarts (but possibly more like 10–I’m stubborn, if not always skilled) I gave up that pattern and stuck with my strengths: I knit a very warm and dense shawl in shades of yellow, orange and red and, yes, it included cables. Though I likened the finished product to a fuzzy, cabled candy corn, my swap partner swore she loved it.

One of these days I’ll try that sunflower-lace pattern again. Maybe.

But I’m not completely thumbs when it comes to lace, I just need a simple pattern to follow and even I’ve been known to produce pretty, functional and lacy fiber objects. Like this 6-stitch lace pattern that I made into a lightweight shrug that works fairly well as a “stunt shrug” when I try on wedding dresses, to see how they’ll look with a cardigan or other sleeve contrivance.

Lace shrug

Perhaps the project I’m most proud of, though, is this lace/net/mesh (all boils down to the same thing in knitting, really) bag that is perfect for trips to the farmers market as it stretches to accommodate a week’s worth of veggies when the shopping is good. It’s a variation on the Itsybitsy bag from (I made, I think, half again as many rounds of the mesh portion to make a deeper bag, but not as wide as the Kitchen Sink version of the pattern).

Knitted mesh/lace shopping bag

In knitting lace, the hole-making stitch is generally a yarn over–abbreviated YO in patterns–and something new knitters accidentally do as they learn: all it means is to wrap the yarn around the needle between two existing stitches, creating one from nothing. With nothing to anchor it below, it makes a hole when you come back around and knit (or purl) this yarn over like any other stitch. In order to keep the right number of stitches and not have the incredibly widening object happening on you, it’s generally called for the knit or purl two stitches together for each added yarn over.

It’s a simple thing, true, but with each inventive way of spacing and treating those “extra” stitches, the beautiful lace patterns come out.

Of course, there’s also “cheater’s lace” as I like to call the practice of knitting rather small yarns on plenty-big needles–all of your stitches get spaced out pretty evenly so it looks like lace without the yarn-overs!

If you’re interested in trying your hands at knitted lace, both of the patterns I’ve linked in this article are good starting points (well, okay, one I’m guessing on, but it seems safe enough if you remember which line you’re on). Two things to keep in mind, though:

  1. Knitted lace often shows off best in single color knitting. Self-striping yarn is fabulous for socks and scarves, but can obscure a delicate pattern and make it harder for new knitters to read the pattern when they’re also trying to distinguish the color changes.
  2. Always deploy a safety net! Once you’ve finished a pattern repeat (or a few if it’s a pattern of only a couple rows at a time), stop and thread a length of contrasting yarn or even dental floss through every stitch on your needle before beginning the pattern repeat again. This way, should you get turned around or off a stitch a few rows up, you can safely frog (aka rip-it! rip-it!) back to your safety net/line and know exactly where to start again.

So, are you willing to cast on a new lace project for the new year? Whose ready to be daring!