Lace knitting tips and tools
Lace knitting is an indulgence for me that I do not treat myself to very often. This is due in part to the challenges of lace knitting and the concentration I like to devote to it that I am often lacking lately. But I enjoy it so very much and have for some time. I wrote the below back in 2007 and it has inspired me since to sing the praises of lace knitting but also shout even more loudly the tips and tools every knitter should arm themselves with before they are elbow deep in YO's and no way out.
"I have been knitting my largest and most complicated to lace project to date: Swallowtail Shawl from Fall 2006 Interweave Knits. It is not so much that it is very difficult, but just that I did not do any research beyond reading (well skimming, if we are going to be honest and I guess I will since you can't hunt me down and shame me in the streets) the pattern before casting on. I ran into many or really one difficulty. My count was off repeatedly and it was extremely vexing (was watching Pride and Prejudice last night)." -Tara Miller, www.gruenetree.com, July 2007
Here are the tips and tools I have been testing and recommending since that fateful project. I hope you will read this and use them before you end of like me back in 2007.
1. Stitch Markers- Have many kinds of stitch markers handy and test them with your yarn for EACH PROJECT. Example: I am knitting the swallowtail with mohair (Rowan Kid Silk Haze to be specific) and it is very fine. I am using jump rings that I fashioned into my very own highly fashionable stitch markers unfortunately as stunning as they may be, the mohair slips through the jump ring and thus making it appear as though my count is off. I now use a locking stitch marker, as plain as it may be, the ends lock in place leaving no space for mohair to slip through. My jump ring stitch markers work just fine for every other yarn I have knit with successfully.
2. Life Lines- If you are knitting lace without a life line you are either very brave, have too much time on your hands, or are ignorant (no shame in that, obviously you recognize this fault and have decided to continue reading) or are an idiot. I love my life lines and am so paranoid (or is it too tired to starting over 5 times) that I double up. I will knit one repeat, weave in my life line, knit another repeat and then weave in another. I do not take out the first and just move it up. I usually have 2 just in case I made a mistake and it has managed to evade my notice and climb up 2 repeats. I am not taking any chances; I like to start new projects, not old.
3. Needles- Make sure you pick the right needles for your project. Take into consideration the size the project will grown to be and the weight. If you are knitting with, say, mohair you will only need to take into mind the size and pick your length of needle or cable according to your preference. But if you are using a thicker fiber you also need to consider how heavy your project will become and probably want to consider a cable needle to distribute this weight to your lap instead of your wrists. Another yarn/needle combo you want to consider is slippery-ness and delicacy of the fiber. If the fiber is very delicate, like mohair or silk, than you might not want to trust your wood needles. As smooth as they may feel, there could be a rough spot that you do not find until you are 80 million rows into your project and it has caused a minor turning into major hiccup. Also, you want to reduce the chances of dropped stitches as much as possible which can result from slippery yarn on slippery needles so make that swatch and go with your gut.
4. Be confident. This is only knitting; you can rip it out. It is for fun and relaxing, no use stressing over it. How much are you really going to want to wear a shawl with bad memories? If it is too difficult, just put it down and come back when you have more experience. If that is 2 weeks or 20 years, no biggie. No shame in passing it down to the next generation. How much more fun will it be to pass down than to painful get through it. Wouldn't you love to finish a project your mother or grandmother had started? Even better if you finished something they considered over their heads. Then you can wear it around and boast. Perhaps you can make a custom tag for it that says "In your face Mom/ Grandmom!" Just a suggestion.