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Tips & Tricks

Lifelines: I use dental floss and probably put in fewer than I should really use, but can't knit a lace shawl without using them. My tip is that when knitting a lace shawl that has an edging knitted on to live stitches, be sure to add a lifeline to the last row before starting the edging. The reason is that any dropped stitches in the edging itself could translate into ladders that go into the body of the shawl. I once had to work back about a foot of edging in order to tink several rows into the shawl itself and make repairs caused by a needle that slipped out. - Janet

Place a stitch marker after every pattern repeat to keep track of where you are in your pattern. Beware though that you may need to shift your stitch marker one or two stitches to the left or right as you complete your pattern. Some designers will note this while others will leave you to guess. -Lorri Ann

I find that coil less safety pins make good stitch markers. -Lorri Ann

This tip actually comes from master knitting guru Joan Schrouder, who gave me permission to share it. Although it's a tip about knitting in general, I think it is particularly applicable to knitting lace, which presents so many opportunities to practice it. When Joan starts a new project, she deliberately selects a technique that is either new to her, or revisits a technique that she hasn't used for a long time. It expands her scope of skills, and refreshes those skills already learned. Even though I have a hard time thinking there are any knitting skills that Joan Schrouder isn't familiar with, I really like her tip. -MEM

My first tip helps to keep track of where you are by making numerous photocopies of charts and using highlighter pens to mark off rows as they are knit. Keeping my place is the hardest part of lace knitting for me. I also use a life line and markers between repeats until I am familiar with the pattern. -Lynne

My second tip is when a mistake is made, tink backwards to the error noting on the chart rows unknit. If you must rip a bunch of rows, rip to the error and unknit the last row one stitch at a time following the chart backwards. This will help keep all the yarnovers and knit togethers in the right place, and to prevent dropped stitches, the skurge of lace knitting. The last step is to verify the number of stitches match your chart. If it still isn't right, unkit another row until all is as it should be. -Lynne

When learning a new lace pattern, dig out a smooth yarn and needles to match. NOT needles which will give you a seriously lacy result either, just the size you'd normally use for knitting stocking stitch, or maybe a little bigger. For me, thats DK yarn and 4 - 5 mm needles, as those are the size I'm most comfortable holding. Then work a decent sample - like two or three pattern repeats in each direction if you can bear it - so that you get a feel for the pattern,and where you are most likely to make mistakes. -Lorna

I love to use a lifeline but have found that the type of yarn or material I use for the lifeline makes a difference when the time to remove it comes around. I like using dental floss for mohair because the floss just glides through the hairiness. I like to use a finer cotton (like Dale's Kolibri for wools because it is not too thick and won't distort the stitches. I also try to use a highly contrasting color of Kolibri. -Nina

I like to color code my lace charts. First, I make an enlarged copy of the chart. Using a box of colored pencils, I assign a distinctive color to each entry in the stitch symbol key that is not a simple knit or purl. (K2 tog; sl1 k2tog, psso; etc.) Then I go over the entire chart and color in the squares with the corresponding symbols. It's a lot easier on the eyes to see a color than to try and decipher the symbol in a square at a glance. It also helps me to understand the basic construction of the lace design. -Beth

Try using 1/8 or 1/16 width ribbon for you life line when making lace. Makes it much easier to get back on the needles if you need to rip out..... -Jane in TN

When knitting a K2tog, if I have trouble getting the needle through the stitches (particularly on true lace when you are trying to knit a yo with a knit stitch from the previous row), I loosen up the stitches by putting my knitting needle through the opposite end of the 2 stitches to be knit, wiggle it around a little, and then knit my knit 2 together. -Lorri Ann

Use a lace faggot chain to cast on lace & never worry about a too tight cast on. (Lace Faggot Chain in Mary Thomas's Pattern Book, page 157.) Cast on 2 sts. All rows: yo, p2tog. Slip your needle through the yo loops, attach yarn & you're good to go. A plus with this method is there are loops on both sides so you can knit in 2 directions or with some contortions proceed to knit in the round. It forms a wonderfully holey center. -Doris

When you have to "tink" fine lace, like cobweb it is often very hard to get the needle in that K2tog before dropping stitch off needle so the stitches won't drop down. I use a much smaller needle to open up the K2tog so my needle will fit in - then I drop the stitch off of the needle and pull out the working thread. -Nancy

I always use a marker at each repeat; that way I can catch most mistakes immediately. -Patti

When using ring markers I slip knot a 3 or 4 inch tail of sewing thread to the marker. If the marker falls off it just stays in place and it's easy to drop off to complete a stitch and then replace the marker. If you have to tink or frog the tail keeps the marker in the right place. -Beth T

Making repairs several rows back:

You can usually fix mistakes in lace by just tearing out a section and knitting it back up. Here's how I do it:

I always use markers between pattern repeats, and when I find a mistake, I drop just the stitches between one set of markers and then work back up each pattern row. IOW, say the repeat is 12 stitches long. I find the markers on either side of the 12 stitch repeat that is problematic. I then isolate those twelve stitches on a dpn. The stitches and markers that are left on either side of the 12 stitch repeat for repair stay on the needles I am using for work. I put a point protector on the end of each of these needles to keep those stitches on. I now have: one working needle with point protector, one dpn with 12 stitch repeat to repair, and the other working needle with point protector. Now I take the 12 stitch repeat down to the row that needs fixing. If it is a difficult to read pattern or the yarn is something slippery or really grabby like mohair, I tink each row down. If it is fairly easy, I frog down to the row *above* the row that needs to be fixed and then tink the last row I need to take out, putting the stitches carefully on the dpn as I go. I then find the row in the pattern chart that corresponds to the row I am repairing and work each row of the chart back up to my current row in the chart. Then I put the stitches back on the working needles and I'm off! There's usually a little distortion around the stitches I have worked back up, but it blocks out easily and you'd never know it was there.

This sounds complicated, but once you get used to it, it is so much faster and easier than frogging the whole thing! Plus, if it doesn't work, you haven't lost anything. You can always still frog back! I've done this even on patterns where it is lace every row. It works quite well. -Rosemary

Due to vision problems, I have trouble tracking across lines in a chart. I have found that color coding the chart really helps prevent a mistake. For example, I will color code k2tog, ssk, etc. thereby allowing myself to visualize the lace better. Highlighters from the office supply store are wonderful for this purpose. -Nina

Another tip for lace knitting I have found to be very helpful is to make enlargements of the charts I am knitting from. It is much easier to read and spot mistakes when the charts are enlarged. -Nina

My tip actually seems fairly rudimentary to me and I've seen it discussed on lace lists before, but it made quite a difference to my lace knitting. Instead of simply placing ordinary markers between the repeats or between areas I'm trying to keep count of, I make a marker from a 6" or so piece of crochet cotton. I tie a knot at the top to make the loop that goes over the needle and let the remaining length hang free. When I'm knitting, I make sure that one row's strand of yarn passes behind the marker tail and that the next passes across the opposite side, back and forth with each row. This anchors the tail into the work but leaves it loose enough to slide as I progress, allows me to simply drop the marker when I need to change placement (i.e. a decrease across the marked stitches) and easily replace it, and lets me see where the marked section goes from and to. -Christene

Another stitch marker trick: I've used double markers to keep track of which row I'm on, and have moved markers as the number of rows increases to keep count of where I'm at, and I've seen these discussed many times before. But I'm the only one I've ever seen actually knit the markers into the work. I use either waste yarn tied into loops or those cheap rubber hairbands you can buy at the grocery/drug store and slip it over the stitch I want to mark as I knit. Different colors let me mark different sections, my markers never fall out and get lost, and if I have to rip or frog, I don't have to worry about keeping track of where the marker had been several rows back. (It's also good for letting you see just how far you've progressed in a given length of time.) I use them for counting, marking beginning/ends of sections, measuring length, you name it. And just cut them and slip them out when you're done and it's like they were never there (particularly on lace knitting). I do have to admit, though, that the work in progress may look a little odd... -Christene

I am a very new lace knitter, and have completed one of Dorothy Siemen's designs. I loved it! I used Kidsilk, and it was very sticky and fuzzy. Three tips I have for this kind of yarn

1) I found bamboo circulars were great. The wool stuck to the needles, so stitches didn't slide off and yo's disappear into oblivion, ladder down, etc. I know a more experienced knitter could have picked them all up as they should be, but at that stage, I didn't need the challenge. The circulars also helped with keeping stitches on the needles, as they didn't slip out so easily. 2) Although the bamboo was great, the points, though sharper than my metal needles, weren't quite sharp enough. It was simple to sharpen them to a point with an emery board or fine sandpaper, so that they could push their way through the k3 tog. that was otherwise pretty darned tricky, and involved inventive use of a toothpick. 3) When I did have to tink, the wools fuzziness made it really difficult. I used needlepoint scissors (or any small scissor - nail scissors would do) to cut the hairs loose from each other when needed. It didn't affect the final look one bit. -Liz

Stitch markers between repeats are extraordinarily helpful for complicated lace patterns, but they sometimes need to be moved to the left or right as you knit. For the lace patterns that do, I plan ahead and move them on the "plain" row beforehand--so that they're already in place when I get to the lace row. No juggling with markers while trying to do a YO SSK, for example. Not all lace patterns have the plain, purl or knit rows on the back, of course, but for those that do, I would much rather move my marker then! And, while there? On those plain, purl-back rows? Count your stitches for each repeat. If you've missed something like a YO or a K2tog or anything else, you'll catch it there. It's easy at that point to figure out what, in that specific stitch repeat, is missing and correct it by slipping a stitch over its neighbor for a decrease, or to pick up a YO. Much, much easier than trying to figure out a problem across an entire row. -Deb

My favorite tip is to use a thin 'widish' piece of ribbon for my lifeline. It has the advantage of not leaving untidy reminants unmatching fiber; it is slick and can be removed easily; and best of all, it will fold in half within the stitches and form a nice pocket in which to easily slip the needle if you do need to rip back a portion of your project. -Pamela

Many newbies to lace knitting are frightened by the fine yarn and charts. I start a new pattern with knitting worsted and size 7 needles, make a washcloth out of the swatch. This way I can learn the pattern, easily see my mistakes and frog them. Regarding the charts, I make a copy of the chart, with border around it for notes, I use different color highlighters for problem areas, determined by my swatch. Several patterns I forget the yo and have to frog back, so highlighting it on the chart saves me time at the frog pond. When I go to the lace weight yarn, I have the confidence and the understanding of the pattern better and a nice new washcloth! -Maile

To keep my yarn clean, and dust bunnies seem to love mohair..guess they think its a friend! I use food packaging bags, large for cones and small or medium for balls of yarn. Coned yarn I put the cone in top first and then stuff the ends closed thru the cone at the bottom.For balls of yarn, I use a little bit of the yarn to tie off the bag, easy to identify especially if u have alot of one type of color. I purchase my bags at Smart & Final but Costco, Sams CLub and other stores like them carry food storage bags for the industry. -Maile

I use 4x6 lined post it notes to keep under my chart or written pattern, to keep my place. If the phone rings I just make a mark where I was on the pattern in pencil and save time by not having to count stitches upon return. I keep all my patterns in sheet protectors with notes, in case I want to knit it again, I have my notes, pattern all together in a binder...ok I got 8 binders of stitch patterns, knitting patterns.... -Maile

I use post-it notes to mark the rows of my charted patterns. I always cover up the rows I just worked so I don't make a mistake and repeat them. I suggest you use the 'super sticky' type notes, they can handle being repositioned many times. -Sherry

Use pointy needles!! Much easier to get in there for k3tog's and the such. I love my addi turbo's, but lace knitting just isn't the place for them. -Becky

Discovering that when working with really fine yarn, it is okay to use just one decrease (in my case, K2tog), as I don't think anyone could tell that you weren't using slanted/paired decreases. My sources - Galinea Khmeleva & Carol R. Nobel in their 'Gossamer Webs: the history and techniques of Orenburg Lace Shawls', where they only use K2tog and K3tog. I'm sure that Sharon Miller says this too in 'Heirloom Knitting'. And just to be triple sure, I tried this out in swatching, using a gossamer silk. (And just when I had got down pat the concept of paired decreases and yarn-overs!) For a left-leaning decrease, I also like to use another tip from Sharon Miller's 'Heirloom Knitting', which is a variation on the S,K,psso. Worked by starting to slip the 1st stitch purlwise, but do not remove it from the left-hand needle, then knit the 2nd stitch, and remove it all. I find this useful as sometimes, when I psso, I have a tendency to stretch out the passed-over slip stitch too much, and I find it a quick technique, though it isn't perhaps as tidy as a SSK or K2togtbl (through back of loops). -Susoolu

I am submitting this most wonderful tip in the name of the originator: Amy Detjen (who is not a member of this list). It is a centered-eyelet. At the tip of a yo diamond, many designers will eliminate the crowning, single yo because it always slants to L or R. During our Knitting Camp one year, lace knitter Robert Powell showed us his invention of a 3-Into-2-Decrease. Most wonderful. Several months later, while designing a shawl for A Gathering of Lace, Amy Detjen extrapolated Robert's decrease to become a centered-yo as follows: Sl first stitch k'wise. k 2nd stitch but do not remove from L needle. psso. yo. k 2tog (3rd st and part of the 2nd stitch still on the L needle ). Now - on the next pass, do not just knit the resulting stitch, but dive into the yo-hole itself and pull the working wool through. This move will suck-up the drooping horizontal strand that sags across the top of the hole. Cool, Huh? -Meg

I am new to lace knitting and this tip has helped me to understand the structures and pattern building in lace knitting. I do enlarge my charts, really big, so that I can see them unaided (no glasses). Sometimes that means I have to break up a chart into several pieces. Instead of knitting with a small Post-it as a place marker, I use a roll of 3m Removable Labeling Tape 695. It is 2" by 36 yards and a little more sticky than the average post-it. I tear off a piece the same length as the chart. It gives me a chance to see the rhythm of the entire row. -Adrienne

On the suggestion of other knitters, I purchased welding tig (1/8") to use as blocking wire. The real "resource" was the sales guy at the local Airgas store. Once I explained what I wanted to do, he really got interested in helping me find it. -Elisabeth