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Article: Lace knitting for beginners: how to start knitting lace

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Lace knitting for beginners: how to start knitting lace

If you've never knit lace before, lace knitting can feel like a huge barrier. But it doesn't have to be that way. After all, all knitting is just knitting, purling, and variations on those things. And as a lace knitting beginner, you can learn to do it too.

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Shown is my Meditative Shawl pattern. 

The great majority of lace knitting utilizes knitted increases and decreases, such as k2tog (knit 2 stitches together), ssk (slip, slip, knit), and yo (yarnover) to create delicate eyelets, which are just tiny little holes (on purpose, I promise) in your knitting. 

If you can do those 3 things, you can knit lace! 

Start Small At First

When we think about lace knitting, many of us will instantly think of all over lace garments or shawls, which are obviously stunning and impressive. But we don't have to start there, if we don't want to. It's easier to start with small, digestible sections of lace than anything else! 

My favorite way to teach lace knitting to beginners is to offer them something in a small format. 

I highly recommend starting with something like a sock pattern. 

Shown is the Wisteria Bloom Socks pattern.

When I talk to new lace knitters, they always bring up blocking their lace as a mental barrier holding them back from trying their first lace knitting. The really good news is, you don't have to block your socks. Not really (see my friend Lauren's blog about it here).

You'll need very minimal products to block these types of projects: some water and some kind of wool soap. The structure and format of a sock means that it'll more or less lay nicely and won't require any pinning whatsoever. Worry about that on your next lace project. 

Types of small scale lace projects

Try something with just a small section (shown above), or a lace panel (shown below) to get you started. You'll get used to working lace repeats, but never for very long.

Shown is the Oolong Socks

If you want to get used to all over lace, try the lace section style sock, and if you want long breaks of plain stockinette stitch between the more difficult lace sections, try a lace panel sock.

And if you knit something like the Oolong Socks (green socks shown here), soon you'll be zooming along in no time, working the same principles or even the same lace patterning in something like the Oolong Tank

Charted Knitting

Many lace patterns come with reading instructions, but even more come charted only. Don't be scared of charts, but if you are worried, try any of our lace patterns that include both charts AND written alternatives. 

You'll find that charts can be depicted both in the round, or knit flat. To find out what direction you're reading from, you'll want to find the number depicting the row count, typically to the right or to the left of your chart. 

For example, shown below is a pretty typical knit in the round lace chart. You'll know it's knit in the round in this pattern, because all the numbers for the row count are on the right, meaning every row starts from the right to the left, in the same order you would knit in. 

The lace chart is oriented this way, from right to left, and from bottom to top, because that's how your lace will look while on the needles. Once you work a few rounds or a few rows, you'll start to be able to read your knitting to correlate the knitting with the chart. 

Count Your Stitches

I recommend to all lace knitters to start with lace panels (shown above in the chart), because there's a limited number of stitches to work in each section. You can place markers before and after the panel, and count your stitches after every section. When you work your even rounds afterwards, you can look down and make sure the round before was done correctly.

Start with a lace project where every round has the same stitch count. Some lace pattern repeats will add or remove a stitch or two in some rounds or rows, and that can get confusing really fast. You can definitely do it, but if you are a little worried, stick with a chart as shown above (it's from my Weekday Tee pattern). 

This way, you won't have far to tink (knitting backwards to undo your work) to fix it. And soon, you'll become advanced enough at lace knitting to be able to drop down and fix it without going back.  

When you'll need to block your lace and how to do it

You'll really only need this for large projects with edges that you want to pin out neatly to showcase your lace, but for smaller scale things like garments with smaller lace panels or socks, you won't need them. I mainly have to do block for all over lace garments knit in pieces, and for shawls. 

Shown is the Nicole Shawl, which did need a bit of blocking and pinning.

Once you do get to the stage where you need to block a full on lace project, you'll need blocking boards and pins.

Get your project wet with water and a bit of wool soap, and soak in that mixture for 15-20 minutes. Then, you can gently remove it carefully by lifting the whole mess out of the basin or sink.

Throw it in the spin cycle of your washing machine, or gently squeeze out the liquid from it (do not wring your knits, ever!). Then, place it inside a towel, roll it all up, and squeeze out excess water gently. 

Special tools for beginner lace knitters

Now on to the special tools for pinning out.... 

The blocking boards, such as the ones by KnitPicks (affiliate link) will help you with a smooth surface to pin into, so you don't damage anything you have your project on for blocking. 

For pins, I recommend T-pins by KnitPicks (affiliate link) for lace. These are more advantageous for lace than the kind that has a comb shape (multiple pins on one object), because you can precisely pin out any scallops, picot edges, points, or anything else like that in your work. 

You'll need to block for a really long time

You'll need to block for a really long time, because wool can take a long long time to form into their final shape and settle. We're talking, leaving it on the blocking board for a week straight time. 

I like to go the extra mile, and remove all my pins after that time, then leaving my lace project on the blocking mat for another day or two to settle. This is time intensive, and for lace, if you want it to have that open, stretched out effect, you'll need to do it every time you wash it. 

(This, by the way, is why I advocate that you never stretch out your garments to "block them to size"-- it's way too much work to do it every single time.) 

Ready to try some lace knitting? 

So, after all that, are you ready to dive in to lace knitting? Try any of our lace knitting patterns. Our pattern descriptions will clearly mark which ones are charted only, and which ones have charted or written instructions, so you can start where you're comfortable! 

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