Lace knitting can seem pretty daunting to the new knitter, but all lace knits, from the simplest eyelet pattern to the complex designs of Herbert Niebling, from simple mesh dishcloths to the gossamer shawls of Eastern Europe, are all made up of the same basic stitches. Today, we’ll learn the basics of lace knitting, and make (what else – it’s the only hat style that suits me!) this light beret, perfect for the cooler evenings of early autumn.
Tips for knitting lace
- Keeping count – if your pattern stretches over multiple rows, it’s important to keep track of what row you’re on. Row counters, marking off the pattern, or keeping a tally on a piece of scrap paper, can all be useful. Check your stitch count often while you’re learning. Stitch markers are also a godsend for keeping track of repeats within a row. We’ll make some stitch markers on Friday!
- Lifelines – With plain knitting, you can often rip back and then pick up stitches fairly easily. Lace patterns, however, have yarn-overs and decreases which can be harder to pick up again if you make a mistake and have to frog several rows. A lifeline is a piece of scrap yarn, run through all the stitches in a row (use a darning needle to thread the scrap yarn through each stitch on the knitting needle) – if you make a mistake, you only have to rip back to the previous lifeline and simply pick up the stitches from the scrap yarn. You can put in as many lifelines as you wish, and easily remove them afterward by simply tugging the scrap yarn out.
- Learning to ‘read’ your knitting – as you gain experience with lace knitting, you’ll soon get a feel for the way yarn-overs and decreases combine and sit on top of one another. As you’re learning, pay close attention to how the pattern works, that way, if you make a mistake you’ll spot it very soon, and have a lot less to re-do!
Lace stitches – yarn-overs and decreases
Lace patterns are almost always made up of combinations of yarn overs and decreases. We’ve already looked at how to do right-leaning and left-leaning decreases, today lets take a look at the yarn-over, and the centred double-decrease.
To make a yarn-over (usually abbreviated as ‘yo’), simply bring the yarn forward between the needles, and wrap it back over the needle before knitting the next stitch as normal. On the following row, you’ll knit this loop just like a regular stitch, leaving a hole in your knitting.
To keep the stitch count even, yarn-overs are paired with a decrease of some kind. The placement and direction of the decrease is often important, so take care to get your right-leaning and left-leaning decreases the right way!
You may also need to do a double decrease at some points, turning 3 stitches into one. To make a centred double decrease, slip one stitch to the right needle without knitting it. Knit the next two stitches together, and then pass the slipped stitch over the stitch you just made, and off the needle. You may see this decrease in patterns as something like ‘sl1 k2tog psso’.
For this hat you’ll need:
- 1 skein sport-weight cotton yarn
- size US3 circular needle or dpns
- size US6 circular needle and/or dpns
- darning needle for finishing
- stitch markers
Gauge – 21sts/10cm in stockinette stitch (makes large women’s size)
Cast on 84 stitches on the smaller needle, and join to work in the round, being careful not to twist.
Work in k2p2 rib for about 2cm
Switch to the larger needle, and k2 kfb across the next round (kfb=knit front-and-back increase), kfb the first 2 stitches of the next round so you have a total of 108 stitches.
From the next round, knit the lace pattern 6 times each round:
- k6, yo, sl1 k1 psso, yo, sl1 k2tog psso, yo, k2tog, yo, k6 (sl1 k1 psso=left-leaning decrease, sl1 k2tog psso=centred double decrease)
Work this pattern until the hat is 4-6 ins long, depending on how slouchy you want it to be, and then work the decrease rounds, switching to dpns or magic-loop as the hat gets too small for the needle:
- sl1 k1 psso, k4, yo, sl1 k1 psso, yo, sl1 k2tog psso, yo, k2tog, yo, k4, k2tog
- sl1 k1 psso, k3, yo, sl1 k1 psso, yo, sl1 k2tog psso, yo, k2tog, yo, k3, k2tog
- sl1 k1 psso, k2, yo, sl1 k1 psso, yo, sl1 k2tog psso, yo, k2tog, yo, k2, k2tog
- sl1 k1 psso, k1, yo, sl1 k1 psso, yo, sl1 k2tog psso, yo, k2tog, yo,, k1, k2tog
- sl1 k1 psso, k2, yo, sl1 k2tog psso, yo, k2, k2tog
- sl1 k1 psso, k1, yo, sl1 k2tog psso, yo, k1, k2tog
- sl1 k1 psso, yo, sl1 k2tog psso, yo, k2tog
- sl1 k1 psso, k1, k2tog
- sl1 k2tog psso
Thread the yarn through the remaining stitches and draw closed on the wrong side, fasten off and weave in ends.
Block the hat over a dinner plate for best results.