Monday, May 10, 2010

Lace Knitting: What I Have Learned

Chana's shawl I

This year is turning into the Year of Lace Knitting for me. Although I'd knitted lace or patterns with lace motifs in the past, I've never before knitted so much lace and so many lacy items.
So far this year I learned the following:

1) triangular shawls (Shetland Triangles lace shawls and Swallowtail shawl)
I learned that these are easier than they look and loads of fun to knit.

2) beaded lace knitting (Shetland Triangles lace and Evenstar shawls)
I learned not to use size 8/0 beads with fingering weight yarn, unless I want to spend more time repairing lace than knitting lace. I also learned that spending ~$10 on a set of steel crochet hooks was both a time and money saver,and that size 7 hooks work well with 6/0 beads, and size 10 is the go-to size for 8/0 beads. And I learned that a little half-cup Rubbermaid container makes a handy place to keep my beads at the ready for loading the crochet hook, without worrying about spilling all 3000 of them at once. I put a few on the grooved lid; the most I might lose are those few beads.

3) circular or pi shawl (Evenstar shawl)
I learned I hate all the circular cast-ons, and that the world will not come to an end if I just cast on, do the first increase rows back and forth, then join and start the magic loop technique. I also learned I can darn the beginning pretty near invisibly with the cast on tail. As well I learned that counting stitches between markers every RS row saves a lot of tinking.

4) adding a lace edging perpendicular to the direction of the body of the shawl (Evenstar shawl)
For years I could not wrap my mind around how to do this. Making Evenstar forced me to master how to do it. To add a lace edging or border, one needs to start with a provisional cast on (PCO) using waste yarn. The 2 most popular methods used for PCO are a crocheted PCO (wherein one knits into the crocheted bumps with the main yarn; the crocheted chain is unzipped when the cast on stitches need to be revealed and made live) and an "open" PCO (sort of twisting the main yarn around the waste yarn plus needle). I wondered if one couldn't just start by casting on and knitting a couple of rows with waste yarn, then switching to main yarn. I've had practice picking out cast on rows before. Use a light-colored smooth waste yarn and slightly loose tension and it should should be fine. Well Techknitter beat me to it; she even has a name it: the COWYAK method. COWYAK = cast on with waste yarn and knit. Check the link to her site and see how wonderfully logical it is.

Evenstar Clue 7 I
And see how it looks here (I used white cotton yarn for the cast-on, then knit a row in Zephyr before starting the lace pattern; the beading begins on row 2 of this particular pattern). When the edging is done, I'll carefully undo the white yarn, stitch by stitch, back onto a DPN; since it's only 16 stitches I don't think it'll be that difficult. Stay tuned!

And I learned that it's not heresy to cut the yarn from the body before casting on for the edging; after all, what would you do if you were making edging in a contrasting color? In my case, I needed to do it in order to cast on (I was having trouble). Then I noticed I didn't have enough Zephyr wound off the cone for the edging. Bigger pain to deal with adding more Zephyr in the middle of a beading edging. So I wound another few ounces and forged ahead. Someone on Ravelry said a propos of this very pattern "It's a pattern, not a law." I agree. There's often more than one way to achieve a goal in knitting, and life, I find. When the ends are woven in, only a very nosy Nellie looking on the wrong side will be able to see that I cut and rejoined.

5) Most important thing I learned is to start the perpendicular edging on the first stitch of the round. Ask me how I know this is so very important. OK, I'll tell you: because when I tried it on the last stitch of the round, I knitted a beautiful beaded edging facing the wrong side of the shawl. I was lucky I caught it after only part of 1 of 56 repeats of the edging. That's a mistake I hope never to make again.


Donna Lee said...

And I learned that beading is not nearly as difficult as I thought, just time consuming.

This is not my first knitted on edging but I had to relearn the technique. I don't like circular cast ons either but felt proud to have conquered one.

I learned (again) that knitters are the most helpful, supportive group on earth.
(and I had to cut mine, too. Actually, it broke and I had to knot it where the edging starts). I'm hoping that no one can see it.

Experimental Knitter said...

Since the circular shawl will be worn folded over, I'll bet no one will see where either of us joined the edging.