Beginner's Guide to Knit Lace
by Laura Bain
It seems that many novice knitters balk at knitting lace, but I'm here to tell you that knitting lace does not have to be complicated or cumbersome! Don't get me wrong, some lace patterns are very complex, but new knitters can build their confidence and experience by starting with a few simple lace stitches and then move on to more complicated patterns.
Lace knitting stitches are just a series of increase and decrease stitches that form lovely patterns from the very basic to the most delicate and detailed. Lace patterns can be worked in any weight of yarn, although it is easiest to work them in weights of 5-bulky and smaller.
Here are a few free lace patterns from redheart.com.
Knit in Soft Essentials
Knit in Soft
Knit in Unforgettable
Knitting Lace: Start with the Basics.
The most basic type of lace that can be created requires the knowledge of only 4 basic knitting stitches: knit, purl, yarn over (yo), and knit two together (k2tog). This pattern requires only 4 rows and, as they are very simple, they are easy to commit to memory (or visually determine which row comes next).
In the pictured swatch, I have used Red Heart With Love in Jadeite and size 9 needles. I have cast on 26 stitches for the demonstration swatch, but if you want to create a larger or smaller swatch, you can cast on any multiple of three plus two stitches. My swatch is 8 x 3 + 2 = 26.
Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Purl
Row 3: K2, *yo, k2tog, k1, repeat from * to end of row
Row 4: Purl
Continue working rows 1-4 as many times as you wish.
See! That was easy, right?!?
The second swatch to try is going to use just two additional techniques: slipping a stitch and passing the slipped stitch over (psso). Slipping a stitch is as easy as it sounds, you move the stitch on the left hand needle over to the right hand needle. For this pattern you will slip as if you were going to purl (put right hand needle into the loop from the top of the stitch). I always default to slipping as if to purl unless otherwise noted.
The second technique, passing the slipped stitch over, sounds like much more work than it is. Simply pull the slipped stitch over the knitted stitch and off the right hand needle (this is a way to decrease the number of stitches). It is the same motion you use when you are binding off.
In this pictured swatch, I have again used Red Heart With Love in Jadeite and size 9 needles. I have cast on 29 stitches for the demonstration swatch, but if you want to create a larger or smaller swatch, you can cast on any multiple of two plus one stitch. My swatch is 14 x 2 + 1 = 29.
Ridges Lace Stitch
Rows 1 - 3: Purl
Row 4: K1, *yo, slip one st, psso, repeat from * across
Rows 5 - 7: Purl
Row 8: K1, *yo, k2tog, repeat from * across
Let's really take a look at row 4. Here is what your needle will look like after you have knitted one, done the yarn over and slipped one stitch:
Now you will knit the next stitch:
Next is the psso (pass slipped stitch over). Using your left hand needle (or your fingers) grab the slipped stitch:
Now take it all the way off of the right hand needle (in the image below my finger is at the slipped stitch that is no longer on the right hand needle):
After you have completed several repeats of the pattern it will look like the image below.
I have picked this ridges lace pattern because it requires a bit more counting and memory to follow all 8 rows, but it is still easy to remember and easy to find your place when you put your work down. I would suggest working this pattern until you are very comfortable with it and then moving on to another slightly more advanced lace pattern like the Covet this Lacy Cowl pattern.
While you are learning to knit lace you may feel more comfortable marking each of your repeated patterns with stitch counters. Another tip to keeping yourself on track is to make use of a lifeline, perhaps after each set of rows has been completed successfully. A lifeline is just a piece of scrap yarn the width of your work. Using a yarn needle and working between the yarn loops and knitting needle, catch each stitch; leave the scrap yarn hanging out of your work. With the life line in place, you should never need to unravel (or frog) your work below that life line, no matter how much you mess up above it.
As you start to explore lace patterns you will notice that many of them include both written directions for each row as well as a chart to follow. For more information on following charts head to my post entitled Guide to Reading Knitting Stitch Charts
Here are some more fun and simple patterns to strengthen your lace knitting skill set.