Sometimes questions don’t arise until a project is well underway. Today we’ve selected a few different queries that have come up for folks during the course of their lace knitting journey. Our hope is that today’s final Q&A post answers will be helpful no matter where you’re at in your own lace project.
Q: I’m not ready to knit from a chart quite yet, but I want to knit a garment that only has charted instructions. Is there a way to write out the charted instructions?
A: Once you learn how to read a chart, you can translate the chart into written instructions. The example chart below is written for a piece that is knit flat (there is a right side and a wrong side of the fabric). We’ve described how to read a chart here, but the important things to remember are that charts are read from the bottom row, up and from Right to Left on the odd numbered rows (RS of fabric) and Left to Right on the even numbered rows (WS of fabric). If you are working on a chart in the round, all rows are read from Right to Left.
Each box in a chart accounts for 1 stitch. If there is a stretch of the same kind of stitch/symbol (i.e. 3 knit stitches in a row) you’d want to write them as one step. For example: Knit 3 (K3) versus writing out each individual stitch (Knit 1, Knit 1, Knit 1). This will make your knitting much faster as you won’t have to read instructions for each individual stitch. When knitting lace, you will complete increases and decreases in the same row to create the decorative pattern but maintain the same stitch count. (One benefit of reading charts is that you can see how stitches align vertically row over row, which makes it easier to catch a misplaced decrease or yarn over.)
To translate the chart below, review the Legend to familiarize yourself with the symbols and start with Row 1.
These written instructions correspond to the chart above:
Row 1: YO, K3, SSK, K4, P1.
Row 2: K1, P9
Row 3: K2, YO, K3, SSK, K2, P1
Row 4: K1, P9
Row 5: K4, YO, K3, SSK, P1
Row 6: K1, P9
Q: In addition to picking up stitches at a regular interval between ridges, are there any tricks for making sure you pickup stitches evenly along a long row of knit edging, such as with Bridgewater?
A: A technique that makes it easier to ensure your stitches have been picked up evenly and that you have the correct amount of stitches when you’re done is to measure the length of the piece and place stitch markers at even intervals along the fabrics edge. The interval will depend on how many stitches you have to pickup. Generally, it’s a good idea to place a marker every 1-2 inches. Divide the total number of stitches you need to pickup by the number of sections you’ve created. When you start to pickup the stitches, do so at a rate that will allow you to pickup that number by the time you reach the next stitch marker.
Q: Is there a difference between nupps and bobbles?
A: There is! Nupps are an Estonian technique that forms a small bump in the knitted fabric which is made by knitting into the same stitch repeatedly with yarnovers between each knit. Five- or seven-stitch nupps are usual; you could go higher, but bear in mind that on the subsequent row the nupp is closed by purling all of those stitches together. (The trick is to make those knits and yarnovers very loose, really pulling the right needle tip back from the fabric.) There’s more than one way to make a bobble, and they can be stockinette or garter based, but most methods have you knit into the front and back of the same stitch several times to create four or five stitches out of one. Then you turn and work multiple rows back and forth on only the bobble stitches to create a little pouch of fabric before binding off the extra stitches to return to your original stitch count and carry on knitting the row.
Nupps sometimes need to be coaxed to the right side of the fabric and give a subtler effect than bobbles – especially as they’re traditionally worked as a decorative element for cobweb-weight lace shawls.
Q: Is there a way to even out my decreases?
A: Typically tension will have the biggest effect on how the decrease lays on the finished fabric. After completing the decrease, insert your needle into the next stitch and gently pull the working yarn to tighten the decrease. If you are experiencing this issue with a left leaning decrease, following our instructions for a modified SSK might help. To do so, Slip 1 stitch knitwise from L to R needle, replace stitch on L needle in new orientation then knit 2 stitches together through the back loops. Practicing the decreases on a swatch may also help you find the correct amount of tension before working on your garment. Also, keep in mind that knitting by hand can produce some imperfections and that’s quite alright — in fact, it’s part of the process and joy of making things by hand.
Q: How do you continue to pick up edge stitches if your blocking wire isn’t long enough?
A: Simply start picking up stitches with a new wire and you’ll be good to go! We recommend leaving at least a few inches of space on either end of your blocking wire in case you need to stretch out the fabric further while laying it out on the blocking mat. When pinning your wires to the blocking surface, be sure to place 1 or 2 pins at the point where two wires cross to keep them firmly in place.
Q: What type of surface should I block on? Where can I get the blocking board that BT uses?
A: Sadly the blocking boards that we use seem to no longer be in production, but there are many good alternatives available. The most frequently used product are called blocking mats. They are pieces of foam cut in a jigsaw formation that can be connected to accommodate the shape of your project. If the piece is very large, you can use your mattress or a clean carpeted floor. We’ve also heard of people using ironing boards for smaller projects.
If you knit a lot of hap, or pi shawls and like to build your own tools, you might consider making a stretching frame. These frames were traditionally used for blocking Shetland hap shawls. Kate Davies provides excellent instructions on how to make one at home on her blog.
Q: How do I weave in my ends invisibly in lace?
A: It’s best to leave long tails and weave in your ends after you have blocked your final piece. The best practice for lace is to weave in an end following the pattern as closely as you can on the wrong side of the fabric. Be sure to check your work on the right side frequently to make sure the yarn isn’t showing through the fabric. After the ends have been weaved in, gently stretch the fabric to ensure the woven in strand has the same tension as the knitted piece, and then cut the tail as close to the work as possible.
Q: I completed my first lace shawl and am feeling really confident, what’s a good second lace project?
A: After you have mastered the basics of lace knitting, you’ll have plenty of pattern choices available to you. Patterns that utilize multiple charts, or a larger repeat of a single chart, are a good option for a second lace pattern. We recommend Girasole, Quill and Ravine for your next project. You can also find our catalog of lace projects with an Intermediate skill level here.
Though our Summer of Lace KAL will soon be coming to an end, we continue to welcome questions about lace knitting at any time, feel free to also share with us what you’ve learned here in the comments. And don’t forget to share your projects with us on Ravelry and Instagram with #BrooklynTweedKAL and #BTLaceKAL17!