It’s been great fun seeing everyone’s KAL progress so far! We are excited to answer some common questions that have been asked about lace knitting. There will be another lace knitting Q&A blog post on August 4th, so be sure to keep your questions coming in the Ravelry Forum and in the comments section of our blog.
Q: Which part of my lace pattern should I swatch?
A: Some patterns don’t include gauge recommendations for a charted portion of a lace project. This is usually because lace can be very fluid and can stretch quite a bit when blocked, making gauge neither precise nor necessary for the success of a project. That said, making a swatch before casting on is a good opportunity to become familiar with the lace motifs in your chosen pattern before you have to keep track of them over (potentially) hundreds of stitches. We recommend knitting a few repeats from each chart, or, if not a pattern repeat, choosing a portion of the chart that you feel the least comfortable knitting. To determine how many stitches you should cast on for your swatch, check the gauge (if listed) and cast on more than the recommended stitches over 4″ that is a multiple of the stitch pattern repeat, plus a few extra on the sides for a stabilizing border. If gauge is not listed, cast on an approximate number of stitches that will allow you to work the pattern repeat (or your selected portion of the chart) enough times to yield a swatch of approximately 4″ in width, plus extra stitches for the stabilizing side borders. After knitting a few border stitches, you could then work directly from the repeated section of the lace chart, ending your row with additional border stitches.
Q: Is it possible to increase or decrease the size of a lace project? Can I just repeat the charts?
A: Yes, it is possible to change the finished size of a lace project, and there are a couple of ways to do it based on the shape and charts used within the pattern you’re working from. If the pattern is a rectangle, like Wool Leaves or Umaro, you can simply add or subtract repeats based on the number of stitches in the chart repeat. Patterns that are crescent-shaped, circular or triangular, for example, can be easily changed by adjusting gauge. You can do this either by using a different needle size or using a different weight of yarn. Be sure to knit a swatch to ensure you like the new fabric and to calculate the new yardage requirements you’ll need to finish your project!
Q: Will my lace project be the same size if I substitute laceweight yarn for fingering weight yarn?
A: Lace patterns, particularly those with a lot of openwork, are very adaptable during the blocking process so substituting yarn can produce a fabric that is similar in size to the original. Knitting a gauge swatch in the different weight of yarn is the best way to ensure the possibility of a close match in finished size.
Do note, however, that the finished fabric will look different if the yarn weight is adjusted. Laceweight fabric will be airier and less substantial than the same shawl worked in fingering weight yarn on needles of the same size, and fingering weight fabric will likely have less drape.
Q: Is there a way to keep track of where I’m at in a row without having to count so much?
A: You can use stitch markers to mark the beginning and end of repeats in most patterns. To account for the increase and decreases in a lace pattern, however, it may be the case that the stitch marker needs to be either adjusted every round or you’ll just need to remember that there may be an additional stitch in the repeat before or after the set stitch marker.
Learning how to read your knitting can also be very helpful when it comes to keeping track of where you’re at while knitting lace. An easy way to do it is to locate reference points in your knitting. For example, when looking at your chart try matching the YOs in the previous row in relation to where you are placing YOs in your current row of knitting.
Q: Are chart symbols the same for every pattern?
Designers use many different programs and their own systems to create charts, and they may have different preferences for symbols that are more or less detailed in representing exactly what’s happening to the stitches. Carefully reading the key for your chart is critical. Make sure to refer to the specific chart legend in your pattern to ensure that you’re performing the correct techniques for the given symbols.
Q: How important is gauge for something like a lace shawl?
A: Unlike garments, lace shawls aren’t fitted so matching the exact gauge listed in the pattern isn’t necessary for the success of your project. Typically the gauge listed for lace is more of a suggestion versus other types of garments. If you want your finished piece to match the dimensions listed in a schematic, then knitting a swatch and blocking it is the best way to know if you will reach the target size and shape.
If you’re new to lace shawl knitting, it would be safe to err on the side of swatching to ensure that you will enjoy the fabric you’re about to create. Once you’re more comfortable with knitting lace shawls, you might find that getting exact gauge is of less importance to you.
Q: I need to join a new ball of yarn in the middle of my lace pattern, how can I do this without making an obvious knot?
A: If you find yourself needing to join your new ball of yarn in the middle of a row, felt splicing works great for 100% wool yarns. The Russian Join technique, a staff favorite, is another way to join yarn without making a knot and allows a clean edge for the picking up of stitches for the next section of the piece. If you have enough yarn to finish your row, you could also join the new ball of yarn at the beginning of the next row and weave in the loose ends after blocking.
Q: How do you work a yarnover at the beginning of a row?
A: If your first stitch is a knit stitch, simply bring the working yarn to the front, as if to purl. When you knit the first stitch, the yarn will have traveled over the needle and formed a yarnover. If your first stitch is a purl stitch, begin with the yarn in back, as if to knit. This technique is used in patterns such as Brora and Rock Island and allows a clean edge for the picking up of stitches for the addition of a border.
We hope you’ve found this Q&A segment helpful! Please keep sharing your projects with us using #BTLaceKAL17 and #BrooklynTweedKAL. You can read more about the BT Lace KAL here.