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Brewer Burns

Sunday, January 07, 2007

About Lace...

I really like working lace. I like making lace shawls and scarves (mini-clapotis, branching out, Ene's Scarf, Flower Basket Shawl,) I really like working lacy socks (Kew, Embossed Leaf, Falling Leaves, Simply Lovely Lace Socks, etc.) I just like putting lace into everything I make. i think it's because it keeps me from getting bored. Let's face it, knitting eight inches of stockinette in the round in worsted weight cotton yarn would be pretty fucking tedious. But working eight inches in a lotus blossom lace pattern in worsted weight cotton? Not tedious at all. The opposite of tedious, in fact. I like lace.

I also know that not everyone likes lace, and one of the reasons is that it's somewhat difficult to fix mistakes in lace, and there is great potential for mistakes. So, I thought I would talk a little about how I work lace and how I fix mistakes in lace. First, I don't use lifelines. When I was knitting my FBS I did put in a couple of lifelines along the way but I abandoned the effort pretty quickly. Stopping to thread sewing thread through all of the stitches on my needle was way too much of a pain in my ass. And it interrupted my flow. Unfortunately, I didn't actually figure out how to effectively fix mistakes in lace without tinking back until much later in my knitting development. The result is that my FBS has many, many mistakes because, instead of tinking back to fix mistakes, a lot of times I fudged the pattern on a later row instead. The good news is that a person would be hard pressed to actually find the mistakes in my shawl (because they would have to take it from me and then look at each individual flower basket motif to find them.) The bad news is that I know that they are there. This doesn't prevent me from wearing my FBS with pleasure, but still. I know that the mistakes are there.

Which brings me to my method. First and foremost: stitch markers are a must. Depending on the number and length of pattern repeats, I put a stitch marker at the end of each repeat, or I put them in every few repeats, at regular intervals. The value of doing so is that you will be able to tell if you are off at the end of each stitch marker interval. In other words, if you pay attention, you will catch most mistakes quickly, and be able to tink back and fix them immediately. That's my first line of defense: finding a mistake that I just made and tinking back to fix it.

However, as anyone who has ever knitted lace knows, you won't always catch all mistakes immediately. The mistake that I make most often and don't catch right away is forgetting to work a yarn over. That's because forgetting to work a yarn over will not cause you to be off when you get to the end of a pattern repeat. It won't actually effect your stitch count until the next row when you are a stitch short on that repeat. Therefore, this is the mistake that I have to fix on a subsequent row most often.

How do I do that? How do I fix a mistake that happened a row or two ago without tinking back and reknitting it correctly? Well, I'm glad you asked. First though, I have to say that you really need to be able to look at your knitting and tell what knitting maneuvers you have worked, even a couple of rows down. In other words, when you come to a place where you have too few or too many stitches you need to be able to look at the row before or two rows before (in the case of lace that is worked only on the right side of the fabric) and tell what stitches you worked, where your decreases are, what kind of decreases they are, where your increases or yarn overs are. This is how you tell what mistake you made. Once you have looked at your knitting and figured out what mistake you made then you knit up to the stitch or stitches where the mistake was made, and drop them down to the row where the mistake happened. Then you reknit the stitch correctly. So, for example. let's say that I have a six-stitch pattern repeat that goes like this: knit one, knit one, yarn over, double decrease, yarn over, knit one. Let's say that instead, I knit: knit one, knit one, yarn over, double decrease, knit one: omitting the second yarn over. Once I had figured out that I had omitted the second yarn over I would knit up to the last "knit one" and drop that stitch down to the row where I made the mistake. Then I would reknit, making a yarn over then a knit stitch using the yarn that originally made only a knit stitch, then knitting back up to the current row. The mistake is then fixed and you can keep going.

This method is not perfect in that you can end up with places that are a little tight or a little loose, but this is usually corrected when the piece is blocked.

The main thing to remember with lace, I think, is to pay attention. You could use the above method to fix a mistake many rows back, but in lace, since one row generally builds on another, it gets trickier the farther back a mistake is. This is a good thing to remember since most mistakes can be caught early on and fixed, thereby avoiding that problem.


At 9:45 PM, Blogger Marvie said...

I read somewhere that you can thread dental floss into the tiny hole in your circs and knit away, at the end of the row, you have a lifeline. No sewing required, and only a few seconds of time taken. (I haven't tried this yet, because lace scares the crap out of me still, but I filed it just in case I ever needed it)

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Glaistig said...

This is fascinating. I haven't knit much lace, in part because of the reason you mention -- the seeming difficulty of fixing errors. I'm a great believer in stitch markers. (I also do lifelines at crucial junctions, i.e., where increases start, etc.) I must google Marvie's tip.

Vis-a-vis your comments on remembering the mistakes in one's lace knitting and your FBS, I think knitting can bring out the OCD/compulsive thinker in a knitter. I remember you posting about a single erroneous stitch in a sweater you knit for your husband and thinking "Gosh." Now, thanks to that post, I think about the sleeve error in my Forecast. Yeah, thanks a lot!! [ :) wink]


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