As I’ve grown on my knitting journey, I’ve noticed common themes whenever the subject of lace knitting comes up. There is usually a collective sigh over a particularly gorgeous and intricate pattern, a kind of wistfulness on the part of the knitters who are admiring it. And then from the experienced lace knitters showing off a piece, or a designer debuting a new pattern, there is an easy confidence. That despite all evidence to the contrary of their stunning finish, lace isn’t really all that big a deal. No, really!
For a long time as a new knitter I sat in wonder and awe of lace, something I had in common with other non-lace-knitting folk. We found the idea of knitting lace daunting, complicated, and just plain scary. And not just knitting lace, but laceweight yarn itself. It’s so dainty! What if I snapped it, or worse, the needles just FELL OUT?!
With plenty of determination and perseverance though, I made it through. I still don’t know that I would consider myself a lace knitter, but I’m much more comfortable muddling through now. It’s not nearly as big a deal as I would have made of it even five years ago. So how did I get around the intimidation factor?
There were a few things:
Listen to the voice of experience from those who have come before you.
You’re not the first person to have ever learned how to knit lace and you won’t be the last. Listen to the tips or suggestions that experienced lace knitters pass on. Use what you think will work for you and don’t worry about the rest.
Start big and work down down from there (yarn weight wise).
It took me a looong time to realize that you could do lace knitting with yarn that wasn’t laceweight. And in fact, that it was often easier! Try using a slightly thicker yarn such as 4ply/ fingering weight yarn for your first project. Or go bonkers and use a thicker yarn like worsted or bulky for a super snuggly project. Who knows, you might even discover that you enjoy changing up the scale.
Find a lace designer who is newbie friendly.
We know that not all patterns are created equal. Sometimes a pattern might assume you have a certain level of experience or know certain things, and that’s great if you do. But if you don’t have to spend time figuring out what you don’t know when you first download a pattern, that’s even better.
Many lace designers have friendly, approachable instructions to guide you gently through the project. My favourites that I started with were Boo Knits, who incidentally is self-taught, and Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade. Bev of Boo Knits even has some of her patterns tagged as“Beginner Boos”to make it easier for people to find something to dip their toe in the water. Boo designed the gorgeous Mimosa shawl for us using our Merino Silk Fine and it’s so pretty and quick. Helen’s patterns are broken down in to easy-to-follow written instructions and she creates a handy ‘Percentage System’ for each so that you always know exactly how far along you are in your project.
Lifelines + stitch markers = success
Remember I said listen to the voice of experience? Many a knitter told me about using lifelines or sectioning each repeat in the pattern with a stitch marker. But it wasn’t until I actually started doing it that I started to see results. (Let’s not talk about how many times I tried to knit Ysolda’s Isbel before I started using these tricks!). It also made it easier to learn how to “read” my knitting, and isolate mistakes when they happened. As my confidence grew, I was less intimidated to try something that looked more complicated, culminating in my biggest lace finish, a shawl in honour of a dear friend’s wedding.
Practice makes perfect
Much as we might wish for it to be smooth sailing all the time, and to just jump into the deep end of super complicated lace shawls and projects, practice is definitely key. Before taking the leap, try smaller projects like a hat or decorative edge on a larger project. Or try a project that completes everything in tiny chunks, like our Winter Dawn shawl by Tabetha Hedrick.
Knitting isn’t a race, and lace knitting definitely shouldn’t be! Take your time, and you’ll get there. &