A Beginner’s Guide to Lace Knitting
Lace knitting, with its fine, seemingly ethereal patterns of leaves, flowers, and more, must be one of the most beautiful forms of knitting. Although lace patterns can become very advanced, beginner knitters can start lace knitting as soon as they’ve added a few stitches to their repertoire of knit and purl.
In this article, we’ll show you what you need to start lace knitting, what stitches you need to learn, and also supply some easy patterns you can begin with.
Knitting needles, yarn, and notions needed for lace knitting
The good news is that you don’t need special knitting needles for knitting lace, you only need the correct size. So whether you prefer straight knitting needles or circular knitting needles doesn’t matter unless you’re working on a very large project and have to use circular knitting needles to make it manageable.
When it comes to yarn, you should always use the best yarn that you can. Soft, supple yarns – like KnitPal’s merino wool yarn – make for beautiful and striking lace items. You can start practicing your lace knitting with sock weight yarn (or even worsted weight) before moving on to the finer lace weight yarn.
By starting with heavier weight yarn, you’ll soon find that it’s easier to tell the different stitches apart than by beginning with lace weight yarn and a smaller needle size.
However, you should always use a larger needle size than the one specified on the ball band when knitting lace, or use the needle size specified on the pattern (even though it may seem too big). Lisa Gutierrez notes for example, that US size 6 (4mm) needles are perfect for lace, sock or fingering weight yarn.
Other notions to keep at hand when lace knitting, are:
- a stitch and row counter or two (you can also make use of one of the knitting apps )
- stitch markers
- sock weight yarn – or crochet cotton when knitting with lace weight yarn – in a contrasting color to use for your lifelines (we discuss lifelines down below)
- needle stoppers – the last thing you need is for your work of art to drop off the needles!
- A small crochet hook for picking up dropped stitches. The size crochet hook you’ll need for your yarn will also be on the yarn’s ball band
- Blocking mats, foam play mats, or towels for blocking
- Pins for blocking (you can also get blocking wires when you start working on large projects)
Lace knitting stitches
There are only a few extra stitches needed for lace knitting other than the normal knit and purl stitches. These stitches include various increases and decreases:
- yarn over (yo) – these yo stitches are what makes the “holes” in the knitted work. It’s the increase that is most commonly used in lace knitting.
- k2tog (knit 2 together) – this decrease makes a right-leaning decrease
- ssk (slip 2 stitches before knitting them as one) – this decrease makes a left-leaning decrease
- sl1,k2tog,psso (slip 1 stitch, knit the next 2 together, pass the slipped stitch over the stitches that was knitted together) – this is a “double” left-leaning decrease and is also used very often in knitted lace.
Although these may seem like very complicated stitches, you’ll soon see that they become second nature with some practice! Below you’ll find some simple lace patterns that you can use to practice with. You can even just make swatches of the lace patterns and don’t have to make a whole project.
The UK Knitting and Crochet Guild also notes the following abbreviations that are used in lace knitting patterns:
- rs – rows
- sts – stitches
- PEAR – pattern every alternate row
- DDR – delayed decreases along the row.
If you want to start lace knitting, you also have a very good reason to learn how to read knitting charts; as many lace patterns are only given in chart form.
It’s good to keep in mind that (usually) every even numbered row (for example 2,4,6,8,10, etc.) is based on purl stitches, while every uneven numbered row (1,3,5,7,9, etc.) is based on garter stitch.
To make it easy to rip out a specific number of rows if you make a mistake, add a lifeline in a contrasting color to your projects every few rows or after every lace pattern repeat. These lifelines are threaded through the stitches and not knitted as part of a row, making them very easy to remove after your project is completed.
Here is a video showing how lifelines can be added to your knitting:
Beginner lace knitting patterns
We’ve rounded up these beginner lace patterns – let us know which is your favorite and show us your handiwork on our Facebook group!