Do not tell Interweave I posted today. I'm supposed to be finishing the essays for the little book. But I had to show you how the center of the Wedding Ring Shawl is turning out, even if it means getting locked into the cupboard under the stairs again with nothing but my laptop and a pile of Clif Bars. (Mmmmm. Clif Bars.)
Reader Emma rightly pointed out in the comments that I miscounted the depth of the shawl's border–132 rows, not 63. Given that, I'm afraid finishing by next Tuesday is out of the question. It's going to take until Thursday, at least.
Reader Laura Sue said she's fascinated with lace but having trouble getting the hang of it. I hear you, darling. My first attempt at lace was Knitty's pretty Branching Out scarf by Susan Pierce Lawrence, which many folks say was their gateway project. Me, I tried it three times and wound up bleeding from both ears.
Ultimately I realized I needed to start with something even easier than Branching Out - a pattern with smaller repeats and a little less going on in each row. My advice? Try a lace sampler. That's what I did.
After two introductory classes at Stitches Midwest, I sat down with some fingering-weight yarn, figured out how many stitches I'd need to repeat a simple motif* a few times with a garter stitch border on either side, and started knitting. When I felt I'd mastered the motif, or got bored with it, I started a new one.
Sometimes that means adding or removing stitches to make the count work properly. No problem–just do a little easy math, and put your increases or decreases evenly into a few rows of plain knitting between each section. (By the way, building a facility for that sort of calculation was good for me–it's made me a much stronger knitter on all sorts of projects.)
After about six patterns I felt confident enough to tackle a "real" project. I was terribly proud of having figured out such an effective training tool, until I learned that of course lace knitters had already been doing the same thing for centuries. I don't know if it's true that there's nothing new under the sun, but there sure ain't anything new on the needles. (Except Cat Bordhi's needles. Cat Bordhi is the exception to everything.)
After you cast off the sampler, block it–an important skill to practice. You'll have either a mat, a doily, a scarf, or a table runner, depending on how fast you knit and how carried away you got.
If you can't sit down with an experienced lace knitter for a lesson, the most comprehensive source of free instruction I can think of is Eunny Jang's excellent series of blog articles, which begins here. Marilyn (aka the Knitting Curmudgeon) also has a concise and informative tip sheet in the "Free Shit" section of her sidebar.
Okay, I have to go write now. But this has been fun. Let's do it again. And remember, not a word to my editor or I will be so mad and you will not be invited to my slumber party.
*My favorite source of motifs of all kinds is the classic series of books by Barbara Walker. If you hunt around, you can also find an avalanche of free patterns online.
STOP! WAIT! BREAKING LACE NEWS! The lace book I've been waiting for more than any other is open for pre-orders. Nancy Bush on Estonian Lace. I have goosebumps. Or maybe they're nupps.