Thursday, May 08, 2008

Lace Quickie

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.)

Row Twentysomething of the Center

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.

54 comments:

MIchelleinCO said...

I promise not to say a word. I am ALL about the slumber party! Thanks for the notes today on lace, someday soon I will join that parade!

Candice said...

This is EXACTLY what I've needed to get me started with lace. I've been collecting some beautiful lace weight yarns but these skeins have become little terrorists in my stash because they want attention and I've been too scared to give lace knitting a go.

Thanks, Franklin!

Imbrium said...

When I was getting started with lace, I made a whole boatload of lacy bookmarks in crochet cotton. There are a ton of free patterns online, they're small, manageable projects, and they actually produce something useful in the end.

Ann said...

Thanks for this post! I'm forwarding it to the folks in my lace knitting class!

Roxie said...

Oh, I'm no fun at slumber parties anyway. I fall asleep too early. But I won't say a word. Promise!

Cindy said...

Thank you thank you for sneaking away and give us courage to attempt lace! Maybe I can whip up some lace PJs for the wild slumber party. Don't tell Delores either or she will want some too. Cheers

sloth-knits said...

The shawl looks gorgeous so far! If I promise not to tell anyone about you blogging, can I start the pillow fight at the sleepover? :)

Delaine said...

Franklin -love the lace, even if it is RED! Dolores might get all the Michigan delegates if I keep wearing her campaign shirt! I would LOVE to also have the 'it itches' and 'Sassy Dolores' but I want them in the plus black (or any other color, except red) v-neck style. Cafe Press said I need to ask YOU...so here I ask. Hope all is well - Delaine

Judith said...

Another gentle introduction to lace is the Seaman's scarves in Myrna Stahman's book. The lace patterns in there are usually fairly simple, have patterning only on the right side, and you end up with a very nice finished scarf when you're done. That was my gateway drug, er, project.

Rhonda the Stitchingnut said...

Thanks for the heads up. I've pre-order my copy. I just finished the Mystic Light shawl and it was my 2nd lace piece. (my 1st was the Mystery Stole) I just love both of 'em!

domesticshorthair said...

I am sooo sorry you mentioned that Nancy Bush book. I guess I saw it coming, because I remember she mentioned it at a workshop I went to about 2 years ago. What a dangerous combination for me: Nancy Bush and lace.

Nice work on your shawl; love the color.

Rooie said...

If you are breaking out in nupps, I hear they have some very effective medicine for them now.

You know, everyone talks about Branching Out as a good first lace project, but I've never heard of anyone who didn't have trouble with it. I've knit it twice (once in cashmere...yum) and both times involved lots of cursing and ripping for about the first half of the scarf. It's fiendish.

And now I want to do a sampler lace scarf.

Love the red!

chemgrrl said...

I'm totally sending Eunny an email RIGHT NOW. No fun! Work! Must work!

I think I screwed up Branching Out when I first attempted it, too. Then, several months later, I had my wisdom teeth out and was all hopped up on painkillers. I decided that then would be a *really* good time to learn to knit lace, so I made a Shetland Triangle. No mistakes. I guess it just takes drugs, sometimes.

anne marie in philly said...

I can imagine a slumber party at your apt. - all of us in pink jammies, I will bring wine and tastykakes, dolores will get out of hand and the cops will have to be called, harry will be hiding under the bed...good times!

now back to work!

tricotchick said...

So beautiful.

Maybe you wrote the wrong book.

Kris said...

Love the lace!

My son saw this on the laptop and for a quick second thought it was the Transformers symbol.

Deborah said...

I wouldn't say a word! I have pre-ordered you, nancy bush & yarn harlot. I am inspired enough with this post to try lace again! Thank you. I am a lefty and all my teachers are righty's, try learning lace backwards!

Kristen said...

Looks wonderful! I hope you are back to unnerving conservatives on the train again. I may actually dig out some of my laceweight...

Joan said...

Who would be dumb enough to rat you out? Talk about shooting oneself in the foot!

You surprise the laugh right out of me. I now know better than to eat or drink while reading your blog!

Inghild said...

Thank you for this post, I found it sooo inspiring..! Keep us showing us progress of your red lace.

Slumber party - can't find it in my glossary - but it sounds interesting. Anything for a Norwegian do you think?

Carrie said...

I am not sure it is apporpriate to provide the info here so I will wait for an ok, but I am actually teaching a free lace seminar - complete with an orignial (simple) lace scarf pattern on June 7th out in the far western suburbs of Chicago.
Franklin - or anyone else for that matter, you can email me at cmplachta at ameritech dot net and I would be happy to give you the info.

FYI - I have been known to bring wine or Mojitos to the classes and seminars I teach and I like to share. I'm just sayin'!!

Anonymous said...

What a timely post for me! Thanks! I've been wanting to try lace and not knowing how to get started. I know jumping into a shawl or scarf isn't going to do it. I promise not to alert the magazine folk to your subversive posting activities. :O) I'm new here! Slumber party!? Sounds great! samm

Melissa said...

I kind of backed my way into lace by starting with "moose lace" - the Vogue Yoga Wrap and Aran yarn. Then I did a mitered lace shawl with DK weight and a Hemlock Ring with Peace Fleece worsted. Then some fingering projects - Fleece Artist Sea Vines Vest and a Swallowtail Shawl from Sea Silk...which I have hardly taken off since I finished it. I just love this pattern, nupps and all!

So my next project will probably be Bee Fields with merino laceweight...but I will not bring it to the slumber party.

susan said...

Oh, dear. Sorry to hear I was responsible for the auricular hemorrhage.

PICAdrienne said...

How can you be expected to write about knitting without a knitting break? Good grief! Still, I will never tell.

Ted said...

What yarn are you using for the Wedding Ring? I think you've only ever identified it as "red laceweight".

Anonymous said...

I love your lace...and I am a Valentine. Judy Valentine to be exact. I don't suppose you will send it to me when finished? Ah, I thought not...but the pictures are enough to make me want to make one. Thanks for your ever thoughtful and sometime hilarious blog.

kmkat said...

Yeah, count me in the Screwed Up The Branching Out Scarf bunch, too. Every time I consider knitting lace, I think about trying that pattern, then decide no. Your lace sampler sounds like a good idea, and I already have the first three BW books. Yep, one of these days...

Lee Ann said...

Along the lines of your chick lit fest, I think you should knit yourself a fascinator.

What? Haven't you always wanted a fascinator? No?

Ah, well.

(Your word verification at the moment is a very vulgar phrase in British English. No, I'm not telling you what it is. It wouldn't be ladylike, and you might screw up a repeat, which will not do.)

Anonymous said...

My ears didn't bleed, but my commentary might have cause some designers ears to burn..... I tried Icarus, Branching out and Swallowtail. Not once. MANY times. But each time I frogged I had learned something new. Now I have half an Icarus, about 1/4 of Swallowtail and Branching out is waiting in the wings. Something just finally clicked in my head and lace isn't scary any more.

However, there are some bloggers posting obscene pictures of lace creations that are causing me great mental torment - an invitation to the slumber party might ease some of that. I'll bring the lavender sheets.

Judi

knitabulous said...

You're so right.

Apart from the issue of scale, I had less trouble with the sampler stole from a Gathering of Lace than I did with Branching Out.

Branching Out is a lovely scarf, but the pattern doesn't 'flow' so intuitively as the repetitive motifs of other lace. I;ve often said that I didn't think it's such a good starter lace project. But I don't have a chain-smoking romney sheep living with me either, so what would I know?

Glad you pointed it out though.

Penny said...

be still my heart. thank you for sharing this lace and the Nancy Bush BOOK! i love you franklin, promise i won't tell Interweave if you don't tell my husband I commented (i'm supposed to be editing a Paper-from-hell of my own).

regarding branching out. i knit two swallowtails as my first foray into lace. (the first for my mother-in-law.. in retrospect i'm not sure it was a good idea, but it was reciprocated with a swift and ball winder so it must not have been too bad; mum got the second)

then i tried to knit branching out for the penguin, picky thing that she is wanting that popular pattern. i couldn't do it. i *hated* it. she got a scarf with random YO's thrown in so i didn't die of garter stitch boredom.

rosesmama said...

I have been known to do things out of order. One day, soon after last years MSW and an impulse buy of a lovely handdyed laceweight, I started knitting a Swallowtail for a friend whose eyes matched the yarn. This involved some very involved lace surgery, because, in my naivete, I decided it was Not To Be Ripped Back. Thus, I learned much about How Lace Works and When It Can Be Fudged. The girl loved the look of the thing and begged for a shawl of her own. Several months later, I used Wisp from Knitty as a guide and made a lace sampler for her for Christmas, substituting a different tiny motif from BW 1 & 2 for each section. A more modest effort and a great success. Now I have several planned projects but still Too Much Laceweight To Be Knit In This Lifetime, and I am only middleaged.

I haven't yet thanked you for being so kind to the girl in Kennett Square. She had been practicing doing twenty two stitches for a while so she wouldn't make any mistakes, so I knew if I knit, she would have to knit, too. We had other committments in the morning so she came with her methodical seriousness at the end of a very long day for you. She has been telling many folks, "I can knit, I even knit for Franklin!" Thank you.

Bobbi said...

hmmm, bribery....you mentioned math, I can mention bribery!

Hedgehog Librarian said...

Especially the Peanut Butter Clif Bars....those are the very best most wonderful ones.

Yummmmmmm

Barca Viola said...

OH, a slumber party! Now I won't tell! My DH hatched the idea of "adult sleepovers" a few years ago. It was really nice not to have to hope your guests cleared out while they were awake enough to drive and you were awake enough to avoid drowning in your after-dinner decafe. relaxing.

During the slumber party, before the 4AM blurred vision point, we'll plan your next book. The one on lace.

Gerrie in St Paul

NeedleDancer said...

I'll keep mum if you'll agree to judge for the Seasons of Lace Summer of Lace photo competition...

pretty please>>>>>

grovel grovel...

Captain said...

You have nupps, huh? Well, I have caramel popcorns.

Please make Lee Ann tell us what the naughty word was.

Thank you for explaining your décor.

Anonymous said...

My lips are sealed. Great lace knitting advice, BTW. Any chance you will be updating your WWKIP day items to show this year's date? I'd love a tote.

Have a great day, Franklin -- Lin

Bronchitkat said...

Ne day I'm gonna try lace, in proper laceweight yarn, always assuming I can find some over here.

But right now I gotta knock out some ammo for Sock Wars III.

Otherwise I'm keeping mum, may I come to the pj party too? I'll bring real English tea!

VA said...

I'm jealous. Your mom's got great wit. AND she knits.

I wonder what a holiday around the family table is like...knitting, laughing, fabulous food, adorable babies...Is it at all like Norman Rockwell with a twist of lime?

FiberQat said...

They let you have a laptop? Mine would only give me a lump of coal and an old box. Lots of Clif bars tho they're gritty with coal dust.

I'll bring the Pepsi and Doritos. Can't have a slumber party without Doritos. And not in those funky flavors. Nacho cheese all the way! We'll have to talk about a wedding shawl in red yarn. There's got to be a story there sistah!

irene said...

I agree with picadrienne -- assuming your essays are supposed to be knitting related, you _have_ to do some knitting in order for your brain to be in the right place.

Another simple gateway lace project are socks with a lace pattern. Sensational Knitted Socks and More Sensational Knitted Socks have several each.

Jo Anne W-M said...

I just got Evelyn Clark's booklet Knitting Lace Triangles to help me get started with lace.

tracey in michigan said...

if they do that to you again... call me.. I'll send you cookies. Sheesh. clif bars... we can to better than that...

WHole wheat oatmeal chocolate chip with ground flax seed... how bout that for sustenance?

Monika said...

I just read your entry from 2005, when you took Nancy's class on Estonian Lace knitting. I've also pre-ordered the book ,and it's your fault! ;o)

WIP said...

Here's my long-winded philosophy on doing lace knitting.

If you look at its "first principles", lace knitting is really simple:

It's Just Regular Knitting With Holes In It.

Strategically placed holes, yes, but holes all the same. If you can knit, purl, cast on, cast off, and wrap string around a stick (aka the 'yarn over'), you have the knitting skills you need to do lace.

There are two things about the *execution* of lace knitting, however, that I think are what frustrate people the most.

Firstly: because the holes are what make the visual pattern, they (and all the other kinds of stitches around them) have to be in exactly the right place, or the lace visual gets screwed up in a really obvious way. What this means is that you must avoid pattern mistakes.

This is extremely difficult if not impossible, since as humans we re inherently imperfect and we make mistakes all the damn time.

Which brings us to the second difficulty: undoing your errors. The yarn overs (the holes) make tinking, frogging, and reading your knitting more challenging than with regular knitting.

However, IT CAN BE DONE! "Challenging" does not in any way mean "impossible". Practice and experience are key to "getting it". In fact, the bigger the screwup, the more profound the learning experience if you soldier on to erase the error and find the correct solution. A good friend that you can rely on to talk you down from the ledge during the correction process is also handy to have...particularly if they have experience with lace knitting themselves.

DON'T BE AFRAID OF LACE, PEOPLE!

Just don't try to do it in a distraction-riddled environment.

Anonymous said...

what's a clif bar? does it have lots of calories and chocolate (my kind of sustenance)...

(from an ignoramus...or whatever the feminie version of that is--ignorama?...in the UK)

Laura Sue said...

My! Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful response to my flusterations with lace. I, too, started with Branching Out. I started 3 times, finally finished; but several leaves have yo's where no yo's were meant to be. I love the sampler idea and I have B Walker's book. This will be fun!

Thank you, also, to all the wonderful comments! Wip, I appreciate the reality check. Mistakes are no small thing in lace, but they are inevitable. Get over it! LOL! So, it's a commitmentto a lifeline, I suppose!

Bonnita Belvedere said...

Ooo Ooo! I love slumber parties! Count me in and I'll bring my Partridge Family albums.

riaknits said...

For what it's worth, my very first place project was a scarf with a very simple pattern:
R1: K2, *yo, k2tog*, repeat **, k2
R2: K2, p to last 2 sts, K2

Simple as anything, and it turned out quite nice. Good and simple to get one in the mindset of increasing and decreasing constantly, before moving on to more complicated things.

And now, of course, I'm hooked on lace knitting!

Anonymous said...
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trickytricot said...

Mmmmmmmm.... Gooose bumps.... Estonian lace does that for me too... and other delights of course...

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