Reading Lace: Pretty Thing
It is through lace that I learn the most about knitting, and the most about myself. When I’m knitting lace it is very clear when I am awake and alert, when I am distracted or when I’m tired. I know this because I can read it in my lace. When I am anything but the former, basic knitting skills go down the toilet and in a matter of one row, or round as the case may be, I can completely ruin all the work I accomplished in the hour before that.
This is what happens. You are knitting along following the chart, row by row. You diligently check off each one with a little dot at the end of the row to say you did it and you’ve moved on. Then, after a while, you feel like you ‘have the pattern’. Like it’s somehow in your head and your hands will follow what is in your head. So you deviate from the row-by-row-check-off-plan (it is the timing of this action that is a sign of danger). Then suddenly you have way less stitches on the leftt side of the centre line than you do on the right. You stopped counting, so you don’t remember exactly how many you should have, but you know that the decreases should never end up eating the centre line, and well, they just did. Suddenly, you are paying very close attention to the chart. But unlike a benevolent god, the chart almost never forgives those who have trespassed… you know the story.
This is my story, sitting on Ali’s couch (the one who I hold entirely responsible for the fact that I write, that I teach knitting and sometimes the very fact that I continue knitting after moments like this. She doesn’t have a blog so I can’t link to her. She’s amazing though. Everyone should have an Ali.) Okay, on the couch I sit, lace in hand, chatting away and BAM decreases eating centre line. This is a two line pattern and one of those is a knit row so, it shouldn’t be this hard. I’m staring at it, can I even fix this? I know what the mistake is, I can see where it started, but working yarn overs that create stitches from the centre line and feed them to the hungry decreases backwards from 5 rows up? How I got to five rows above a mistake is beyond me…
Here’s how it works. Back there when I said this is the danger area? That is where one should insert “I can confidently read off of my lace even when chatting and thus feel that I can handle the added challenge of abandoning my lace chart even while holding a conversation.” THEN you jump ship, NEVER jump ship just because you (think you) can remember the pattern.
What I learned? (click to make larger)
We know, or at least pretend to, when knitting lace that the yarn overs ( or increases) and the decreases combine, along with plain knitting, to make the pretty holes and bumps and line patterns that we call lace. In a lace project that maintains the same number of stitches the whole way, such as in Pretty Thing, there must be an equal number of stitches being born, as there are stitches being eaten (or consumed as EZ says). The mistake I was making, was that I either go on autopilot and put in increases where they shouldn’t be (such as in between the decreases that are supposed to be one after another) or I forget to put them where they should be (such as beside the centre line). Once a person forgets one yarn over, then the stitch that that yarn over should be is missing, and another innocent stitch gets eaten instead. This can create a catastrophy.
The bottom line is that the knitter needs to figure out where all the stitches are being eaten, and thus make sure that there are enough being born each round to be eaten. Trust me, when I figure out how to fix a mistake way back in the lace without frogging, I’ll video it. But for now – lace knitting is mindfulness in action.