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)

pretty-thingWe 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.

  1. Nancy

    Hi Lisa,
    I’m so sorry to read about your stitch eating incident with “Pretty Thing”. Lace has taught me the hard way to use lifelines every so often and to never stop checking things off or counting stitches each row. I ‘m guessing there was a whole bunch unknitting, but bet you’re back on course already. Good luck!

    P.S. Finally recovering from the flu and pneumonia and finished weaving my bag fabric and got it off the loom. I’m in LOVE!

  2. Maven

    Thanks Nancy! Yes the pretty thing is done now, and should be up on my FO friday tomorrow. Indeed, the lifeline works well… i was just feeling a little bit too good for it or something (I figured I could manage a two line repeat haha!) Hope you are feeling better! I can’t believe the cespool of illness that was the final night of SOAR!
    Do you have pics of your bag? Send em!

  3. melistress

    Great post! I’ve done two of these now and really love them, but yes, lace requires rapt attention to detail. Usually when I end up with the wrong amount of stitches, I figure out where I missed the yarn over and do an increase by lifting the bar between stiches on the plain knit row. This tends to solve the problem.

  4. Maven

    unfortunately it had gone too far for yee old lift the bar yarnover trick (although a fabulous weapon for the arsenal!). You know how yarnovers are then made into regular stitches, and then, in this particular case eaten by the decreases? Ya, that’s how far it had gone. I tried for good 20 mins, but the mistake was too low, and the stitches to yoink out, too many :(

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