I love the look of knitted lace but it looks so hard to do! Any tips?

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“I love the look of knitted lace but it looks so hard to do! Any tips?”

–Natalie T.

Knitted lace stitch patterns are largely comprised of basic knit/purl stitches, yarn over increases, and directional decreases. The number of increases will be balanced by an equal number of decreases often (but not always) in the same row. Lace can vary between complex arrangements requiring great skill to simple eyelet patterns for beginners. Let’s explore a few tips and tricks for that will help you make your next lace project a success.

Selecting yarn

Lace is typically worked on fine yarns – CYCA numbers 0 to 3. However, open work stitch patterns are not limited to the low end of the yarn weight scale. Mid-weight to bulky weight yarns paired with relatively large needles can produce beautiful lace projects. Choose natural animal or plant fibers like wool, silk, or cotton since yarn with significant acrylic does not respond well to blocking. (More on blocking below.)

Use the right needles

Having the right tools can make a world of difference in the success of your project. Knitting needles should be the correct size for the selected yarn. Start with the size recommended on the yarn label. Be careful about going down in needle size because yarn over spaces may not show up well with tighter stitches. Most lace knitters also prefer to use needles with sharp tips because they make it easier to execute multi-stitch decreases like the dreaded purl 5 together through the back loop.

Stay on track

Limit the hassle of small mistakes by using markers to separate stitch repeats. Similarly, life lines can be employed like markers for row repeats. Just insert a long piece of waist yarn through all the stitches on the last row of each repeat. Then if you must frog or rip out a few rows, the unraveling will stop at the life line.

Rest on the wrong side

If you’re new to lace, choose stitch patterns that are all action on one side and plain-vanilla on the other. For example, the right side row may involve various yarn overs, right leaning decreases, and left leaning decreases while the wrong side row is simply purled across. These kinds of patterns ease you into the practice of lace knitting while giving your mind a rest between rows.

Blocking is essential.

Be warned, knitted lace doesn’t look like much right off the needles. Its beauty cannot be fully appreciated until after the piece has been blocked. Wet the piece then stretch it out on a clean, flat surface. Use pins and blocking wires to achieve the maximum degree of stretch. For accurate gauge, always measure your lace swatch after blocking.

Don’t be intimidated by lace knitting. Just keep these tips and tricks in mind, and your lace project could be as easy as your next yarn over.