Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

On Designing a Lace Triangle III: Cast on

June 13, 2010

This is part three of an ongoing tutorial on designing lace triangles.  If you’d like to look at parts I and II, click on the links.

In the first and second installments, we talked about the actual work of inserting a lace pattern into the framework of a triangle.  I’d like to take a step back for a moment and talk about the various cast ons that one can use for a lace triangle.

The one I’ve seen most often, and it’s a good one, is the garter tab cast on.  This can be done in one of two ways. You can use a provisional cast on or you can cast on as you normally would, provided you are comfortable with picking up small stitches.

The first thing you’ll need to know is how many garter stitches (if any) you are using for your top edge.  I tend to use two, for no real reason other than that I favor even numbers. You might prefer one, or three, or a whole swathe of them.  However many you plan on using, though, this cast on will work to make a neat shawl edge.

Cast on, using a provisional cast on, or your favored method, the number of stitches you’ll be using for your garter edge. For the sake of this tutorial, I used three stitches, and a cabled cast on, which is my favorite cast on.  Knit in garter stitch for six rows, which will create three garter ridges.  What you now have is a small rectangle that will eventually become the center of your top edge.

At this point, in our demo swatch, we have three stitches on the needles.  Depending on the number of edge stitches you’ve chosen, you may have more or less.  Next, pick up and knit one stitch from each garter ridge, working along the top edge displayed above.

You now have your original stitches on the needles, and three more.  These three are your shawl body.

At this point, if you have used a provisional cast on, it is time to unzip your cast on edge and knit the live stitches onto your needles.  If you used a closed cast on, as I did here, you will pick up and knit along the cast on edge, picking up as many stitches as originally cast on.  In my case, three.

You now are ready to begin your shawl set up.  You have three garter edge stitches at either end and three shawl body stitches in between.

But let’s say you are not too keen on the garter tab cast on and would prefer something simpler.  It’s also possible to use a cable cast on.  This will mean that you will have three stitches in the top center of your shawl that do not perfectly match the rest of the shawl, but it’s not very noticeable, and the edge it creates is still a nice one.

The cabled cast on is very similar to a knit cast on.  As usual, you begin with a slip knot placed on the left hand needle.  Insert your right needle through the loop as though to knit.

And actually, knit is exactly what you are going to do.  Draw the yarn through the loop as you would with a knit stitch, but place the stitch on the left hand needle rather than leaving it on the working needle.

From here on out, however many more stitches you want to cast on, you will put the needle between the two newest stitches, rather than through the most recently cast on stitch.  This creates a much more attractive and flexible edge.

My patterns require you to cast on five stitches, but you will determine your own number by figuring out the number of edge stitches you wish to have.  The basic formula for number of cabled cast on stitches is this: 2 x [the number of garter edge stitches] + 1 stitch for the shawl body.  Clothilde and Arabella use two garter edge stitches, so it works out to (2 x 2) + 1 = 5.

Once you have your cast on, it’s a fairly simple matter to increase to the necessary number of stitches to begin your shawl set up, discussed in the previous two installments.  Yarn overs will create a lacy look in keeping with the rest of your shawl.  I’ll write two example set ups below, using 3 garter edge stitches for each.

Cabled cast on:

CO 7 sts using cabled cast on.
Row 1 (RS): K3, yo, k1, yo, k3.
Row 2 (WS): K3, p3, k3.
Row 3: K3, (yo, k1) 3 x, yo, k3.
Row 4: K3, p7, k3.
Row 5: K3, yo, k3, yo, k1, yo, k3, yo, k3.
Row 6: K3, p11, k3. [17 sts]

Garter tab cast on:

CO 3 sts and k for 6 rows, creating 3 garter ridges.
Keeping the current 3 sts on the needle, pick up 3 sts, one on each garter ridge, and then 3 sts from the CO edge. [9 sts]
Row 1 (RS): K3, (yo, k1) 3 x, yo, k3.
Row 2: K3, p7, k3.
Row 3: K3, yo, k3, yo, k1, yo, k3, yo, k3.
Row 4: K3, p11, k3. [17 sts]

On Designing a Lace Triangle II

April 30, 2010

Yesterday, I posted about designing a lace triangle using inserts.  Today I’m going to talk about all over lace, such as the lace used in Arabella.  Keep in mind that these are partial explanations, and that I will try to continue to add to this series as people make specific requests (or I remember something I left out, like cast on advice, etc.) so if there’s something you’d really like to know about how I design a lace triangle, email or comment and I’ll try to answer as best I can.

There are a lot of gorgeous all over lace patterns out there that do not work well in the basic framework we laid out yesterday of a shawl with increases on the right side.  The simplest way to make an all over lace that I’ve found is to use the yarn overs at the edges as a guide.

These yarn overs are static for the type of shawl we’re making.  You need them at the edges to create your triangle, and they give you some simple rules.  You’re not going to want to put another yarn over next to them, for instance.  And you can use them to create an all over lace.

Below is a blank for an all over lace.  We’re using the angle of the increases at the edges to play around with the structure.

As you probably noticed, I took out some of the yarn overs.  A single yarn over where the two “lines” meet would change your stitch count.  It would have to be paired with a single decrease, and that would mess up the symmetry of your lace.  You can space the lines of yarn overs closer together or farther apart for a larger or smaller lace pattern.  This is just a basic template, but you can do a lot of different things with it.

At this point, you can fill in the lace blank with anything you want, provided you match each increase, including those already shown here, to a decrease.  I filled it in simply, and without planning a particular look, below.

Note that I can’t just repeat the bottom half of each diamond shape up at the top, unless I add more increases.  Each of the yarn overs we already had in place needs only ONE matching decrease, and repeating the decreases will mean that the number of stitches shrinks as we get to the top of the diamonds.  Since the pattern is tiled, we have to look at the diamond shapes not as individual shapes, but as part of a whole.

Now, let’s see how the above chart would work in our shawl blank.  This is a little trickier than the lace inserts, and will require some decision making.  We’re working with the restrictions of the edge yarn overs, which are increases to the overall triangle shape, so we DO NOT want to match them with decreases.  We’re lining our stitch pattern yarn overs up with the edge yarn overs, but we are eliminating the matching decreases on the edge sides at the same time.

This is easier to demonstrate on a chart for the pattern repeat, rather than the set up.  Click through for a larger image.

We’re using the yarn overs at the edges to guide the shapes, but we also have to eliminate the decreases that match the edge yarn overs in order to keep the shape even.  Note that this includes changing a double decrease to a single decrease.

Below is the portion of chart that will be repeated across the row.  If we tiled this piece, it would not match our original rectangular lace chart, but the shawl shaping will naturally shift the 12 stitch by 12 stitch piece six stitches to the right on each pattern repeat.  We have twelve rows per pattern repeat, which means six increases on either side of each body panel, since we’re increasing on the right side rows. Adding these six stitches shifts the pattern repeats over by six stitches, to tile it like in our original graph.

Really, this is all a giant math problem.  You’re maintaining a steady increase rate to create an angle while trying to line up and maintain a stitch count within the shape.  Every increase that is not contributing to the slant of the edge needs a matching decrease to keep to the math.

Because our edge increases are automatically shifting the repeat to the right, the repeat is half as tall as the repeat you’d need to use for a rectangular lace stole.  Here’s the same lace as it would appear on the chart for a rectangular scarf or stole.

I hope this is helpful!  The next time I return to this tutorial, we’ll move backward for a moment to talk about casting on for a lace triangle.

On Designing a Lace Triangle I

April 29, 2010

The first and only time I knit a lace triangle prior to designing Clothilde, I found myself really taken with the way the pattern sped along to a quick finish.  (The pattern was the Diamonds and Pearls Shawl, from The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, and I completely forgot that I made it soon after finishing.)  The next time I thought of making a shawl, I got it into my head that I had to design one myself.  And I liked the triangle shape.  It was going to be a triangle. Nevermind that I was not an experienced lace knitter and that I had little idea of how to construct a lace triangle.  I was going to make one.

I don’t know how other people design lace triangles, but I’ve had some questions about my methods lately, so I thought I’d put together a little description of how I work on this sort of thing.  Keep in mind that I am not the most organized or natural designer.  It takes me a lot of trial and error to get what I want.

I have to admit that Clothilde was a long haul.  My original idea was far more complex than my limited experience was ready to allow.  I wanted an all over lace that flowed seamlessly from one lace pattern into another.  I started with charts of laces I liked and played around with them, but whenever it came time to plug them into a shawl, the tiling stopped working out and they didn’t line up properly with my shawl edge.  I swatched so many times and found myself starting over each time.

It was only in frustration that I decided to use the Gull Wing Lace insert as a main design element.  I wanted to simplify the pattern to the point where I could make things work, and the easiest answer to having a lacy body that wasn’t as hard to chart seemed to be using an insert rather than an all over pattern.

I make my charts in Excel.  (Marnie MacLean has some excellent tutorials on using Excel for this purpose.)  This is a blank shawl chart to show you the shape I was using.  The increases occur on every right side row.  It’s very possible, of course, to make a triangle shawl with increases on every row, which will give you a shallower triangle with longer wings.  But for the purposes of this explanation, we’ll be assuming that you’re making a shawl with increases on the right side only.

This set up is the one I use for my charts.  I have two garter edge stitches on the right hand side of the chart, the shawl body in the center triangle portion, and a center stitch on the left.  After the center stitch, the knitter will start over with the body stitches, working from right to left, and ending with two more edge stitches.  You can use as many or as few edge stitches as you please.  Some shawls use one or three, though I don’t think I’ve generally seen shawls with more than three edge stitches. Not to say it’s not possible, of course!

Below is a crude mock up of how these chart pieces look on a finished shawl.

Using the shawl blank, I can fill in anything I like.  This is easiest with lace inserts.  These are like lace stripes.  You decide on your lace, and then decide on how far you’d like them to be spaced from one another.  Then it’s simply a matter of placing these stripes over your shawl blank.  You need to maintain a consistent stitch count for a simple shawl, so it’s important to remember that every increase stitch needs a matching decrease stitch and vice versa.  I’ll demonstrate with a very simple lace insert below.

We have a simple lace insert of two yarn overs surrounding a double decrease, spaced three stitches apart.  I picked this at random, and for simplicity’s sake, but you can use any insert in a similar way.  Note that as the lace insert gets close the shawl edges, the double decrease is replaced by a single decrease.  We’re keeping our stitch count even.  There’s only one yarn over, so there can be only one decrease.

I’ll continue in a future post with discussion of how to make an all lace.  My methods are perhaps a little crude and not necessarily like other people’s, so keep in mind that I’m hardly the last word.  For a more detailed method, I’ve heard excellent things about Evelyn Clark’s Knitting Lace Triangles.  (I do not have this book, but I’ve flipped through it and it’s nifty.)

Blocking Pauline

December 13, 2008


Blocking is key!  I know blocking is usually a good idea, but it’s especially important with Pauline.  Since the bonnet is knit entirely in stockinette, it will curl without blocking, even with the i-cord border.  Blocking also relaxes the yarn.  Nearly everyone who has knit Pauline has worried that it was too small prior to blocking.


So, here’s how I block Malabrigo.

  1. Fill the sink with room temperature water and a dribble of conditioner or baby shampoo.
  2. Push the handknit down into the water and leave it there until it’s thoroughly saturated, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Lift the knitted item out carefully, gently squeezing out some of the excess water.  DO NOT WRING.
  4. Drain and refill the sink with clean water and rinse off any conditioner or shampoo that remains on the knitted item.  It’s important that you don’t place the knit under running water to rinse, as that can stretch the wool.
  5. Drain the water and gently lift out the knit, squeezing out excess water without twisting or wringing.
  6. Lay flat on a dry, clean, absorbent towel.  Roll the towel up into a little burrito of yarny goodness, and then stomp the living hell out of that thing.  Stomp, jump, dance on the towel.  Unroll.  If the item contained within still seems very wet to you, roll it up in another clean towel and do it again.  It’s fun, it burns calories, and it’s helping you end up with a perfectly blocked handknit.  What’s not to love?
  7. Carefully carry the now thoroughly stomped knit to the spot where you intend to block (I don’t have a blocking board, so any free surface has been known to suffice) and lay it out carefully, shaping to the schematics in the pattern.  Pauline doesn’t need pinning, but other knit items might.
  8. Leave strictly alone until almost dry.  Since Pauline is a hat, though, when it was very nearly almost dry, I put it on and shaped it to my head.  You don’t need to do this with something like a sweater, but it does seem to help the shaping of hats immensely.

There!  You have a blocked thing!

In other news, no, there are no results yet in the Malabrigo Junkies contest, so if you’re waiting, well, come here and sit by me.  We’re in the same boat, and also, I have snacks.