Skip to content

Dear Kay,

The Jeanette Sloan Dionne Shawl of my dreams is turning out to be pure, 100% knitting satisfaction. I have a few tips on knitting this graphic snuggler. These are remedial tips, because I haven’t knit lace in a long while. It’s amazing what you can forget when you’ve spent four months knitting tubes of sock, one after another.

This would have been easier had i made a swatch first.

Tip No. 1: Knit a Swatch. I did not do this. My reasoning was simple: I typically knit swatches to figure out gauge for a project, so in this case where I was making a shawl, I didn’t really care about gauge. I cared deeply about cranking out my Baa Ram Ewe Winterburn Aran as soon as possible. The reason a swatch would have been a good idea? I would have practiced making the teardrop lace pattern—which would have saved me a fair amount of futzing around as I started the shawl. We carry a juicy selection of worsted-weight yarns perfect for the Dionne Shawl.

In the MDK Shop
This is our swatch gauge now. Thanks for your purchases⁠—they support everything that goes on here at MDK!
By Akerworks
See those stitch markers? Yeah, neither did I.

Tip No. 2: Stitch Markers, Oh Yes. I forgot this most basic rule of lace, and wasted a lot of time counting stitches when I could have been knitting. Use a lot of them when you’re first getting started—every repeat if you want. Stitch markers tell you when you’re off a stitch, when you’ve forgotten a decrease or increase. They’re the friend on your shoulder, whispering, “Watch out.”

Two truths: A yarnover makes a hole. When you fail to make A YARNOVER, you a) don’t get a hole and b) screw up your stitch count.
In the MDK Shop
Every time we reach for our box of Cocoknits stitch markers, our day gets a little brighter.

Tip No. 3: The Case of the Missing Yarnover. With my rusty lace skills, I found that I was sometimes forgetting to throw a yarnover. When I found my count off, I learned to find where I’d failed to over the yarn. (Stitch markers will tell you quickly when you’ve botched a stitch count—and that missing yarnover is likely to be a culprit.) It’s one of the easiest fixes to make—you just reach down below and catch the running thread between two stitches to pull that forgotten yarnover over the needle.


Tip No. 4: Highlight Your Chart. The symbol for knit-3-together can look a lot like knit-2-together. Do what you have to do in order to flag any weird symbols, symmetries, asymmetries, and curiosities. Colored pencils, whatever! Get into that chart and bling it, bedazzle it, think of it as a therapeautic coloring book. Whatever it takes to make it behave.

I’m now in the last quarter of this shawl, and I’ve arrived at the moment when I can work the teardrop pattern without checking the chart. I’m so clever! If you’re feeling down, go knit some lace. It’s one of those learning curves you climb pretty fast. And the intricate fabric you’re making is a marvel to see.

I’ll be finished with this shawl soon. It is huge fun to make, so if you’re in the market, get in on the Jeanette Sloan Dionne Shawl bandwagon.




  • Totally agree with the rules, but I add Rule no. 5 — make an occasional life line because you never know when things might go wrong.

    • What is a life line?

      • On one of your rows you can thread a smaller weight yarn through the stitches & note what row you placed it in (or use one of your interchangeable cables with stoppers on it). Just leave it there & if you have to unravel, you only have to unravel to your “lifeline” – and know exactly what tot you are on. When I knit lace pattern baby blankets I may place a lifeline every 10 rows or so, depending on the pattern.

        • You can use dental floss for your lifeline. I have interchangeable needles that have a hole in the cord for tightening the needle. I push the dental floss through the hole and just make a granny knot then I knit that row and the floss just follows along. At the end of the row, the floss is in place and I make a slip knot i each end and use a locking stitch marker to fasten it to each end of the row.

    • Absolutely. Rule #5 has saved me much heartache.

  • Number two has kept me from losing my mind on many a project! My number’s five and six would be to watch Jen’s video on fixing lace before you start (this will help you remain calm when the inevitable error occurs) and to remember that all decent lacework looks like a dishrag before blocking (this will keep you from becoming discouraged when, after 60 hours of work with 60 more to go, you realize your creation looks exactly like a crumpled dishrag). I find lacework magical!

    • A dishrag, LOL but so true!

    • BTW, lpwait is absolutely correct but I hate doing lifelines so I never use them. The rest of y’all should definitely take his or her advice!

      • I agree. I preach but don’t practice proactive lifelines. You can always do an “afterthought lifeline” if you realize you need to rip back to A Place Before the Disaster. Just install a lifeline (using a tapestry needle) and rip back in complete safety.

        • That is the best idea I’ve seen recently. I am going to remember when I have to tear out a lot of work!

  • I am a big proponent of stitch markers, especially with lace knitting. After all of these years, I still have a difficult time reading my knitting in lace knitting. I can sense that something is wrong but it’s difficult for me to fix unless really rip back a row or two, so I will literally count the number of stitches in each internal repeat after completing an internal repeat. It slows me down, but I’ve been burned too many times having to tink back very long shawl rows, trying to figure out where I have gone wrong.

    • My mental trick to speed this up is to look at the chart for that row and see what the last 3 or 4 stitches of the repeat are supposed to be. So if on this row, the 18-stitch repeat is supposed to end with k, yo, k, then as I approach each marker I’ll know that I’m in trouble if I’m not ending the repeat with k, yo, k. Makes me go back earlier to figure out where I screwed up, but saves me counting the every internal repeat all the way through a row.

      • I do the same thing Kay.

  • Thank you for the tips. Especially the one for fixing the forgotten yarn over!

    • We ALL need to read and reread your tips when we are about to embark upon a lace knitting project. I agree about the lifelines, but I too am lazy about them. And yes, thank you for the tip about fixing forgotten yos!

  • Coloring your chart! Definitely a great tip
    Also therapeutic to do;)

    • Highlighter tape helps to keep your place on a chart.

  • To those of you that don’t want to use lifelines, do you have the needles with a small hole in them to thread dental floss (or thread of your choice)? This allows you to run the lifeline through your row as you knit.

    • I agree, I love those needles & have them.

    • I have those needles and I never thought of trying this! BRILLIANT!!!

  • Tip No. ??: Stitch markers can be found nearly anywhere. They may be called paper clips, safety pins, bobby pins, twist ties, etc., but they are all over the place (except in parts of Maine). PS; Love the color you’re using! Kermit will look very handsome when he naps on it.

  • Where can I get the pattern from
    I am just learning how to read a pattern

    • It’s the Dionne Shawl on

  • Great tips! Two more: Be careful of your yarn choice. If you use mohair, it may be very difficult to tink or rip back.
    And if your yarn color is dark, it will be difficult to see your stitches. Have something light colored on your lap, such as the instructions, to make stitches more visible.

    • Excellent recommendations! I’ve not tried it, but allegedly putting a mohair project in the freezer makes it easier to rip back. As for dark yarn, as another option, I wear a hiking headlamp to really be able to see those stitches. 🙂

  • Sometimes it’s a forgotten yarn over, sometimes you made it but it slipped off the tip of your needle! Either way, I don’t usually notice until the next right side row, because my favorite lace patterns have purl back/rest rows. But it’s perfectly easy to fix those, too; you just have to dip down *two* ladders to get your YO back, and then fix the stitch above that. Video, if that’s helpful to you:

  • I absolutely love this: “If you’re feeling down, go knit some lace.” Classic. I think it needs to be on a new MDK mug!

  • Soooooooo Funny and SO TRUE! Thank you Ann. A lot of what you wrote is common sense when it comes to knitting Lace, Cables, etc., erc. but we ALL need to do what you’ve suggested. Things get really tricky, really fast when literally building a pattern in a sweater (or whatever) so keeping track of things is ESSENTIAL. Loved your comment about knitting charts and look forward to my next project with a ‘ s|1 pw wyif’ with extra zeal!
    Still having problems with that one but it looks good to me 😉

  • Tip 6 I would say is: On the wrong side, while of of course counting the stitches of every repeat , try to imagine your pattern in reverse; that way you’ll know where that forgotten yarnover needs to me fixed. . . and soon you will find that you can do with just a few repeat markers, placed as general orientation points for when you’re in a real muddle and need to backtrack or fix multiple mistakes.

  • This question would not apply to the pattern here, but on more open lace, how do you mark the right side? On most ordinary knits I place a stitch marker on the right side, but on an open lace pattern the marker slips through the holes and is useless. Sometimes I just keep track of where the tail is, but there must be a better way.

    • I hang a coloured stitch marker on the right selvedge of the front/right side of my work, to tell me where to start the lace stitches. Or perhaps loop a short length of bright-coloured yarn into the edge every once in a while?

      • Thanks–that’s a good idea. I’ll try it next time.

  • I love knitting lace. I use JKnitHD on my iPad, because I can have adjustable row highlighters for every page. I am knitting a complicated lace shawl now to get my mind off the anxiety of starting back to my job at school.

  • Ann these are great tips! I’m curious, what size needles did you use to knit this?

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping