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One of the things I have been doing during lockdown is learning to run. Goodness me! This is so far out of my comfort zone it is nearly in another galaxy. I was never a sporty person growing up, and it’s not something I’ve ever done before. I’m not even sure why the world situation made me feel like learning to run was what I needed to do, but it did.

I downloaded an app, and started to take my first baby steps learning a new skill. Everything about running was unfamiliar, and I have had to work hard to be kind to myself throughout training. I tend to compare myself to others (everyone else at the park is so fast!) and forget to give myself credit for my own achievements. I’m sure this is a familiar scenario for many.

Over the last few months I have settled into a rhythm. I now run for 30 minutes three times a week, and it feels amazing to be able to say that.

So what on earth has this got to do with knitting lace? Well, there are common themes to learning any new skill later in life. We tend to expect to be good at things straight away, and are harder on ourselves when we don’t instantly ace something.

We also need to allow time for preparation. I don’t open my front door and run straight up my road—it’s quite a steep hill! In fact, even three months in, I’ve still not tried running up that hill. I am working up to it.

Start Simple

Today I’ve got three video tutorials to help you to limber up for lace, and get the most enjoyment possible from the glorious new designs in MDK Field Guide 15: Open! Jeanette has created some belters, and I’m here to help your lace knitting to fly!

Start simple, with a pattern where there is a single row of lace, and nothing fancy on the wrong side rows. Jeanette has your back with the Rib Lace Scarf. The rows are short, and you will quickly get into the swing of it.

That said, there are yarn overs and decreases in a number of combinations in this lovely pattern, so I’ve made a video to walk you through those combinations. I’m hoping that seeing how your stitches should appear will help you to dive in if this is your first foray into the glory of lace.

This is so much easier than running, and I know you can do it.

Level Up

By following a plan, I did a 20-minute run at the end of week five of training—I had never believed I could run for that long. (Cue Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”)

With the first longer stretch of running under my belt it was time to grow my skills, and limber up for slightly longer distances. And having knitted the Rib Lace Scarf, you are now ready to level up for lace with patterning on both right and wrong side rows. Yes, I mean a pattern with no rest rows. Just meaty delicious lace all the way. You will be rewarded with a beautiful scarf!

The Tumbling Block Lace Scarf consists of strong diagonal lines of decrease-yarn over pairs. Those diagonal lines form the majority of the knitting, so I highly recommend casting on for a swatch, and practicing working diagonal lines of lace.

Order any amount of La Bien Aimée Helix and your order confirmation email will include a free ebook download code for Field Guide No. 15: Open that includes the patterns linked in this post as well as the instant-classic Mood Cardigan.

Getting into the swing of working right-leaning diagonals and then left-leaning diagonals will help you no end. With a little practice you will be able to read your knitting and keep your diagonals on track without having to refer to the chart so frequently. It’s a liberating feeling.

Set up a 28-stitch swatch and work a couple of repeats of this 10-row pattern. It might not seem like a world of fun, but it’s a little bit like remembering to stretch and warm up before jogging up a hill. Possibly a bit boring to do, but worth every second of your time, as you don’t end up with an injury (or in this case a decrease facing the wrong way or in the wrong place!).

Here’s a video to walk you through working these diagonals and reading your knitting as you do so. Just keep knitting until you are confident in keeping your diagonals on track.

Once you’ve got the right-leaning diagonals down pat, then move on to the left-leaning diagonals. This time you are working ssk on the right side rows, and ssp on the wrong side rows.

Here’s a chart to work from, but you can just cast on however many stitches you like, and sprinkle the yo, ssk’s where you fancy. The point is to get them lining up on top of each other, and it doesn’t matter too much where they start or end. As you work along your right side and wrong side rows, you can watch the video below to learn how to read those stitches and knit your diagonals with confidence.

Once you can comfortably work both left- and right-leaning lace diagonals, the Tumbling Block Lace Scarf is going to be a cool breeze. You will be playing “We Are the Champions” as you cast off, and enjoying the sense of satisfaction that can only be got from learning something new.

This Could Come in Handy

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About The Author

We think Jen Arnall-Culliford is flat-out brilliant. Jen is one of the knitting world’s superb technical editors and teachers, and the star of the tutorial videos.

Cheerful. Cool headed. Supersmart. To take lessons from Jen ups our knitting game, every time.


  • THANK YOU! Exactly what I need. Practice and a swatch, who knew?

    • I remember back in 2003 or so, teaching myself lace knitting in the library, and using that first “freeform” swatch as the basis of a multi-patterned scarf that I gave away! Such a warm memory! ❤ ♥️

  • Love this as a long time runner and a new knitter. I am so amazed by the skills of so many knitters. I practice and practice….

  • I’ve been running for almost 25 years and I still think everyone is faster than I am. I may be right.

    • What process did you use to start running? What app?

      • Ha ha! App. 25 years ago. I see what you did there.

        You know, in my day we didn’t need an app to run. And we did it in the snow, uphill, both ways. 🙂

  • Yay Jen! Good for you! You can be proud of yourself. You’d probably enjoy the movie “Brittany Runs a Marathon.” (Actually, everyone probably would.)
    I don’t know if it’s available in the U.K.

  • I just finished my first lace work—a scarf with six different patterns. It was so worth it! Lots of practice to learn how to work the stitches and read the knitting. Learning how to recognize the yarnovers is key, because when I ended up with the wrong count it was usually a missed yarnover! Funny, too, since unintentional yarnovers were my most common mistake when I started knitting in November (was it only November?). The videos are so useful for the new knitter trying to learn while social distancing!

  • Thank you for the video and great job running!!! As a trade for the knit tips, check out Jeff Galloway’s website for running. He’s a former Olympian that has made life long runners out of couch potatoes for years with his run:walk method, it allows for significantly longer times and distances quick(er) and reduces burnout and overuse injury.

  • I’ve always been intimidated by knitting lace, and right now, my brain doesn’t seem to want to learn anything new, lol! However, I think I will try this out!

  • This is exactly the moment of quarantine when I need to know your running app, too. Also, timely in that I am picking up a lace project. I’m searching a shale pattern for a little cowl for my mom in one precious skein of silk/cashmere

    • The app I used is called Couch to 5k and was produced by the NHS. I don’t know if it is available elsewhere or just in the UK, but I’m sure similar resources abound on the internet. It started with very short bursts of running interspersed with plenty of walking and built from there. 🙂

      • Couch to 5k is great! The plan was originally invented by a runner named Josh Clark in the mid-90s. I used it 20 years ago in high school after a severe leg injury, to help me get back to playing soccer. Back then you had to copy over the plan onto a paper calendar, so I am sure the app is much more user-friendly 😉

        It really is a wonderful, thoughtful way to help someone start running and improve their fitness without pushing too hard too soon and getting discouraged or injured.

  • Thank you so much for the tutorials. I’ve watched each one twice now, and I would not have known how to do an SSP at all without seeing it demonstrated. I haven’t practiced that one yet and it looks a bit strenuous. I’m having some trouble with the k2tog already in the rib lace; I have to stick my right needle into the two stitches from the right to pre-stretch them (especially the one on the left), and then carefully sneak around without pulling on anything to get in there before they tighten up again.

    That being said, from my perspective the tumbling blocks pattern actually looks like it will be easier for me to keep track of because of the reassuringly short number of stitches that repeat over and over again. My rib lace swatch started off pretty rough because I kept getting lost somewhere in the row and not being able to figure out where I was. I get distracted and drift off a lot (really terrible at meditation). I’m just wondering if I’m the only one! I solved my problem by writing out the pattern for myself in groups of three instructions, like yo, p1, yo on one line, then k2tog, k2, k2tog on the next line, etc., and I just work in groups of three until I get to the end of the row. Even after drifting off I can figure out my most recent group of three. Maybe I’m the only one who needs this assistive device, but if anyone is having trouble with the rib lace maybe something like this will help you too.

    • My first attempt at the Rib Lace scarf led me to that realization that every knitter has at some point: the difference between “smart” and “dumb” knitting, and the need to have one of each on the go at all times.

      I got off to a great start, and then made the fatal error of deciding to work on it late in the evening with a glass of wine in hand. I made it about a row and a half before I botched my count and realized that while I could see exactly where the mistake was, I had no clue how it was created or how to fix it. It was a rookie wandering-concentration move!

      Now, attempt #2 is my smart project and only worked on with the right environmental conditions – during the day, in good light, after coffee, minimal distractions. For evening knitting with TV and pinot noir, I’ve now got a dumb pair of socks that requires no more reading (of either knitting or pattern) than your average box of breakfast cereal. Much better!

    • I saw someone suggest using stitch markers after each pattern section or repeat the other day. That might work for you too.

  • And I was proud of walking 15 min this morning. I’m just speechless, that you could get up to that amount of time so fast.

  • Wow

  • Thanks for these tips and videos Jen. I now also have a vision in my head of you coming out of your front door, hitting play on Kate Bush on the ipod and “Running up that Hill” 😀

  • Wonderful tutorials (as always), Jen. I have knit lace before but this makes the process so much more clear. I am curious as to what the two yarns are that you used in these three videos? It’s lovely how you create elegant visuals using the basic tools/supplies of knitting.

  • There’s a Guinness world record for knitting while running a marathon. In 2013, it was a scarf 12 ft 1 and 3/4 inches in 5 hrs 48 min. There’s a goal to shoot for!
    Video on youtube.

  • Can you tell me which yarns are pictured in this article? They are so pretty.

  • Love the videos and I too taught myself to run did my first 5k in my mid fifties and still run I have a question about the sap you do it differently than described in the field guide, theirs seems easier to me does it make a difference?

    • I just read my question and realized auto correct changed SSP to sap. My question was you do the SSP decrease differently than described in the field guide does it make a difference? Sorry for the confusion.

  • Regarding the SSK – so happy I watched the video as I’ve always slipped both stitches as to knit. I checked some knitting books and that’s the method they teach. I like the slip as to knit/slip as to purl method. When is it used versus other methods? Thanks for the education!

  • Jen, this is my first time doing ssp so I turned to the abbreviations page at the back of the Guide but found that Ssk and Ssp have the same knit definition. ? Thank you for the clarification of your video!

  • Thank you for the tutorials. They are a gift in the time of Covid!

  • I’m getting the field guide for Christmas. Already watched the video. I’m going to do the rib lace scarf since I’m a beginner. Hope to practice from the video after we get back from Colorado. Can’t wait.

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