Little Lessons: Limbering Up for Lace
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.
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.
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.
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.