by Jill Wolcott
I am a modern gal. I like modern art, furnishings, fashions, you name it. But I have this secret passion for vintage lace knitting. I have no use in my life for knitted circular tablecloths, luncheon place mats, table runners, counterpane bedspreads or antimacassars. But the patterns are so ingenious and pretty that I like to find ways to adapt them to more current uses. Doing this allows me to feed my lace passion while keeping it current.
Learning to use charts will help demystify lace knitting and hopefully show you how manageable it can be.
Charts are a blessing, particularly when they are constructed so that the pattern lines up to show you the relationship of each row to the rows before. This also allows you to use markers to set off each repeat of the pattern across a row to easily keep track of the stitch number and alignment. An error found early is easily fixable!
Here are a few rows of a chart that shows decreases in pattern outside of the lace, allowing you to see exactly where those stitches are disappearing.
Rib and Lace Pattern
Beg with 21 sts
Dec Row 1 (RS): K3, p3, k2tog, YO, k2tog, k1, SSK, YO, SSK, p3, k3. 19 sts
Row 2: P3, k3, p7, k3, p3.
Dec Row 3: K3, p2, p2tog, k2tog, YO, k1, YO, SSK, p2tog-b, p2, k3. 17 sts
Row 4: P3, k3, p5, k3, p3.
These rows are a great opportunity to look at symbols in lace charts. The first ssk, which is just before the first YO, takes up 2 boxes or stitches because it is not balanced by a YO—it is a decrease which will eliminate 1 stitch—the ssk uses two stitches and decreases one stitch. You can see the stitch eliminated in Row 2!
A decrease balanced by a YO as in the central lace part of this chart takes up 1 box or stitch and the YO adds one stitch. In the chart it is easy to see that they balance each other.
This next chart shows increasing stitches. Each RS Row has to accommodate those new stitches on that row, where you see the empty stitch on the next row with decreases. Every WS row is purled, so only one row is shown in the chart. I’ve colored the pairs that are balanced so you can easily see where they are.
When you can see and count how many stitches were in the previous row, you can then count how many stitches you have to work on the next row.
Row 3 ends with 4 stitches. Row 5 ends with 6 stitches, so let’s see how we used those 4 stitches. Ignore the YOs: There is an ssk (2 sts), then two k1s. 4 stitches! After working this you will have (1 st, YO) 3 times for 6 stitches.
Lace offers simple patterns and very complex ones. Start with patterns where the pattern rows are only done on the right side. Look for charts that help you see the relationships between stitches and rows, and then put in lots of markers, count often and give lace a try!
Jill Wolcott is a designer with a background in fashion design, fit and garment construction. Her Ask the Style Guide column is a regular feature in Creative Knitting magazine. If you have questions about style and knitting, send your questions and feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org.