Shaping in lace

Our Chicane Summer Knit-A-Long is well underway, and over in our very active Ravelry KAL thread there’s a stream of tempting pictures and reports.

Chicane is made with a lovely lacy stitch pattern, starting straight and then decreasing for the sleeves and body while continuing the lace. We’ve had requests for help on doing the decreases while in pattern, so that’s today’s blog topic: decreasing in a lace pattern.

So here’s our little swatch, with two repeats of the pattern across the row. We’re at the end of the second set of pattern rows, though you can reach the decrease point at any row of the lace. We’ve marked the centre, unmoving stitch of the pattern repeat closest to the edge with a stitch marker, following Jimi’s excellent suggestion in the pattern.

We want to work a decrease on both sides of every right side row. There’s two ways of integrating the decreases with the lace which each look a little different, so we’ll deal with them in turn.

For the first way, let’s go back to the very basics of lace. Lace knitting is made up of yarn overs which make the pretty holes, and decreases which compensate for the additional stitches made by the yarn overs. If you want to make a straight piece of lace, you need each yarn over to be balanced by a decrease. When you add a shaping decrease in there, you need to be sure that it’s in addition to your lace decreases.

It’s always a good idea to make your decreases a stitch or two in from the edge – it gives a smoother result and your seaming will be much neater. So your first ssk decrease happens after the first two stitches of the row, and neither of the stitches involved in the ssk are near any lace yarn overs or decreases, so you make your decrease and then work the lace bit when you come to it later in the row.

In this picture, we’ve made the shaping decrease and worked over to the lace yarn overs and decreases. At this point, nothing has happened near the lace, so there’s nothing interesting here at all.

But a few rows on, we reach this situation:

After the first two edge stitches, we’re due to make the shaping decrease. But now we’re right up against the lace, and the lace decrease would be using the same two stitches. Simply, the shaping decrease is more important, so we make a shaping ssk and ignore the lace decrease.

But remember, lace is yarn overs and decreases balancing each other. So here, where we can’t make the lace decrease, we leave out its yarn over too. Otherwise, we’d be adding a stitch with the yarn over and not taking it away with a decrease. The net result would be an extra stitch from the yarn over that we don’t want.

So that’s the trick to this way of shaping lace. If you can make both the decrease and its yarn over independent of the shaping decrease, then make all of them. But if you can’t, then make only the shaping decrease. Any other lace decreases and yarn overs in the middle of the row get made as usual, until you reach the far side and work the other part of the shaping:

This way of decreasing will give you lace that carries up as far as it can towards the edge of the knitted fabric – here we have our little swatch a bit further on, with the shaping well established.

You can clearly see where the shaping has nibbled progressively into the lace.

The second way of combining lace and shaping gives you larger sections of stocking stitch near your edges. In this method, you declare everything between the edge and the stitch marker that marks the centre of the lace pattern a No Lace Zone, and you just work it in stocking stitch. In other words, until you get to the marker, you ignore any lace instructions in the chart or the written instructions.

This gives you a result like this:

Both of these will give identically shaped pieces of fabric, so which you use really is knitter’s choice. Why not try out both on a small swatch like ours and see which you prefer?

Thank you for asking us to clarify how to do the shaping! And if you can think of any other techniques you’d like us to help with here, please ask!

Let’s celebrate Yarn Shop Day!

It’s Yarn Shop Day on Saturday May 2nd! So we’ll be kicking up our heels with giveaways, competitions, discounts and goodies all day in the shop!

We’ve got so much planned for the day…

  • There’ll be a Goody Bag for each of the first ten people through the door on that Saturday morning (we open at 10.30am)!
  • Everyone who spends over €10 on the day will be entered in a draw for a place at one of Emily Wessel’s upcoming workshops here at This Is Knit (find out more here and here).
  • You can challenge our crochet and knitting experts between 2.00pm and 4.00pm! Bring your knotty knitting problems and your crochet conundrums for *FREE* advice and assistance (on a first come, first served basis). Your project’s return from the naughty step starts here!
  • We’ll be offering discounts on some products and free gifts with others! (Which ones? Ah, you’ll have to wait to find out!)
  • We’ll be offering sweet treats right through the day too!

It’ll be huge fun, so do drop in and see what’s going on, from 10.30am right up to 5.30pm!

Lush

What’s that in the background there, behind the tissue paper pompom? It’s the newest edition to our garment display in the shop: Jacqui’s Lush cardigan (boy, she’s a fast knitter)!

Lush is Tin Can Knit’s beautiful design, and it’s the pattern Emily Wessel will be using for her cardigan workshop at the end of June. (There’s still places left for that, and for her baby blanket workshop as well – you’ll find details at our booking page).

Jacqui used Juniper Moon Farm’s gorgeous Findley DK for hers – it’s a beautifully plied silk and merino blend, and it’s delicious to work with. Just look at the stitch definition on the Lush lace….

And the pompom? We can’t stop making them, you see, using this tutorial, and we’re having a tremendous amount of fun doing it! It’s properly spring now, so why not celebrate with some tissue paper frivolity!

Casting on the smart way!

We’re declaring today the first day of summer! It’s Cast On Day for our Summer ’15 Knit-A-Long, and we’ve even got the weather cooperating. So following on from our stitch markers technique post on Tuesday, we’ve got a nifty trick for managing the cast on for Chicane.

The first part of the pattern involves casting on 173 stitches, and then placing markers to divide the row into the lace pattern repeats. So we thought: why not use markers right from the start? It’ll make it easier to make sure there’s the right number of stitches, and then you’re all ready for the lace a few rows down the road.

We’re going to use two different sets of markers to mark different things. First of all, there’ll be two markers to separate out the edge stitches from the lace section, one at each end. We’re using little loops of contrasting coloured yarn for all our markers here, and these two are beige.

There’s two stitches in the edge portion, so we cast on two stitches, then place our first beige marker.

Looking ahead a few rows, the lace will be worked in twelve-stitch sections, and marking each section makes keeping track much easier. So we’ll need a number of markers in another colour, and we’re using purple here. We cast on twelve stitches after the beige marker, and pop on a purple one…

…cast on another twelve stitches, add another purple marker, and so on, right to the end of the cast on.

The last lace repeat has thirteen stitches in it, and right after that comes the second beige edge marker. Cast on the last two stitches, and we’re away to the races!

The very handy thing about casting on with markers like this is that the counting is really easy: twelve-stitch sections between each pair of markers except for that thirteen-stitch stretch at the end, and then all you have to count is the number of sections.

And then we’re off! Why not head on over to the Chicane KAL thread in our Ravelry group for inspiration? It’s going to be a great summer!

Stitch markers are magic!

At the counter, we get asked a lot about how to use stitch markers, so we thought it would be a good idea to do a couple of posts on them. What’s more, Chicane, the chosen pattern for our summer Knit-a-Along, makes clever use of them, so this post counts as a bit of a warm up for that.

Stitch markers come in a variety of types – our online shop has a good selection, though a simple loop of contrasting yarn will work nicely too. They all share one thing: they sit placidly on your needle and tell you where you are in your row or your round. When you know where you are, the whole process becomes more relaxing and enjoyable. What’s not to love about that?

When you’re ready to place a marker, work to the place you want to mark, and choose a marker.

Then just pop it onto your right hand needle (patterns usually call this “place marker” or PM for short)…

…where it’ll just sit there, minding its own business.

Then just work your next stitch, as if the marker weren’t there at all.

When you look back in a few stitches’ time, this is what you’ll see. The marker’s right where you placed it, and the rest of the knitting just goes on around it.

When you come back to where the marker, on the next row or the next round, this is what you see:

Once you’ve worked the stitch right before, you’ll have the marker sitting there on the left hand needle.

Simply slip it from the left hand needle to the right hand (this is what patterns mean by “slip marker” or SM), and continue to work as normal.

Stitch markers mean less counting and less worrying about where you are in the pattern, as well as making it much easier to find mistakes, and that’s why we love them. What’s more, there’s other wily tricks for using them, which will make your Chicane flow more smoothly, so we’ll be talking about more marker magic in the next couple of weeks!

Chicanery – a guest post from Jimenez Joseph

With the start date of our Knit-A-Long getting closer, we’re delighted to feature a guest post today from the designer of Chicane. She’s an incredibly talented designer living in Surrey in England – you can find the rest of her designs at this page, and she has a an active and friendly Ravelry group over at Jimi Knits and Other Bits. So with no more ado, it’s over to her!

I’m a graphic designer by trade and being creative was part of my training. Knitting is just an extension of that, I suppose. However, I’ve been knitting since Christmas 2008 – aged 40! A little late in the game you would say, but what I lacked in experience, I made up for in enthusiasm for the craft and a willingness to take risks. I would never have thought that in less than 2 years I would be designing knitting patterns!

I’ve always wanted to design something to wear that didn’t look “high street”. For me, it always had to have something unique about it – plus it had to be wearable so that I wouldn’t get laughed out of town!

Chicane was my first published sweater. My aim was to design a top that had a unique style, was economical with yarn, flattering to the body and can be custom-fit for the intended wearer. I am a visual knitter, meaning that I knit by eye, so in this case there would be very little reliance on numbers. Being made from the top down and flat, Chicane gives the knitter control and this allows them to make decisions on length and fit – and even construction.

Chicane can be modified in lots of ways:
Lace patterning: swap zigzag lace for something from a stitch dictionary (be mindful of the side decreases – some maths required).
No patterning: plain stockinette in a single colour.
Fastenings: instead of braided ties, try buttons. Work button holes into the top ribbing, or crochet some button loops instead.
No fastenings: sew up the ribbing for the sleeves, leaving a large opening for the neck (boatneck).
Colours: use contrast colour for ribbings, or as stripes.

Enjoy! Jx

Jimenez Joseph • www.jimiknits.com