Sunday, 4 January 2009

Cloud Lace

I am getting better at knitting lace! Cloud has a 36 row repeat lace trim around the bottom, and I spent at least a week weeping over my first attempts at it. So, how do you get better and faster at knitting lace?

The thing about lace (like most knitting) is that if you are in the right place and you do the right stitch, then it all works. If (like me) you are a bit slap dash and frequently get one stitch in a row wrong, then all is lost! You have to know where you are, and you have to know exactly what goes next.

The first essential is to know where you are. I tried several systems - from charts to writing out the lace pattern stitch by stitch, and what works best for me at this stage, is a 'lace book' written out on a document set up for labels in the word processor. When I lived in Japan, you could buy study aids which were pieces of card on a keyring - they would have been perfect for a lace book, because you could turn each row over when you've finished, but British stationers have never heard of such a device and it's a long way to go for a study aid, so I've settled for printing out the labels and pushing a coin onto each label when I've finished knitting the row. I've written out the instructions for each row, and also added the number of stitches I should have at the end of each row, as a quick way of checking accuracy. I've also found a fairly plain row, and that one I'll knit in a red lifeline each time I come to it.

The next thing that makes a huge difference is good tools. I always thought the saying 'a bad workman blames his tools' was promoted by a stingy boss! What about the skill of the people who produce fine tools? They deserve kudos and deep thanks. Addi needles must have had thousands of hours of skilled design and manufacturing spent upon them. I don't like long needles, so I started using my Addi double pointed needles, which were just the right length, but the ends are too blunt. My ordinary Addi needles are too long (80 cm) and also the tips, while fine for most knitting, just don't dig in to K2togs made into yarn overs the way they need to - so I switched to 60 cm Addi lace needles. Utter perfection! The cord is short enough not to get in the way, even working on a tiny lace strip. Long, tapered tips slide under the twisted K2togs and make them a breeze. There are other brands of lace needle as well - and I mean to try them all eventually, but I wouldn't even consider tackling a lace pattern without proper lace needles from now on.

And the third thing is knitting lace Continental style instead of English. Once I'd got the right needles and a tracking system in place, I felt confident enough to switch the yarn from my right hand (throwing it) over to my left hand (picking it) and what a difference in speed that makes! I estimate that I can knit at least three times faster when I use Continental style knitting. I'm so glad I stuck with it. It took me a good few months to learn - the purl stitch especially was tricky at first. I had to use my finger to coax the yarn around the needle, but now I have the knack of just catching the yarn with the needle tip and it's real easy to do.

I found the perfect quote to describe me and my knitting today. Winston Churchill said: 'Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.'

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