Thursday, February 23, 2012

Decreasing Lace for the Slow Learner

Think Vertically!

When I knit a vest last year, I was faced with the formidable task of decreasing lace to shape various parts of the garment, including arm and neck openings.  As this project was one of the first items I had created using a lace pattern, I had some difficulty.  I had attacked my few lace projects by merely following instructions or charts and working across each row.  Unfortunately, using this approach was tricky.  I ended up with a thick and fuzzy inch-long stretch of a shawl I’d made using Debbie Bliss Angel yarn, because I’d had to tear out row after row and reknit—again and again.  I’d had to so because I kept coming to the end of a row and realizing that I had too few or too many stitches remaining. 

It took me some time and practice to realize that when it comes to decreasing lace, the instructions or chart for each row are important, but aren’t exactly road maps to be followed.  What is important is the ultimate number of stitches on the needle at the end of the row, or, in other words, the fact that the knitter has decreased the requisite number of stitches.  And equally important is the fact that the lace pattern lines up correctly.  In other words, the knitter must think vertically—something I’d never conceived of doing as a novice knitter.  So here are some tips I learned:

Do the Following before You Get to a Row Where You Must Reduce:

1.    Pay attention to how each row of stitches lines up above the row beneath it.  Ask the following questions:  Where is the center of the lace pattern?  Which stitches go to either side of the center?  How many are there?



2.     Remember that each yarn over in a lace pattern adds an extra stitch to your row.  For each yarn over, there is a corresponding decrease to make the stitches the correct number at the end. 

Notice that the middle of the yarn pattern is stitch 11.  Note how the
pattern stitches line up vertically.  The circles are yarn overs and the
slashes are decreases.  (This is a pattern for a pretty lace scarf found
at A Pair of NeedlesClick Here for the pattern. 

When you reduce:

1.    Do the stitches and decreases in the instructions (typically at the edge of each row), but then make your lace pattern in the middle match up vertically. The row you are knitting should line up with the row below in the same way it did in the rest of your project. 

2.    Pay attention to yarn overs and decreases that are a part of the core lace pattern near the edges of your project (not the decreases that are used for shaping the sides).  If there isn’t room to have a corresponding decrease to match each yarn over (to make the number of stitches stay in the lace pattern in the middle) eliminate the yarn over or decrease stitch and simply knit it.


3.    Ultimately, you have to “play” with the edges of your project, to insure that you are reducing the correct number of stitches and keeping a consistent number of “middle stitches” (or those with a count that should stay the same). 

This is a picture that accompanies instructions on how to knit feather and fan lace
 from dummies.com.  Note how four holes are stacked up and  how there is a center
to the stack.  Paying attention to the vertical pattern while knitting, will make the
 decreases  much easier to do.  

Again, don’t forget the very basic principle that it took me awhile to absorb: 

Yarn overs make increases, while ssk or k2tog or k1psso (or similar variations of these stitches) reduce stitches.  I know this statement is simple, but when caught up in following a complicated lace pattern (or when working with fine lace-weight yarn) it’s easy to forget the basics.

You will alter the number of stitches in your row when you don’t want to do if do not have yarn overs for every stitch that is reduced within the yarn pattern (and vice-versa).    

In other words, keep your lace pattern consistent in the middle of your work, but pay attention to where you have to add or reduce stitches near the edges so you don’t change the number of constant stitches in your row.  You only want to decrease (or, increase for that matter) along the edges when you are intentionally doing so to shape your garment. 

I know I’ve repeated myself a bit, but I wrote these instructions for novice lace knitters, who (like me) might need a little repetition until they have that “aha” moment. 








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