It all started with an accidental yarnover

Melanie Rice's Baby Elephant Vest, featured in the Summer 2011 issue of Interweave Knits

A note from Kathleen: Lace knitters are so passionate about their craft. I admire that, and I hope to catch the lace bug in earnest at some point in my knitting life. I've dabbled in lace with scarves, a couple of sweaters, and a pair of socks I'm working on now, but I haven't tackled a full-on lace shawl, which is what I think of as "lace knitting."

That thinking might be erroneous, though. In the Summer 2011 issue of Interweave Knits, designer and lace expert Melanie Rice presents a fabulously cute vest that's made up of lace elephant motifs. It's just wonderful, and it works equally well for a boy or a girl.

These sort of motifs are just as lacy as an intricate shawl, and I love the creativity involved and the fun in knitting this type of lace project.

Here's Knits editor Eunny Jang to tell you more.

I've been an avid lace knitter for as long as I can remember. Even my very first pieces of knitting-—wobbly-edged strips of garter stitch—had the occasional hole. Sure, those accidental yarnovers may not have been intentional, but I like to think that they foretold a passion for lace knitting to come.

One of the things I love most about lace knitting is how the best patterns blend solid knitting technique and some serious mathematical footwork to paint a picture in stitches. Consider that lace knitting is really an exercise in working with positive and negative space: the knitted ground forms the positive space, and intentional holes makes up the negative. The two work together like black ink on white paper, able to render an image. Add in a third "shade" to the "palette"—the thicker areas under decreases, and you can create a lace motif for anything you can imagine: leaves, flowers, cresting waves, anything goes.

Of course, it's not always so simple. A hole in knitting made with a yarnover requires a decrease to balance the resulting new stitch. Otherwise, your knitting would get wider and wider (and indeed, many triangular shawls are shaped with yarnovers that have no accompanying decrease).

Depending on whether your decreases form chains from row to row (the topmost stitch of a decrease grows out of the topmost stitch in the decrease below it) or are feathered (the topmost stitch of a decrease becomes the bottom most stitch of the decrease above it), and on whether your decreases are to the right or left of your yarnover holes, and whether a column of eyelets moves to the left or the right, the your lace motif may or may not resemble what you want it to.

That's why I was so delighted when Melanie Rice tackled custom lace motifs in Beyond the Basics in the Summer 2011 issue of Interweave Knits. Check out her handy reference chart, below, for how eyelets will behave when arranged in different ways:

Below is an example of how different decrease and yarnover combinations create different effects within the same pattern.

Swatch A: Only k2togs are used, placed to the left of all yo's. Swatch B: Only k2togs are used, placed to the right of all yo's. Swatch C: Only ssks are used, placed to the left of all yo's.

In the full article, Melanie walks you through designing a simple lace motif from concept to finished swatch. If you need a brush-up on your lace knitting skills, take a look at the following video for advice on yarnovers and decreases. You'll be ready to tackle your own lace charts in no time!

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Happy knitting,

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