An Education in Lace Grafting: Grafting Two-Sided Lace

Over the last few years, I’ve written a lot about how to graft lace knitting, but have never written about how to graft knitted lace. Unless you’re a hardcore lace knitter, you may think that these two terms are interchangeable, but they are actually referring to two different types of lace: one-sided and two-sided lace.

In her book, Wrapped in Lace: Knitted Heirloom Designs from Around the World, Margaret Stove defines “knitted lace” as “Lace with pattern worked on every row; can usually be identified by the holes being separated by a single strand of yarn.” And she defines “lace knitting” as “Lace with pattern worked on alternate rows; can usually be identified by the holes separated by two twisted threads.” (In these definitions, the word “pattern” refers to yarnovers and decreases.)

Frankly, I have a hard time remembering which term refers to which type of lace (and I don’t think I’m alone in this), so I prefer to use the terms “one-sided lace” and “two-sided lace” because I think they’re more descriptive.

One-Sided Lace vs. Two-Sided Lace

With one-sided lace, the pattern is worked only on right-side rows and the wrong-side rows are “plain” rows (usually either all-knit or all-purl stitches). The plain wrong-side rows are also referred to as “rest” rows (kind of like the recovery intervals between periods of greater resistance on a stationary bike). There are no rest rows with two-sided lace, so the knitter must pay attention to the pattern on every row. Because of this, it is often considered to be more challenging to work than one-sided lace. And not surprisingly, it can be more challenging to graft, as well.

Grafting Creates Two Pattern Rows

Grafting creates two pattern rows: one when the grafted stitches intersect with the live stitches on the front needle and another when the grafted stitches intersect with the live stitches on the back needle. In other words, the grafted row itself is one pattern row, and the row above the grafted row is a second pattern row. When one-sided lace is grafted, the more complex maneuvers for creating the pattern row are worked on the front needle (with the stitches facing the knitter) and the easier maneuvers for creating the plain row are worked on the back needle (with the stitches facing away from the knitter). With two-sided lace, however, a pattern row must be created on both the front and back needles, which can be tricky, particularly because the stitches on the back needle aren’t visible to the knitter as the stitches are being grafted. But there are a few ways to make the grafting process much easier.

The Grafting Process Made Easier

First, it really helps to have a solid understanding of the structure of the lace fabric. (Actually, this is true for all lace-knitters—even those who never intend to do any grafting, because at some point everyone makes a mistake and will need to know how to fix it.) Second, remove the knitting needles from the equation. Leave the live stitches on waste yarn and lay the pieces flat on a table to graft them. That way, you’ll be able to see how the grafted stitches are aligning with the stitch pattern on both pieces and will be able to spot a mistake right away (and you can easily undo the grafting without fear of dropping stitches from the needle). And third, use the lace chart as a guide for the grafting just as you do when knitting.

Your How-To in Grafting Lace is About to Begin

Over the next couple of months, I’ll show you how to graft five two-sided lace patterns top-to-bottom (grafting live stitches to a provisional cast-on row) so that the join is completely invisible. We’ll start by taking a close look at the stitches that will be used to graft all five lace patterns and will practice creating them on two stockinette stitch swatches (so the focus is on the stitches themselves and not on the lace pattern). Once you are comfortable creating stitches on stockinette stitch using a tapestry needle and a strand of yarn, you can apply what you’ve learned to grafting the lace patterns. Along the way, I’ll show you how each stitch that is created with a tapestry needle fits into the chart for each lace pattern. Before you know it, you’ll be grafting patterns that you once thought were well beyond the scope of your experience!

—Joni

You Love Lace? We Love Lace!

2 Comments

  1. Cheryl D at 3:50 pm April 8, 2017

    Thanks for the tip re grafting with the live stitches on waste yarn. I’ve sometimes put a lifeline through the stitches, but left in the needle. This should work much better.

  2. Joni C at 9:51 am April 9, 2017

    Glad it helped. I also find it easier to maintain a consistent tension over the grafted stitches when I leave the live stitches on the waste yarn. I’m not sure whether it’s because the knitting needles tend to distort the stitches, or if it’s just because I can see the stitches better when the work is laid out flat.
    Although I can’t say the same about when I’ve worked a few rows of stockinette stitch with waste yarn. The extra bulk made it difficult to keep the stitches even. But it’s nice to have options!

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