An Education in Lace Grafting: Practice Swatch 1
Before you can dig into the lace grafting in this series, you’ll need to know how to create certain types of stitches using a tapestry needle and a strand of yarn. And the best way to learn is to practice on a swatch that’s been worked in stockinette stitch so that you can focus on creating stitches, rather than also having to worry about aligning the grafted stitches with a lace pattern.
Because the stitches will remain on the waste yarn when they’re grafted, you can undo the stitches and redo them as many times as necessary. Once you’ve become comfortable creating stitches on the practice swatches, you can move on to the lessons for grafting the lace patterns.
(Read my introduction to this series for more information.)
Knit and Purl Stitches
Among the stitches that we’ll be creating in this series are simple knit and purl stitches. However, I should note that the steps for creating the knit stitches aren’t exactly the same as for Kitchener stitch, so if you’ve grafted before you may have to put aside what you know for these lessons.
Decreases are the most complicated stitches that we’ll be creating. The maneuvers themselves aren’t that much more difficult than those for knit and purl stitches, but the steps are a little more involved. At times, the tapestry needle will need to be drawn through two stitches, instead of one (when two stitches below the grafted row turn into one grafted stitch); at other times, one grafted stitch will overlap another (when two grafted stitches turn into one stitch above the grafted row). It may take working a decrease a few times before the logic behind the steps becomes apparent and you can see the effect that the lace grafting yarn has on the stitches above and below it. After that, the process will be easier.
A yarnover is the simplest stitch to create when lace grafting. Actually, it’s not really a stitch at all; it’s simply a hole in the knitting that’s formed by elongating the strand between two stitches and then working a new column of stitches above this strand. When two-sided lace is grafted, yarnovers must be created both on the grafted row and on the row above it, and the process will differ in each case. (In Practice Swatch 1, we’ll only look at how to create yarnovers above the grafted row and will create yarnovers on the grafted row in Practice Swatch 2.)
Creating a Yarnover Above the Grafted Row
Because we’re lace grafting the lace patterns in this series top-to-bottom, the row above the grafted row is a provisional cast-on row, so the yarnovers above the grafted row can be created at the same time that the working-yarn stitches are picked up (or knit) into the waste yarn. Later, when the stitches are grafted, these yarnovers are simply skipped and nothing more needs to be done to them. The placement of the yarnovers on the provisional cast-on row is determined by where they fall in the lace pattern for that row.
Provisional Cast-On Methods
For the swatches in this series, I cast on provisionally by picking up stitches with working yarn in a waste yarn crochet chain, skipping a chain below each yarnover. However, if you don’t care for this method, there are a couple of other ways to cast on provisionally that will work just as well: you can work the waste yarn crochet chain directly onto the knitting needle and then knit across the chain stitches with the working yarn (dropping a chain from the needle for each yarnover worked). Alternatively, you can work a few rows in stockinette stitch with contrasting yarn (the same weight as the working yarn), ending with a right-side row, then knit a wrong-side row with the working yarn, working the yarnovers as indicated. (The number of provisional cast-on stitches includes the yarnovers, so you will need to subtract the yarnovers from the number of contrast-yarn stitches that are cast on because these stitches will be added on the provisional cast-on row.)
For the lace swatches, the provisional cast-on row (the first row of working yarn stitches) will always be a wrong-side row, but the only stitches that need to be worked in the lace pattern are the yarnovers. The rest of the stitches are knit so that the working-yarn loops will be clearly visible against the contrasting waste yarn when the right side of the work is facing.
Knitwise and Purlwise
For this series, because the live stitches will remain on waste yarn while being grafted, instead of being placed on knitting needles, I’ve omitted the phrases “leave on needle” and “remove from needle” from the lace grafting instructions. The terms “knitwise” and “purlwise” still refer to the direction in which the tapestry needle is inserted into a stitch, but the stitches will look a bit different than they do when they are mounted on a knitting needle, so it will be good to clarify what these terms mean before we begin. (The stitches can sometimes get a little distorted when they’re on waste yarn, so always check to make sure that the stitch isn’t twisted before inserting the tapestry needle into it.)
To insert the tapestry needle into a stitch “knitwise,” insert it from front to back (with the tip of the needle pointing away from you).
To insert the tapestry needle into a stitch “purlwise,” insert it from back to front (with the tip of the needle pointing toward you).
Lace Grafting Sequences
The grafting steps for each lace pattern have been divided up into small groups, called “sequences,” that create a certain type of stitch on both the upper and lower pieces. The lace grafting sequences for each lace pattern are worked in order, according to the order of symbols on two rows of the lace chart. Each lace swatch is accompanied by a grafting chart, which is just an enlarged version of these two rows of the lace chart, with arrows and other notations added to indicate the path of the grafting yarn through each live stitch.
Each practice swatch will also have a grafting chart that shows a random assortment of grafting sequences, and isn’t related to any particular lace pattern. The dotted lines in the upper row of the grafting chart indicate the spaces between stitches on the upper row. The single yarnover symbols on the upper row indicate the yarnovers that were worked on the provisional cast-on row. When you reach one of these yarnover symbols on the grafting chart, skip it (and the yarnover) and work the next sequence.
Each grafting sequence has been assigned a letter to make it easier to refer to them in the written instructions. There are 11 lace grafting sequences in all (A–K) for the five lace patterns in this series. In this post we’ll practice lace grafting sequences A–D, and in the next post we’ll practice grafting sequences E–K.
In the instructions below, I’ve included an illustration of each sequence so that you can see what it will look like on the needles after grafting. The grafted row is shown in blue with arrows that show the path of the grafting yarn (and correspond to the arrows in the grafting charts). I’ve also included the chart symbol for each sequence and a brief description of the type of stitch that will be created on each piece, as well as written instructions for each sequence. In the charts, “UP” stands for “Upper Piece,” and “LP” stands for “Lower Piece.”
Practice Swatch 1
What You’ll Need:
- Working yarn in main color and contrasting color (for lace grafting and for cast-on if working a few rows in stockinette stitch)
- Knitting needles (straight or circular) in an appropriate size for the working yarn
- Smooth, cotton waste yarn in a contrasting color for the crochet provisional cast-on and to use as a stitch holder for the live stitches on the lower piece
- Crochet hook (if using a crochet chain cast-on)
- Tapestry needle
Crochet Chain Method
- With crochet hook and cotton waste yarn, chain about 30 stitches. Break yarn and pull tail through last stitch.
- Turn chain over so bumps in the back of the chain are visible. With knitting needle and main-color working yarn, beginning in third stitch from last stitch of chain, pick up and knit 9 stitches in chain, yarnover, skip a chain, pick up and knit 5 stitches in chain, yarnover, skip a chain, pick up and knit 9 stitches in chain—25 stitches (including the yarnovers).
- Beginning with a right-side knit row, work in stockinette stitch for about 3″, then bind off all stitches.
- Make another swatch: cast on (not provisionally) 25 stitches. Work in stockinette stitch for 3″, ending with a wrong-side row. Break yarn and place stitches on a strand of waste yarn. Block the swatches.
Alternate Crochet Chain Method
- With crochet hook and cotton waste yarn, work 25 chain stitches onto a knitting needle.
- With knitting needle and main-color working yarn, knit 9 stitches, yarnover, drop a chain stitch from needle, knit 5 stitches, yarnover, drop a chain stitch from needle, knit 9 stitches—25 stitches (including the yarnovers).
- Complete swatches as for first method.
Waste Yarn Method
- With contrasting working yarn, cast on 23 stitches (not provisionally). Work in stockinette stitch for about 1″, ending with a right-side row. Break yarn.
- With main-color working yarn, knit 9 stitches, yarnover, knit 5 stitches, yarnover, knit 9 stitches—25 stitches.
- Complete swatches as for first method.
Create an Extra Loop on Provisional Cast-On Row
Thread the cast-on tail from the provisional cast-on row onto a tapestry needle and create an extra loop by inserting the needle into a stitch at the edge from right-side to wrong-side. This extra loop must be created for every swatch so that all the steps of the last sequence can be worked.
Follow the Grafting Chart
Thread contrasting color working yarn onto a tapestry needle and work the lace grafting chart.
Work Sequence A three times:
Work Step 1 of first Sequence A.
Work Step 2 of first Sequence A into the loop at the very edge of the provisional cast-on row.
Work Step 3 of first Sequence A.
Work Step 4 of first Sequence A.
Work Steps 1 and 2 of second Sequence A. Notice that Step 2 of the second sequence shares a loop with Step 3 of the first sequence.
Work Steps 3 and 4 of the second sequence, then work Steps 1–4 of the third sequence.
Work Sequence B three times:
Work Step 1 of first Sequence B.
Work Step 2 of first Sequence B into the same loop as Step 3 of third Sequence A.
Work Step 3 of first Sequence B.
Work Step 4 of first Sequence B.
Work Steps 1–4 of Sequence B two more times.
Work Sequence C three times:
Work Step 1 of first Sequence C.
Work Step 2 of first Sequence C into same loop as Step 3 of third Sequence B.
Work Step 3 of first Sequence C.
Work Step 4 of first Sequence C.
Work Steps 1–4 of Sequence C two more times, ending just before the first yarnover from the provisional cast-on row.
Work Sequence C once:
Work Steps 1 and 2 of Sequence C, working Step 2 on the other side of the yarnover, instead of into the same loop as Step 3 of the previous Sequence C.
Work Steps 3 and 4 of Sequence C.
Work Sequence D once:
Work Step 1 of Sequence D, skipping the first stitch on the lower piece and working into the second stitch.
Work Step 2 of Sequence D, working into the first stitch on the lower piece.
Work Steps 3, 4, and 5 of Sequence D.
Work remaining sequences:
Work Sequence B two times. Work Sequence A once, ending just before the second yarnover on the provisional cast-on row. Work Sequence A on the other side of the yarnover.
Work Sequence D once. Work Sequence C three times. Work Sequence B two times. Work Sequence A two times. Remove the waste yarn from the upper and lower pieces.
Review the Lace Grafting Series
- PRACTICE SWATCH 1
- PRACTICE SWATCH 2
- LACE PATTERN 1
- LACE PATTERN 2
- LACE PATTERN 3
- LACE PATTERN 4
- LACE PATTERN 5
- MORE ABOUT GRAFTING CHARTS