Sandi’s Lace Lifeline Tips (and a free lace project!)

I've been promising photos of my version of the Leaf and Nupp Shawl, a pattern out of Interweave's new lace knitting book, Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush.  (Want more info about this nifty book? Go here!) So: Photos! I'm more than half-done with the center section; the four-sided border will be added after the center is done.

I initially began this project for the post with Eunny's video on provisional cast-ons, and then I decided to practice a few nupps after watching the Knitting Daily TV video with Nancy Bush on making nupps, because that looked like fun, and so of course I had to knit the first few pattern repeats to GET to the nupps…right?

And then I had to knit a little more, because the pattern was indeed pretty darn fun. And then I wanted to see if I could improve on my first nupps and make BETTER nupps. So I did a little more.

Note that I never made a gauge swatch–because the project started out as sort of one big gauge swatch! The result? My gauge is smaller than the one specified in the pattern, so that my shawl is coming out narrower and shorter than the one in the book. I'm making it longer by adding additional pattern repeats to the center section…which is great, except that more pattern repeats means more border stitches to pick up around the edges. I estimate that my border will have over 1,400 stitches in it…yikes. I was contemplating making the shawl wider by adding more border rounds…but at more than 1,400 stitches per round, I might have to contemplate that idea just a bit longer.

As I knit the center section, I started throwing in lifelines at the end of each repeat, out of habit mostly. (I still wasn't admitting to myself that this was a Real Project for some reason.) Because there are so many pattern repeats for this long-and-lovely shawl, I'm using a lot of lifelines–and here's a few new things I am learning along the way.

Sandi's Lace Lifeline Tips

1.  Thread the needle through the live stitches on your knitting needle, instead of trying to pick out stitches in a row already worked.

2.  Turn your knitting over so that you are threading from right to left across the back of your knitting. Lots of purl bumps make it easier to see the stitches. Also, if the thread runs through the back of each loop, there is plenty of room in the front loop when you are knitting the next row.

3.  Do NOT thread the lifeline through your stitch markers! (Ask me how I learned this.) Thread your needle through the last stitch right before the marker, bring the lifeline around across the outside of the marker, and then thread your needle through the next stitch after the marker.

4.  Place a lifeline in the last row of each pattern repeat as an easy way to count repeats.

5.  Use a thin, smooth yarn–such as a cotton crochet thread–so that the lifeline will pull out easily when you are done. I've heard of many knitters who use unwaxed dental floss…clever and inexpensive.

6.  Cut the lifeline long enough so that it won't pull out at either end when you spread the stitches out.

7.  Secure the ends by tying each one around a stitch marker to help keep them in place. (You can see this in the detail photo of my scarf.)

8.  If The Worst happens and you have to rip back: Take the knitting off your needle, and carefully rip back to the row BEFORE the lifeline. Then slowly rip back a few stitches at a time as you put the live "lifeline stitches" back on the needle, using the lifeline to guide where your needle ought to go. Count stitches as you put them back on, and insert stitch markers as needed. Once everything is back on the needle, re-count just to be sure, and then off you go!

If you have more tips for lace knitting, leave them in the comments so we can all learn from each other's experiences.

Oh, and by the way: The shawl became a Real Project once my mom saw it while I was visiting her in Chicago last month. She wanted to know who it was for; I told her it was "just for fun," so it wasn't really for anyone just yet. She frowned, and I realized that I had given the Wrong Answer. I thought a bit, and said, "Maybe Liz (one of my sisters) would like it?" The Motherly Frown deepened. Finally, I got the point. "Oh. Wait. This is for YOU, Mom!" Big Motherly Smile, and we all burst into laughter now that I had finally answered her question correctly.

 Happy Weekend Knitting!

— Sandi

Hankering for something lacy, but don't have the time to commit to a scarf? How about a pair of lovely fingerless mitts? Download this free pattern for the Wild and Warm Guanaco and Vicuña Lacy Fingerless Gloves and you'll be all set for a little lacy treat for yourself or to stuff into someone's stocking. The instructions give plenty of detailed information for using either your own guanaco*/vicuña** handspun yarn, or any commercial laceweight yarn you fall in love with at your local yarn shop! 

Download the free pattern for the Wild and Warm Lacy Fingerless Gloves

* A Guanaco is a camelid, relative to the llama and alpaca. It's a native of the high Andes mountains in South America; and grows to be about 4 feet tall. The fiber of a guanaco is incredibly soft and warm, and is considered a luxury fiber. However, a guanaco can run at speeds up to 35 mph, so you have to catch it first!

** A Vicuña is another camelid. Its fiber is reputed to be the finest in the world, which led to its near extinction in the last century. Vicuñas are protected now in their native South America. Alpacas are close relatives; there is a mixed breed called "paco-vicuña" raised by a few breeders here in North America.

Learn more about spinning guanaco and vicuña fibers in the Winter 2008 issue of Spin-Off magazine.


Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.

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