I’m designing a pattern which needs a little simple lace in a multiple of 3 stitches at the beginning. I didn’t want a secret code lace. I wanted a multiple of 2, 4, 6, or 12 rows. In the end, I used simple diagonal lines because it flowed nicely with the other lace in the design. But I was struck by the scarcity of basic lace patterns in multiples of three in the places I was looking..
Suddenly it occurred to me that with only three stitches in a row, the most basic lace would have one knit stitch, one decrease, and one yarnover per row. This essentially makes for six permutations for a given row. (I simplified matters by pretending that all decreases are the same.)
Mathematically speaking, this means that there ought to be 6 possible two-row lace patterns with these three stitches (including a plain alternating row), 36 possible four-row patterns, and 216 possible six-row lace patterns. Obviously they won’t all be nice, though fiddling with changing which way the decreases lean helps a lot.
Immediately after I posted about using a subset of rows from a complex chart as a coordinating stitch pattern, I started wondering about a subset of columns.
This is naturally more complicated, as the decreases and increases have to be balanced out, which means a good deal more fiddling with the stitch pattern. I think it might also be less useful – though it might help with situations where the desired stitch pattern doesn’t quite fit the required width.
Anyway, I decided to play with a chart, knit swatches, and see what happened. If it didn’t work, at least I’d know.
In the end, it took a lot more work and thought to get something satisfactory. This is not necessarily a barrier, but I felt that people considering trying it for themselves should know. (I think this sort of thing is fun; not everybody does.)
There’s a lot of shawls and sweaters that make use of fancy lace, but that also have sections of simpler or smaller lace – having the contrast can make the fancy lace stand out more.
Often the simpler lace is a mesh of some sort, like Feathered Lace Ladder. Other times it’s a simpler lace with a similar feel that fits in the right number of stitches, as Embossed Leaf Lace might, depending on the more complex pattern.
I’ve been wondering for a while if it might be possible to use a subset of the rows of a fancy stitch to make a simpler lace that would coordinate well with the fancy stitch pattern. The only way to find out is to try! So I did, with several samples.
Sometimes I like to try exercises in knitting stitch design as a way of exploring the possibilities. These are what I call my études, named after the formulaic exercises used when practicing classical music. I’m not always satisfied with the results, but I think it’s worth doing them. Further, I think it’s worth sharing the results publicly because it helps show that the process of stitch design isn’t effortless. I can’t learn new things if I’m not willing to make mistakes or have things come out in a way I don’t care for. And I think it’s worth sharing that process to give others the nerve to take risks and learn from them.
Anyway. This time I wanted to try adding in some extra plain rows in an existing lace design to see how the stitch pattern was affected. That is, I took an ordinary lace pattern that had one row with yarnovers and the next row plain, and changed it to one where there was one row with yarnovers followed by three plain rows.
I’ve been interested lately in the double increase that’s most handily abbreviated as KYOK: (k1, yo, k1) in one stitch. I’ve been wondering how to include it in lace, and so I decided it was time to try another design exercise. I played with a couple of layouts, and here are the results. I think they make serviceable patterns, if not wildly exciting ones, but I’ve learned something from the practice.
I was thrown for longer than I’d like to admit by the need to incorporate a no-stitch square on either side of the double increase, but the fact is that the symbol represents three stitches, and so it needs to take up the space of three stitches on the chart. Stitch Mastery’s handy stitch count feature kept telling me I had the wrong number of stitches on that row, and I kept staring at it and thinking there must be a bug. A long conversation with another designer finally helped me understand what was happening.
The other thing that really came clear for me with this is that the single hole formed by the KYOK is actually the stitch the increases are worked in. I half knew this before, but I hadn’t consciously understood it.
The last time I visited the topic of a knitted version of filet lace, I had come up with a square knitted netting, but couldn’t figure out how to make solid squares. So I shoved the question in the back of my head for later. Later hasn’t exactly arrived; this is a related concept but still not filet knitting. (I think that Jackie E-S’s method is the way to go if you want filet lace knitting.)
I’ve also been wistfully regarding the work of Herbert Niebling and Marianne Kinzel. The particular pieces that have caught my eye have been pictures with a honeycomb mesh background.
Filet lace, whether netted or crochet, is pictures on a square mesh background. The only difference between it and what I’m playing with is that one has a grid for a background, but the other has hexagons. This is obviously nothing new to experienced lace designers (see the above links), though they combined it with a variety of other lace methods, but for some reason it struck me like a bolt of lightning.
I decided a simple experiment with the method would make a good étude for my series of knitting and design exercises, even if it came out badly. (I don’t think it did, but I want to encourage knitters to try new things and see what happens.)
I’ve been thinking for a while of trying to add k1b stitches (one kind of brioche, or tuck, stitch) into my lace patterns. A good place to start with including a new method in design is by including it in known structures to see how they change.
In the swatch above, I knit first an allover lace design, nothing unusual, and then I knit a second swatchlet, substituting k1b stitches for regular knit stitches on the right side rows. To knit 1 below, instead of putting the needle into the stitch that’s waiting to be knit, put the needle into the stitch below. Knit that stitch and drop the one above; it will drop down and be caught by the stitch just knit. (More here, including a video.)
It doesn’t look wildly different, but it’s different enough that I think it’s worth playing around with some more later. One major difference is that the single strands separate more than is usual with lace knitting, making the yarnovers appear smaller. One thing I like is that it makes it look as if the pattern is full of stylized eyes. (Not creepy eyes, I hope. Anyway, I like them.)
A feature of adding a little brioche is that the stitch grows a little horizontally (while shrinking a little vertically). This can be useful for shaping in some contexts.
Details and charts after the cut.
Something I’m wanting to work on in the long run is designing lace that has yarnovers on every row. This is intimidating me more than it probably should, so I decided to start with some baby steps.
It’s often a good idea to play around with existing designs in a technique: swatching other people’s stitch patterns teaches me a lot about structure. To this end I decided to browse through the stitch patterns in Susanna Lewis’s Knitting Lace. Pattern 54 looked like a good place to start – it’s not terribly complex.
Just for kicks, I decided to try mirroring it. (I added an extra column of knit stitches between each repeat so as not to deal with double yarnovers.)
In the end, I’m not sure the mirroring was a good idea – the fabric is so very lumpy that it’s hard to block flat. The slightly bubbled texture after blocking could be charming or could be annoying. Still, I think I’ve got a somewhat better feel for how the yarnovers shift from side to side as decreases and new yarnovers are added on every row.
I had thought the self-striping yarn would do some nice rippling because of how wiggly the fabric is, but it turns out that it wiggles in opposite directions and cancels out any rippling in the color. Something with a shorter repeat might show it more than this yarn, though.
There’s an old kind of lace edging that always makes me grin, because it’s so different from all the other lace I’ve seen in knitting. My mental narrative when I’m knitting one goes like this:
- Cast on a few stitches.
- Knit a row, adding some yarnovers to start a pretty pattern.
- Knit back.
- Knit a row, adding some more yarnovers to continue the pattern.
- Knit back.
- Knit a row, adding some more yarnovers.
- Hey, wait! Where’d all these extra stitches come from? I guess I’d better bind them off until I have the right number, and then I’ll knit back.
Of course, it’s actually more deliberate than that. The bound off stitches take the place of decreases, in the process making a decorative sawtooth edge.
There’s a number of examples of this kind of lace around; one place to see them is at knitting-and.com.
I thought it might be fun to try it with a secret code chart or two.