Friday, 25 July 2014

For the Love of Lace

Rock Island by Brooklyn Tweed
Lace knitting can be addictive. Once you have the bug you can find yourself browsing more and more elaborate patterns and building a collection of wraps and shawls in a wide range of stunning colours.
But when you contemplate your first lace pattern it can seem that the whole process is full of arcane secrets you have winkle out the clues to.
So here are our top tips for lace knitting from knitters and designers who love it.

Choosing your first lace project

Start with something in 4ply rather than laceweight yarn. It will be easier to see your stitches while learning new techniques and easier to correct mistakes. Other than that the main criteria is something that you will definitely want to finish even if you get frustrated.


Most lace patterns will have charts. While you need to learn what the symbols mean, charts are useful because they give you an idea of what your lace should look like.
On a chart each square is a stitch and the symbol in the square tells you what to do – k2tog, yarn over, knit, etc. Rightside rows are read right to left – the same way you work the stitches – and wrongside rows go back the other way, left to right.
It is a good idea to tick off each row as you work to keep track of the pattern but it can be also be useful to find a way to only look at the chart row you are working on, for example photocopying the charts so they are larger and folding the complete rows under, or using Post-its to underline the row you’re working on. Or you can buy magnetic chart markers and chart keepers like these  where you use a magnetic strip to mark your place.


Most lace patterns are made up of a set of stitches repeated across the row or part of the row. On your chart the stitches and rows in a repeat will be outlined by a thick or coloured line.
One tip is to place a stitch marker at the start of every repeat and at the end of the final one. This means you will always know when you are starting the repeat and it is a lot easier to keep track of five sets of 20 stitches than 100. And if you make a mistake you are more likely to spot it.

Life lines

Life lines are another great way of keeping track of your lace and reduce the risk that a mistake will involve ripping out large amounts of your project. A life line is a fine thread (such as sewing cotton) run through all the stitches in a row so that if you have to rip back, the stitches from that row will be held by the cotton and easily slipped back on your needles.
Traditionally life lines are put in by threading a darning needle with the cottom through each stitch. But if you use KnitPro interchangeables there is an easier way. Before starting the row, thread the cotton through the hole in the right hand needle and knit as normal. As your stitches slide down onto the cable, the cotton will be fed through them.
Add a life line at the end of a repeat or chart or when you are starting a new stitch pattern.


Blocking brings out the beauty of your lace. It means stretching out your lace when damp so the pattern is flattened out and you have a lighter looking finished piece. It would take a blog post on its own so here are a couple of tips.
Firstly, “be brave”, your lace will stretch out a lot.
It is a good idea to block with an inch tape in hand so that you can check your piece is symmetrical. You can pin your damp piece to dry towels on a flat surface but your will get a more professional finish using blocking wires and foam blocking mats. You can thread the wires through stitches on the straight edges of your piece and secure them with pins at regular intervals giving you’re a straighter finish and a firmer base to stretch from.

So be brave – learning to knit lace opens up a whole new world of knitting.

We’d love to hear of any tips you’d like to share with us

We are running a KAL for the Lace Ribbon Shawl on our Ravelry Group and we love you to join us.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Toy Story

Amineko Crocheted Cat by Nekoyama

Knitting and crocheting toys is a hobby many of us enjoy.  You don't have to commit the time you would to a garment and there is something very satisfying about working on a small scale in a very precise way.  No matter who you make toys for we want to make sure you get the most out of it and we have asked our favourite toy designers to pass on some tips to help you get the most out of your hard work.

Make sure you have the right tools to hand.  Double Pointed Needles in a variety of lengths and sizes are an absolute must.  We always have a handful of stitch markers and a tapestry needle for the sewing up as well as a pair of good sharp scissors.

      Kirstie McLeod from Simply Knitting advises you to go down a needle or hook size from what you would normally use to make your fabric is firmer.  Whether you are crocheting or knitting, you don't want the stuffing to show through.

Block all the pieces of your toy before you start sewing them up.  It allows you to reshape your work and get it nice and flat to make sewing easier.

Girl Fox in a Flowery Flock

We are huge fans of Little Cotton Rabbits and Julie has some great ideas when it comes to stuffing;
“    Knitted fabric has a lot of stretch and unlike a firm woven fabric it will expand to the shape of the stuffing inside. No matter how good your shaping is on a knitted piece, the way in which you stuff will be more crucial in determining the finished shape. I find that putting in small amounts of stuffing and building up a shape works best for me rather than pushing in a large wad all at once.”

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Kerry Lord from Toft Alpaca who brought us Edward’s Menagerie likes her toys squidgy and gets the effect she wants by not putting too much stuffing in but making sure it is well distributed.

So whether you are trying for first amigarumi or your 20th Teddy Bear, we hope our tips will be helpful to you in your craft.