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Let’s Knit Lace ::: a free beginner lace pattern and tutorial

June 6, 2014

Gothic Lace Cowl by Tin Can KnitsIf you have always wanted to try lace, but have been a bit too intimidated, now is the perfect moment, and we have an ideal pattern for you!

Grab your yarn, needles, and a copy of Gothic Lace, our free beginner lace pattern!  You can find all the project details (and more pretty pictures) in this post.

Gothic Lace Cowl SwatchWe made the Gothic Lace cowl in a worsted / aran weight yarn (Malabrigo Worsted) using 5mm needles, so it is a quick knit and easy on the eyes and the fingers.

Once you are comfortable with lace techniques, you can graduate to skinnier yarns and littler needles!  Use a solid or semi-solid colour yarn, because the lace pattern can get lost in variegated yarns.

Malabrigo Worsted

Malabrigo Worsted – this single-ply yarn gives great stitch definition, and the semi-solid colours really show off the lace pattern.

Getting Started :::

Gothic Lace PatternFollowing the Gothic Lace pattern, you can knit either a short cowl (wraps once around), a long cowl (wraps twice around), or a scarf.

For a cowl, cast on 49 stitches, and for a scarf cast on 41 stitches.  If you just want to make a little lace practice swatch just cast on 25 or 33 stitches.

To begin, you will knit 8 rows (this forms the garter stitch edge).

Gothic Lace Cowl

Next it is time to start the lace pattern!  The instructions say:

Repeat rows 1-12 of gothic lace pattern, following chart or written instructions…

As you can see, the lace section of the pattern is described by a lace chart, and also by line-by-line text instructions.  You can follow either the chart or the text instructions, or flip back and forth from one to the other!

Don’t understand charts?  We have an in-depth tutorial to help you learn how!

How to Knit Lace

When you are working a lace pattern, it is very important to read all of the abbreviations and chart notes carefully before you begin the pattern, so that you understand the chart.  In this pattern, you will learn that the chart shows right side (odd numbered) rows only.  All wrong side (even numbered rows) are worked as follows: k3, purl to last 3 sts, k3.  Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.

So you will start with row 1, following the chart or the text instructions:

Row 1 (RS):     k2, k2tog, yo, k1, [ssk, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, k2tog, k1] repeat to last 4 sts, yo, ssk, k2

If this is your first lace project, there may be some instructions that you haven’t come across before.  Click the links to find out exactly how to work these stitches if they are new to you.

How to work common lace stitches :::

Lace is formed by increases (typically yarn overs to form the holes) balanced by decrease stitches.  Some of the most common stitches used are:

  • k2tog – knit 2 stitches together – is a right leaning single decrease [tutorial here]
  • ssk – slip, slip, knit – slip 1 knitwise, slip 1 knitwise, knit 2 slipped sts together through back loops – is a left leaning single decrease [tutorial here]
  • yo – yarn over – starting with yarn in back of work, bring yarn between needle tips from back to front, and then pass over RH needle to back of work, creating a new loop over the needle – this is a single increase which creates a hole in the work [tutorial here]
  • sl1-k2tog-psso – slip 1, knit 2 sts together, pass slipped stitch over the k2tog and off needles – this is a left leaning double decrease [tutorial here]

To make your first lace experience easier, place markers at the start and end of each pattern repeat.  The pattern repeats are indicated by the heavy vertical lines in the chart, and the square brackets [ ] in the text instructions.  So as you work row one, have 5-6 stitch markers ready to place on the needle in between stitch repeats.

For absolute clarity, let’s work row 1 together…

Row 1 (RS):     k2, k2tog, yo, k1, [ssk, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, k2tog, k1] repeat to last 4 sts, yo, ssk, k2

blog-letsknitlace-09

You start by knitting 2 stitches, then working k2tog, then a yo, and one knit stitch.  These are the ‘edge stitches’.  Place a marker (PM) now, then work the lace repeat once [ssk, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, k2tog, k1], then PM again to mark the end of that 8-stitch repeat.  You will still have 36 more stitches on the left-hand needle to work (or 28 if you are making the scarf).  So what do you do?  Well, a ‘repeat’ is called a repeat because you repeat it… So work that same 8 stitches [ssk, k1, yo, k1, yo, k1, k2tog, k1] 4 (or 3) more times, placing a marker after each repeat, until you get to the last 4 stitches of the row (no more repeats will fit).  Then you end the row with the ‘edge stitches’ on the other side, yo, ssk, k2.blog-letsknitlace-03

Your very first lace row is complete, and you have markers that indicate the start and end of each repeat, which make for easy checking.  Before you work the wrong side (WS) row, check that you have the correct number of stitches in each section; from right to left you should have 5 edge sts, then 4 or 5 sections with 8 sts each, then 4 edge sts, with your stitch count being the same as you cast on (49 sts for a cowl, 41 sts for the scarf).  This lace pattern maintains the same stitch count on all rows, because the number of sts increased (by yos) equals the number of stitches decreased by (k2togs, ssks, and sl1-k2tog-pssos).

After you have worked row 1, you will work row 2, which is given in the text instructions, and described in the chart notes, but not shown on the chart itself.

Row 2 and all following WS rows: k3, purl to last 3 sts, k3

The k3 at start and end of the WS rows create a garter stitch edge, which is a nice detail, because garter stitch doesn’t curl the way stockinette stitch does.

When you have finished row 2, you will look again to the chart or text instructions for working row 3.  As you will notice, rows 1, 3, and 5 are all exactly the same!  So you will get a lot of practice with this identical sequence of stitches.

As you work the lace, keep the markers in place (just slip them from the LH to the RH needle in between working the stitches).  Check after each RS row to ensure that you have the correct number of stitches in each section (5 edge sts, 8 sts per repeat section, 4 edge sts at end).  That way, if you make a mistake it is very easy to locate, and work back to fix it right away.

Gothic Lace Cowl

Rows 7, 9, and 11 are each unique, but keep the markers in place in the same locations, and simply work the combination of stitches indicated.  You will notice how the lace pattern as knit looks just like the lace pattern illustrated on the chart.

Gothic Lace Cowl

This is one of the great benefits of working from a chart; you quickly learn to see how the knit fabric should look, and are much less likely to make mistakes in your knitting, because the structure of the pattern will ‘make sense’.

blog-letsknitlace-05

Once you complete row 12, you are ready to start again at the beginning of the lace pattern. So go back to row 1, and start there.  As the pattern states:

Repeat rows 1-12 of gothic lace pattern, following chart A or written instructions, until piece measures approximately 22 (44) inches for short (long) cowl, or 58 inches for scarf.

After that many repeats of the pattern, you will be a lace expert!

Knitting Chart Repeats

Check out our How to Read A Knitting Chart tutorial to learn more about lace, colourwork, and cable charts.

All that remains is a bit of finishing.  If you’re making a scarf or a cowl without buttons, just knit 8 rows (removing markers), and bind off all stitches.

Gothic Lace Cowl by Tin Can Knits

If you are making a buttoned cowl, you have a couple of options.  You can work regular buttonholes within the garter stitch band:

… work buttonholes: k3, [yo, k2tog, k4] 7 times, yo, k2tog, k2

OR you can make crocheted button loops, as I have done in my sample (note: crochet abbreviations are American).

How to work crochet button loops :::

Using crochet hook and yarn, begin with WS of work facing, working into the bind-off row.

Foundation row (WS): Work sl-st into first 2 sts, [ch4, skip 3 bind off sts, sl-st into next 3 bind off sts, ch4, skip 3 bind off sts, sl-st into next 2 bind off sts] repeat 3 more times, sl-st to end.  This forms 8 button loops.

Crochet Button Loops

Next row (RS): work sc to button loop, [sc 5 times into button loop, sc once] repeat 7 more times, sc to end.

Crochet Button Loops

Voila!  You have a completed cowl or scarf!  After you weave in all yarn ends, and sew buttons on, you are ready for the last very important step: blocking.

Gothic Lace Cowl

Wet blocking is very important for lace, because it opens up the pattern, and sets the stitches.  You’ll see what I mean when you block your first lace piece.  We will share an in-depth tutorial on blocking lace in coming weeks, but for now, just follow these simple instructions:

HOW TO WET BLOCK ::: To wet block, soak your knit in lukewarm water, then lay it out on a towel, roll up and stomp on the towel to squeeze out as much water as possible. Finally lay out flat (pinning along edges if desired) until completely dry.

Learn more about blocking regular knit projects here.  These instructions will work just fine for this cowl or scarf.

Gothic Lace Cowl

LEARN LACE with a friend :::

Do you have friends who would like to try lace?  Share this post, or let them know about the great free patterns they could try from The Simple Collection.  And join in the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Ravelry!

Tin Can Knits on FacebookTin Can Knits on Instagram Tin Can Knits on Twitter Tin Can Knits on Pinterest Tin Can Knits Email Updates Tin Can Knits on Ravelry

Other patterns to perfect your lace skills:


Thistle Scarf by Tin Can KnitsTorrent Socks by Tin Can KnitsFalse Creek Cowl by Tin Can Knits

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Priscilla Dow permalink
    July 21, 2014 3:56 pm

    http://tashaknits.blogspot.com/2014/01/janury-estonian-lace-shawl-pattern.html

    Is this chart correct ? When I follow it, it gets increasingly crooked.
    What am I missing

    • July 22, 2014 10:46 pm

      It’s hard to say without seeing your knitting or having worked the pattern myself. It looks like it should work…

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