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How to Knit Lace – an introduction to lace knitting

May 15, 2014

If you haven’t done it before, learning to knit lace takes some time, concentration, and practice. But it is a skill that can be mastered by most knitters, so don’t let the complex-looking results scare you off!

At Tin Can Knits, Emily is the ‘lace queen’ and this spring and summer she will guide you through the basics of lace, and share some more complex techniques and tips!


Join in and discover your love of lace! In the upcoming weeks we will share tutorials on:

how to read a lace chart (and follow text instructions)
– how to work lace increases and decreases (yo, k2tog, ssk, sl1-k2tog-psso)
– choosing needles and yarn for lace knitting
how to block lace
– troubleshooting and problem solving in lace knitting

Soon you will be casting on with confidence for a lacy cardigan, stunning shawl, or cute lace cowl!

If you aren’t familiar with our excellent tutorials, check out The Simple Collection – our free learn-to-knit series with 8 patterns and in-depth tutorials covering knitting techniques from how to knit and purl to how to knit your first sweater and socks!

NEW FREE PATTERN ::: Gothic Lace Cowl (or Scarf)

We are introducing a new free pattern this June, designed specifically for beginner lace knitters.  The Gothic Lace Cowl (or scarf) has a simple, repetitive lace pattern, which is perfect for beginners, and because is knit in worsted or aran weight yarn, so it won’t take forever to make. Sign up for our email updates, and we’ll let you know when this free pattern is available!

Gothic Lace Cowl

A sneak peek of our new free pattern – the Gothic Lace Cowl (or Scarf) … it will be released in June 2014


Lace consists of artfully arranged holes in the knitted fabric.

The holes are usually formed by an increase stitch called a yarn-over (yo).  Because the yarn-over stitches increase the stitch count, they must be balanced out by a corresponding number of decrease stitches.

Several different sorts of decreases may be used in lace knitting: single decreases like knit 2 together (k2tog), or slip-slip-knit (ssk) which decrease a single stitch, and multiple decreases like sl1-k2tog-psso (slip one stitch, knit the next 2 stitches together, pass the slipped stitch over the k2tog and off the needles) which decreases 2 stitches by combining 3 stitches into a single stitch.  You may be familiar with these shaping stitches from your previous knitting projects.

A lace stitch pattern is a set of instructions which results in a lacy knitted fabric.  Just like other types of stitch patterns (cables, textures), a lace stitch pattern will have a stitch repeat (how many stitches wide is the pattern before it repeats again), and a row repeat (how many rows tall is the pattern before it repeats again).

Estuary Shawl -

Estuary Shawl – a free pattern by Tin Can Knits

Lace ChartLace stitch patterns are described using text instructions, or more often using charts.  At Tin Can Knits, most of our lace patterns are shown in charts only, because charts are much more compact and help knitters visualize the finished form of the knitting and learn to ‘read’ their knitting, which is an important skill for avoiding mistakes and troubleshooting.  Check out our in-depth tutorial on how to read a knitting chart.


We love to incorporate lace into all types of knitting projects, in bulky or fine yarns!  If you follow along with our lace tutorials over the coming weeks, you will be all set to tackle a beautiful lace project this spring.

Low Tide CardiganVivid BlanketLush CardiganSunflower ShawlSnowflake PulloverDogwood BlanketBonny TankBotany ShawlRaindrops Pullover


Have you tried lace knitting in the past and had difficulties?  Do you have specific questions about a techique?  Leave a comment below and I will do my best to point you on the road to lace knitting bliss (yes… that is a place I like to go)!

Loving this? If you enjoy our in-depth tutorials, designs, and chat, be sure to get our email updates (you don’t want to miss out on our excellent subscriber specials), and join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, Ravelry, Twitter and Pinterest!

75 Comments leave one →
  1. Ellie permalink
    June 21, 2021 5:28 am

    I was hoping you guys touch knitting with a lace yarn or sock yarn.. To me lace in knitting is not a true lace to me. When I crochet in an attempt to make a lace, I crochet with a very fine yarn and and follow lace patterns. The end garments are always true lace mostly. In knitting you use DK weight yarn or even medium worsted weight and do YO, K2tog, and other increase and decrease stitches to create holes in a garment. But the end results are nothing like lace like we call fabric a lace. Just holes in fabric even using giant yarn..this isn’t really lace at all in terms of fabric. And for knitting in lace normally you use a few needle sizes larger to get “lacey” feel or airy fabric..this isn’t really lace really. I was hoping you cover how to knit with lace or fingering weight it’s quite challenging I found.

    • June 21, 2021 12:16 pm

      Hi Ellie – Yes, it does depend on your definition of lace. Here we’ve defined lace as an open or ‘holey’ fabric. I’m not sure I have any tips for knitting with lace or sock weight yarn specifically, I knit them the same way as any other yarn. It can sometimes require an adjustment in needle size though, if you are having trouble achieving a gauge you are happy with.

  2. October 9, 2020 2:53 am

    These are terms borrowed from domestic machine knitted lace, since hand knitting does not have any terms to differentiate between a yarn over and adjacent decrease (or the other way round), which machine knitters call “simple”, and “fashioned” whereby the decrease is delayed and is separated by several stitches, causing the stitches to lean in the direction of the decrease, the choice of which can accentuate the lean.

  3. September 10, 2020 1:58 am

    The patterns selected here as an introduction to lace knitting by hand, are graded and are chosen to give practice for the few techniques required. Suggestion: knit swatches appropriate for the size of the repeat+ 2 knit stitches at each selvage. Then study the structure of the pattern and note how it has been achieved.

  4. Moira GLOVER-TRUS permalink
    February 29, 2020 8:52 am

    HELP! I am having supreme probs with a pattern. There is no chart (which may be easier) but I never have the number of stitches I am supposed to have at the end of the row. Starting with 60 stitches on needle example:. 1st row: Y.o.n.,K3, *(y.fwd.,K.1) 6times, k6 rep. from *to last 9 sts, (y.fwd.,K1) 6 times, k.3. If I follow the pattern diligently I HAVE 8 stitches at the end not 9!! I am already out by 1 stitch. The 2nd time I do the pattern, Y.o.n., k2, (K2 tog) 3 times, *y;fwd., k1) 6 times, (k2 tog) 6 times, rep from * to last 14 sts–I GET 12 sts , (y.fwd,.K1) 6 times, (k2 tog) 3 times K2. what am I not getting???

    • March 2, 2020 1:02 pm

      Hi – Sorry, I’m not much help here, I’m not sure what is intended by Y.o.n.? Your * to * instruction is a 12 st repeat, so it should work out with 3 sts before the repeat and 9 sts after.

  5. Mary Beth permalink
    February 1, 2020 10:14 am

    Hi Cans,
    I am trying out my own lace with purchased yarn. Is there a best way to determine the size of needle with a given size of yarn when one is doing lace?

    • February 4, 2020 12:27 pm

      Hi Mary Beth – only swatching will tell, but usually a couple of sizes bigger for lace

  6. James permalink
    January 15, 2020 9:50 am


    I love your patterns and I’m knitting the oaken blanket for the first time. I’m a bit confused about the chart – it’s knit in the round and I’m not sure what to do on the even numbered rows. For example round 1: knit chart a, round 2 : knit. But what do you do for the even numbered rows? Do you purl all the chart stitches by converting the k2tog etc to p2tog? Or just purl what you’ve just knit.. sorry if this is confusing

    • January 16, 2020 1:22 pm

      Hi James – I’m not totally sure I understand the question, but for the blanket you are knitting in the round, so the even numbered rounds (rounds 2, 4, 6, etc.) are all just knit. Round 3 you would work chart A.

      • James permalink
        January 16, 2020 2:20 pm

        ok So no purl! Brilliant thank you !

  7. Rose morris permalink
    November 4, 2019 7:35 am

    Having trouble keeping the lace pattern when decreasing for armhole .

  8. Samara permalink
    February 4, 2019 11:25 pm

    Hello, I’m about to start knitting your lace shawl pattern, Rosebud. The pattern uses DK yarn but says sock or ace weight yarns could be used. I have 4ply weight yarn. Can you advise me whether I need to use a different needle size and whether my finished garment will match the measurements given in the pattern. Will the gauge be different than that stated for DK yarn? Thanks for you help

    • February 25, 2019 10:29 am

      Hi Samara – for the Rosebud shawl you could definitely use 4 ply, you would want to use 3.75mm needles (that’s what we used for the sample, with sock/fingering weight yarn)

  9. elcrafty permalink
    September 6, 2018 11:40 am

    hello~ I love your patterns! Prairie Fire is giving me a bit of trouble right now. I am making a size L. i understand rows 1-18 , but that row 19 is giving me trouble. I have placed markers at either end of the lace panel and on row 19 I was knitting to 1 st before the marker, but I think that it should be 2 stitches before and then I would need to end 2 stitches before the end for the last decrease. then rows 21 and 23 I would start the chart 1 st before the panel?
    i have gotten quite far down the front and I don’t have an equal number of sts on either side of my bor marker and I think this is why???? I will rip it back just want to make sure I’m reading the chart correctly. thanks~

    • September 6, 2018 1:42 pm

      Hi – for the Prairie Fire on row 19 if you are placing markers on either side of the lace panel you need to stop 2 sts before the marker and knit the next 3 sts together (2 before and 1 after the marker). At the end of the row you would knit the last st before the marker together with the first 2 sts after the marker.

      • September 6, 2018 2:10 pm

        Wonderful thank you for the clarification. I am off to frong back.

  10. Jeannette permalink
    August 31, 2018 6:29 am

    I have tackled lace knitting and always loose my place in the written pattern as well as ending up with more stitches. Please help! thank you

    • September 4, 2018 2:05 pm

      Hmm, not sure how to help with that one! You could try ticking off each row as you complete it, or adding in a life line when you know a completed section is correct.

  11. Tracy permalink
    November 30, 2017 11:49 am

    What is the style of lace knitting that has no purling?

    • November 30, 2017 2:11 pm

      Magic?! I’m sorry, I’m not sure. If it was in the round it wouldn’t have any purl sts.

  12. Alexia permalink
    October 18, 2017 4:27 am

    Hello! My pattern uses lace weight yarn and size 8 needles. I’ve completed a number of rows and the work looks incredibly loose—much looser than the sample in the yarn store. Thoughts?

    • Alexia permalink
      October 18, 2017 4:34 am

      That’s U.S. size 8 – 5 mm.

    • October 18, 2017 9:51 am

      Hmmm, seems super loose. I mean, it does depend on the pattern, but I would knit a pretty open lace weight shawl on a 3.5-4mm. Does it have a gauge recommendation? Occasionally it happens that the designer knits at a really tight or loose knitter so their suggested needle size is a lot bigger or smaller than the ‘average’ knitter might use.

  13. August 13, 2017 3:39 am

    what is best way to cast on when doing lace

    • August 14, 2017 2:39 pm

      Hi Stephanie – that kind of depends on what you are knitting, but I usually use a long tail cast on

  14. Sarah Goshman permalink
    July 31, 2017 8:39 am

    Hello – I’m working on the 1999 and I’m having trouble getting the sl2-k1-p2sso to not look kind of twisty and clumpy. I am wondering if it’s truly correct to insert the right need as if I were going to K2tog, through the front of the two stitches together, or if you’ve done it by slipping each one separately, but just turned the opposite way from how one would do an ssk?

    • August 2, 2017 9:15 am

      Hi Sarah – that’s how I’ve been doing it, slipping both sts together as if to k2tog

  15. Deborah Wilkie permalink
    February 8, 2017 3:46 pm

    I have knitted quite a few 3 and 4 ply lace shawls before very successfully but when I attempt a 2 or 1 ply the knitting seems very uneven to the extent that I gave up. I really want to have another go – have you any tips?

    • February 9, 2017 10:06 am

      Hi Deborah – it might be that the needles you are using are a bit too big, making the work more open and seem ‘sloppy’ or uneven. I would take it off the needles, put it on waste yarn and block what you have so far, then you will know if it is a fabric you like or if you need to go down a couple of needle sizes.

  16. April 18, 2016 8:28 am

    Hello! I am totally confused with my number of stitches on the Hitofude Cardigan sweater. On the basic repeat section… you start out with 12 stitches.. There are 2 yarn overs…and 2 decreases… By the time I start the second row… I am working with only 10 stitches…. What happened to the other two stitches. You think it would even out starting with 12… two yarn overs..and two decreases….but it doesn’t even out! I end up with 2 less stitches upon starting my second row.

  17. Tia permalink
    June 22, 2015 1:22 pm

    Hello there, I am just finishing the lovely Botany Shawl, but I wanted to add beads to the cast-off. I am using the bind off recommended in the pattern, adding a bead every other stitch just before it’s worked, but seems a bit snug. I am about halfway around and I’m getting the sense my shawl will not block so large this way. How can I tell if my bind-off tension is appropriate (before I actually block it)? Do we need more give when we add beads? Thanks for any help.

    • June 23, 2015 10:54 am

      If it’s feeling too tight it probably is. Try going up a couple of needle sizes and using the stretchy bind off suggested. I’m not sure about how beads would affect things….

  18. Cyndy Koerber permalink
    November 28, 2014 6:51 pm

    Love everything in Road Trip. Working on Prairie Fire size 2-4. Caught up on understanding the 8 stitch repeat? How do I know how many in this size.

  19. Gwen permalink
    July 6, 2014 10:43 am

    I found this website/blog out of desperation to obtain more help with lace knitting. My first attempt is fairly simple with the exception of understanding the decrease process for the neck opening. Hoping you suggestion something to read or watch in understanding how to do decreases for shaping. Totally lost! I leave in Overland Park, Ks (suberb of Kansas City, MO.) Would love to visit you all someday…..but any advice you can give would greatly be appreciated! Thanks!! Gwen

  20. May 31, 2014 1:44 pm

    Love the Raindrops sweater and the Estuary shawl! Beautiful.

  21. May 29, 2014 9:15 am

    I’m new to knitting (just 3 months in) but I’m beyond addicted. I’ve finished ten projects and learned cables, felting and pattern adjustments. I’m looking forward to lace immensely. My favorite pattern so far in tin can knits is Harvest. I like the simplicity and clean lines. And I like your tutorials very much. They are easy to follow and understand. I’m on ravelry as egterenzi.

  22. bellis on Ravelry and Barb in the non-knitting (other) world permalink
    May 28, 2014 6:23 am

    Asking for a favorite lace pattern is like asking which is my favorite child. I have Sunflower and botany started and the yarn for Estuary picked out. Will enjoy the lace knitting with you. Your Simple Collection rocks and I’ve made several of the smaller pieces. Thanks for that series.

  23. Rebecca Zaidi permalink
    May 28, 2014 4:56 am

    Ooh very tricky I love them all. But I think Low Tide as I really want to knit this for me and my girls (3 of them!)
    Rebz on Ravelry

  24. Anne permalink
    May 26, 2014 1:23 am

    It would have to be Drift or Estuary-both are just beautiful! And the aqua yarn -what a gorgeous color! I’m Larimar7 on Ravelry- fingers crossed!,

  25. Marcia Drew permalink
    May 24, 2014 7:08 am

    oops – I’m mmdrew on Ravelry!

  26. Marcia Drew permalink
    May 24, 2014 7:07 am

    Oh I so love that sunflower shawl – I’ve had the pattern for ages now I have to get off my duff and knit it!

  27. Tara Smith permalink
    May 23, 2014 9:22 pm

    My favourite of your patterns is Windswept – I made it for my sister in March this year. I will be making the lovely Lush next. I already have your Handmade in the UK ebook, but if I win I would gift it to my sister. (Tara53aus on Rav)

  28. May 23, 2014 9:06 pm

    I love the Antler Cardigan!
    I made it 3x :-))

    The first one was in the machine …too hot!

    The second one …coffee-accident! Our grand daughter is okay!

    The third one in the same size: our granddaugther love it!

    Thank jou for this very nice pattern!

  29. Cherilyn Roosen-Runge permalink
    May 23, 2014 6:46 am

    I’m knitting Rosebud right now with a specially hand dyed “Rosebud Red” from a friend of mine.
    Your patterns plus pattern support are wonderful.

    Keep up the good work!
    ChinaDoll003 (on Rav)

  30. MaryJo aka emjay on Ravelry permalink
    May 23, 2014 6:18 am

    My outstanding favorite is Sitka Spruce, but I love them all.

  31. Paola Rovelli - poldina57 on Raverly permalink
    May 23, 2014 4:13 am

    All your patterns are beautiful!
    My preferite is Estuary

  32. Maria (purlygalore on ravelry) permalink
    May 23, 2014 3:47 am

    I love all your patterns, but especially estuary. Looking forward to a lace challenge :)

  33. Joanne permalink
    May 23, 2014 2:34 am

    My favorite is Raindrops altho I also like Antler & Harvest! Thanks for the contest! Your tutorials are great too- thanks for sharing—
    Johalley on Rav

  34. Jacinta permalink
    May 23, 2014 12:24 am

    Love all the patterns, but Rosebud has to be my favourite, my Ravelry name is knitsofkin:-)

  35. Snake permalink
    May 22, 2014 9:14 pm

    I can do lace stitches on heavier weight yarns, but I’m having trouble working with actual lace weight. Will actual lace needles with nice sharp points help?

  36. Debi permalink
    May 22, 2014 9:02 pm

    Well I have so many of your patterns that I just love but the first ones I tried, Maize and Main Street have been the ones I have made most as I gift most of my projects. Thank You for such great patterns and good help for a newbie like me. I am wadebid on Ravelry. Thanks for the contest! :)

  37. Charlene permalink
    May 22, 2014 6:42 pm

    Gosh vivid and pop

  38. Susan permalink
    May 22, 2014 6:37 pm

    I like the soft romantic flow of Bonny.
    I am MrsZimm13 on Ravelry

    Thank you

  39. Margaret Marquis permalink
    May 22, 2014 5:51 pm

    Thanks for all your patterns. I adore antler. I even used antler buttons on it. I’m Rabbitsknit .

  40. Mary Wheat permalink
    May 22, 2014 4:32 pm

    I love lace. It is so challenging and fun to work! Thank you for this chance. My Ravelry name is silverbirks and I like so many of you patterns that it is hard to pick just one, but Thistle is my current favorite.

  41. cerdeb permalink
    May 22, 2014 4:29 pm

    My favorite pattern is Northshore! Loved knitting it, and love my sweater. My Ravelry name is cerdeb. Sorry if this is a duplicate. I had trouble logging in and had to start again.

  42. Corrie Gee permalink
    May 22, 2014 3:46 pm

    Your patterns are all wonderful, but I have a special love for Vivid.

    (CorrieG on Ravelry)

  43. May 22, 2014 3:18 pm

    My favorite is Estuary. My revelry name is bitergnome.

  44. Sonja Siddle permalink
    May 22, 2014 12:35 pm

    Lace knitting is so wonderful. Because the yarn is usually light weight it creates less stress on hands and wrists than heavier yarn. Also, as long as memorize the pattern, can be easily carried and worked on anywhere. But most of all, the end result is so lovely.

  45. Laetitia Watts permalink
    May 22, 2014 11:47 am

    I thought I would try to teach myself to knit lace and so took on the beautiful Rosebud pattern. That was a huge mistake. Even after countless attempts I could not make the stitches add up at the end of each row. I’m not sure if I was too tired when I was knitting or what but after two weeks of fruitless attempts I gave up. Any hints on how to make the stitches add up correctly would be gratefully received!

  46. Ludvica permalink
    May 22, 2014 11:34 am

    Just finished a lace course on Craftsy. Now ready to try more. Would love to try Lush.

  47. Charlotte permalink
    May 22, 2014 11:15 am

    Reading this on holiday in the heart of rural France, and so looking forward to your lace knitting know-how! Isn’t the internet wonderful?!

  48. Kesha permalink
    May 22, 2014 11:11 am

    I have never tried lace, but would love to try Low Tide or Lush. Thanks for the chance to win.

  49. Julia Dawn Mason permalink
    May 22, 2014 11:01 am

    I am working a lace shawl now that I am donating to the American Hemerocallis Society National Convention’s auction in late June. The pattern is a panel of a stitch called the dayflower and wings of a small diamond stitch that increases with every 4 rows. The borser is a double garterstitch eyelet rib.

  50. May 16, 2014 12:03 pm

    Reblogged this on Kittens with Mittens and commented:
    Love the Lace!

  51. May 16, 2014 3:43 am

    Great post, thank you so much. I learnt even more about lace knitting today. I am loving lace knitting, still pretty new at it. :-)

  52. Jennifer permalink
    May 15, 2014 12:39 pm

    Thank you! What a great idea to add lace knitting to your Simple Collection. I have been enjoing the beginner patterns and use them to teach others how to knit. Now I can hopefully get over my own issues with lace and charts by trying your new lace cowl pattern.


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