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Knitting on a Lace Edge

A knitted on lace edging is a neat and beautiful way of finishing a shawl or blanket of any size or shape. It involves provisionally casting on for the edge, and, as you knit the lacy edge, gradually incorporating the live edge stitches from the shawl. The incorporation usually takes the form of using ssk (slip, slip, knit) to slip one edging stitch and one shawl stitch, then knitting them together through the back loop. The join is performed on every right side row, so one shawl stitch is bound off for every two edging rows knitted.

I shall illustrate this with a sample using the edging of the Wild Geese Hap (pattern available from the Granary Knits store), a square blanket with a pretty garter lace edging.

The setup up

The pattern for the edging will tell you how many stitches to provisionally cast on; using a length of waste yarn, cast on the required number of stitches. There are lots of tutorials on Youtube for provisional cast ons, some use crochet chains, some knit a few garter rows in waste yarn; experiment to find the one that is best for you.

Identify the point on the edge of shawl where you will be starting, right side facing unless otherwise specified. The pattern should tell you where this is but will probably be the point where your live stitches start. In the example below, on the Wild Geese Hap, I start 1 stitch in from the corner and work one side first before I come to a corner.

the ‘blanket’ (left) and the provisional stitches (right) positioned to begin joining

Using the working yarn for your shawl/blanket, work the first row of the edging until you reach the last stitch; the chart will probably show this as a ssk. Slip the last stitch of the edging knitwise, then slip the first live stitch you will be working on the shawl, also knitwise.  Place the tip of the left-hand needle through the front of the two stitches on the right-hand needle, so that the needles are positioned as though you were about to knit them together through the back loop; knit them together through the back loop. You have made your first join stitch.

the slipped stitches ready to be knit through back loop

Turn the work and continue with the second row of the edging; this will almost certainly start with slipping the first stitch with yarn in front, which helps the edging to sit neatly and twists the stitch creating a decorative join.

First 2 rows of the edging completed

You will find, as you work, that you are knitting the edge on in an anti-clockwise direction around the shawl; it is possible to work clockwise, but most patterns for this type of edging will work anti-clockwise, because it is simpler.

1 edging repeat completed

 

1 side of the ‘blanket’ edging completed

Turning a corner

If the shawl or blanket you are working is circular, you will just carry on working the edging until you reach your starting point then graft the two edges together. If your shawl is triangular or square, however, you will have to turn the corner, and this will involve working extra edging repeat(s) in order to make a smooth turn. In the case of the Wild Geese Hap, the pattern has an obvious spine stitch marking the corner; I use this and the stitches either side of it for 1 repeat of the edging, i.e. I bind off 3 blanket stitches instead of 7. This is done by working multiple edging joins into 1 blanket stitch; here I work 2 into the first of the 3 corner stitches, 3 into the spine stitch, and 2 into the third blanket stitch.

Begin by working the first 2 rows of the edging as normal, joining into the first of the 3 corner stitches;  on row 3, when you reach the point of joining, slip the first stitch, then put the needle into the previously worked blanket corner stitch and lift it up so that you can knit into the back of the two loops.

working into the 1st corner stitch for a second time

Continue with edging rows 4 and 5, joining into the corner spine stitch; continue with rows 6 and 7, until you reach the join stitch; slip the first stitch as usual, then put the needle into the previously worked corner spine stitch and lift it up so that you can knit into the back of the two loops.

1st working into the corner spine stitch

 

2nd working into the corner spine stitch

Repeat, so that you have 3 edge joining stitches into the one corner spine stitch.

Continue with the edging rows, and repeat the joining of two edge join stitches into the third corner stitch on the blanket.

joining into the third corner stitch

You should now have completed one repeat of the edging pattern turning the corner, binding off three corner stitches.

the complete turned corner

The hap corner on the blocking frame

Joining the end to the beginning

Once you have completed all the edging repeats and all the shawl/blanket stitches have been bound off, it is time to complete the edging by joining the live stitches to the provisional cast on.

For an invisible join, use Kitchener stitch/grafting; alternatively you could perform a three-needle bind off but this will leave a ridge on the underside of the shawl/blanket edge.

If you enjoy working Kitchener stitch, then this will hold no fears for you. If you don’t enjoy Kitchener stitch, well there is some good news – garter Kitchener is much much easier than stocking stitch Kitchener! Just to be on the safe side, I put a lifeline through the live stitches and through the cast on stitches (I didn’t need it but it was worth doing for peace of mind!). Also, I practised on a couple of samples, shown below in green yarn. It may seem like a lot of trouble to go to, but it ensured I did not make a mess of my edging when I came to do it for real.

If you prefer to see a video tutorial, then I found this one very helpful: https://www.knittinghelp.com/video/play/grafting-garter-kitchener-stitch

The trick, with garter Kitchener, is to ensure that your two rows of stitches are aligned properly.  You are going to be creating one additional row, therefore, when knitting your final edging repeat, you omit the very last row of the repeat as this is the row you will be creating with Kitchener stitch. You work on the right side of the knitting throughout.

The first step is to undo the provisional cast on, and place the stitches from the first row of the edge onto a needle. The needle should be facing the same way as the needle holding your live end stitches. I began, as you can see, from the blanket end and worked out to the pointed edge. The calabash pins are there purely to mark the right sides for me.

Top piece is the end of the edging, lower piece is the start of the edging, right sides facing you

Cut your working yarn leaving a very long tail, at least 3 times the length of the seams to be grafted, to ensure you do not run out. Thread the tail onto a blunt-ended needle (mine is purple as you can see).

First the set up: Put the sewing needle tip through the first stitch on the lower needle, purlwise, and pull the yarn tail through. Leave the stitch on the needle.

 

Put the sewing needle tip through the first stitch on the upper needle, purlwise, and pull the yarn tail through. Leave the stitch on the needle.

 

Now the repeated stitches start: Put the sewing needle tip through the first stitch on the lower needle, knitwise, and pull the yarn tail through. Take the stitch off the lower needle.

 

Put the sewing needle tip through the first stitch on the lower needle, purlwise, and pull the yarn tail through. Leave the stitch on the lower needle.

Put the sewing needle tip through the first stitch on the upper needle, knitwise, and pull the yarn tail through. Take the stitch off the upper needle. Then purlwise through the next stitch on the upper needle and leave the stitch on the needle.

Continue in this way, until all stitches have been joined. The mantra for garter Kitchener stitch is:

Lower Needle:
Knit and slip off, Purl and leave on.
Upper Needle:
Knit and slip off, Purl and leave on.

The completed graft on the hap blanket, in between the two pale blue lifelines, is invisible and lies flat.

I hope that you found this tutorial helpful and will be encouraged to try knitted on lace edges.

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top five lace shawl designers on ravelry

Lace shawls are my favourite knitting project. I have knitted quite a few over the last few years. Last year I set myself a personal challenge to knit a shawl a month for twelve months, and I completed the challenge in February 2016. I loved doing it and it gave me great insight into the way shawls are constructed, and what makes a great shawl (as opposed to just a very nice shawl). The following is my selection of five superb lace shawl designers.

Rosemary Hill (Romi on Ravelry)
Romi does design the most beautiful shawls. Last year, during my personal challenge The Year of Knitting Lacily, I knitted Asterope from her collection of Seven Small Shawls Year 1: The Pleiades. In fact I bought several of her small shawl collections and could have knitted any one of them, they are all gorgeous! I love the attention to detail, the interesting construction, and in the case of Asterope, the stunningly beautiful border.

 

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Asterope, on the blocking mat

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Verybusymonkey
Verybusymonkey on Ravelry is a very busy lady indeed. She has published nine collections of shawls as ebooks, as wells as patterns for socks, hats, etc. Her trademark design feature is intricate patterning, not always lacy, that relates to the story of the shawl. For instance, she has designed several sets of shawls on the theme of scientists, shawls named Newton, Tesla, Darwin, Galileo, and so on; each shawl shows an element of the discovery for which that scientist is famous. So the Tesla shawl has a border representing alternating current; the Newton shawl illustrates Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion; the Darwin shawl shows the evolution from a single simple shape through successive layers to a beautiful intricate border. I have not yet knitted Darwin, but I know I will soon!

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Tesla

Nim Teasdale
NimbleNim on Ravelry has produced a fabulous collection of shawl designs. I love the way they are constructed. She will provide two or more20151226_101817.jpg charts for a particular shawl and you decide, based upon how large you want the shawl or how much yarn you have at your disposal, on how many repeats to do of each pattern.  It is a very flexible design methodology, and is a wonderful way of using up every scrap of a precious skein. During my challenge last year, I knitted two of her designs, Whirlwind Romance and  Slow Dance, and I loved knitting both of them. On my ToDo list is Ashputtel and The Peacock’s Tale (although, really, I could knit any or all of them!)

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Slow Dance, detail showing beads

Jane Araujo
Jane Araujo may not have the output of some of the designers listed here, but what she has produced are gorgeous! Nightso20150819_193235.jpgngs is the loveliest all-over-lace pattern you will ever see, and it is so easy! It is another pattern where, as long as you have enough yarn, you can just keep adding repeats, and I like patterns like that! I knitted my version in Baa Ram Ewe Titus, colourway Eccup (a lovely deep teal), but I’m thinking of knitting another one in a yarn with a long colour change,  such as Kauni, as the samples that have been knitted in variegated yarns look stunning. So far I have only knitted Nightsongs, but Jane’s other shawls all feature on my ToDo list, starting with the wonderful conflagration of Lace and Entrelac that is Dianna.

 

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Nightsongs

Anna Dalvi
Anna Dalvi designs beautiful complex-looking shawls with a story behind each one. Her Mystic Shawls collection is full of beautiful airy lusciousness; The Ancient Egypt in Lace and Colour ebook has fascinating designs based on the symbolism of colour in ancient Egypt. I have not yet knitted any of Anna’s designs, but I do love drooling over the patterns! I particularly like the triangular shawl Seth for its bold geometric patterning; and Memphis, because it is a pi-shawl and I really want to knit a pi-shawl!

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Seth, photo copyright Anna Dalvi, from the book Ancient Egypt in Lace and Colour