Top Tips for Newbie Lace Shawl Knitters

  1. Don’t panic! If you can conquer a knit and a purl stitch then you already know how to do lace!

  2. Lace does not necessarily need to be done on tiny needles with fine laceweight yarn - for a beginner it’s a good idea to think about using 4ply or even sport or DK. Whilst Laceweight can look beautiful and drape like clouds, a bright 4ply sock yarn with 4mm needles can look just as stunning. You do need circular needles though - don’t try and knit a shawl on straight needles - trust me! Ideally you want at least a 100cm cord (which should come with an interchangeable set or if you prefer fixed circulars, make sure you have some 4mm in your collection - they are really useful)

  3. For a first lace pattern, my recommendation would be to chose something which has its lace pattern on one side only eg lace pattern on one side and a purl row on the second. Are you more comfortable with a chart? For a beginner I would suggest a pattern which has charts and corresponding written instructions as I have done on the Lantern Shawl - you may find you prefer a chart or you may prefer to stick to written instructions - there is no right or wrong here!

  4. Chose your shape - for a beginner I would suggest a triangular or half moon shape with a simple border.

  5. Think carefully about your yarn - some yarn is better suited to lace than others and certainly I would not suggest you use a fine kidsilk mohair for your first lace project - it can look beautiful, but for a first timer may cause you some problems.  HOWEVER I recommend finding a skein of yarn that you absolutely love. Something a little luxe, which you are going to adore on every stitch. Find your favorite colour or a something which is really going to complement your wardrobe.

  6. Swatch……. You can practice your lace stitches over a swatch - just make it big enough for 3 or 4 repeats of the lace pattern plus a couple of edging stitches - for instance the Diamond Lace pattern on my Lantern Shawl is worked over 10 stitches and a 10 row repeat - so cast on 44 stitches and knit two stitches at each end, and 4 repeats of the pattern and knit for 20 rows.  This will give you an idea of the fabric you will create.  You might be happy with the drape, or you might wish to wash and block it - but whichever way it’s a great way to practice.

  7. Stitch markers - if you feel comfortable with stitch markers these can be a great way of identifying pattern repeats and centre stitches.  My first lace shawl was Ishbel by Ysolda Teague and I can tell you I had so many stitch markers my knitting positively jangled!  I tend not to use them so much now, but they can be a lifesaver for beginners or at least in the first few rows until you get comfortable with the pattern.

  8. Speaking of lifesavers…...Lifelines!  Yes these are a good idea - too many times I have had to tink back 4 rows of over 200 stitches and kicked myself hard for not having a lifeline!  The idea is to get to a point to which you can rip back to confidently and re-start from there, so at the beginning of a section for instance. There are a number of ways to put in a lifeline, but my favorite is to use the little holes where my interchangeable needles are fixed and slip through some dental floss and just knit along and the lifeline will go in behind you .  You can use cotton or other yarn, but I find the floss is easier to work with and also smells nice!  If you don’t have interchangeable needles with a hole then you can easily wait until the end of a row and thread through with a darning needle.

  9. To block is to bloom…… there have been a few occasions where I have finished knitting a laceweight shawl and to be frank it’s looked like an old rag!  Soak your shawl, roll in a towel to get out the excess water and pin out very carefully, making sure to pin out points if you have or like them.  I have recently bought some blocking wires and they have been great for getting a really even edge.  Blocking is not a quick job - get a cup of tea - your favorite playlist on Spotify and then take your time - it really is worth it in the end!

    My Swallowtail shawl looked pretty awful in the knitting!

    But look how it bloomed!

  10. Show Off!  There is nothing better to show off to your non knitting friends and family than a lace shawl - they cannot help but be impressed! Then cast on the next one, because my friend you are now a shawl knitter and it’s addictive!
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