Lace Knitting Stitches

By Emily Vanek

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Lace knitting looks so intricate and can appear as delicate as a flower, but let's not get intimidated just yet, some lace patterns are quite easy to create! Grab your knitting and coffee (or tea) and follow along with us while we navigate the wonderful world of knit lace stitches.

knit lace example

Lace knitting is created when you have planned "holes" in your pattern. There is usually a "right side" and a "wrong side" to the fabric created by patterns of knit and purl rows. A hole can be created by pairing a yarn over stitch with a nearby decrease stitch. If the decrease is in front of the yarn over, it typically slants right (k2tog - knit two together). If the decrease follows the yarn over, it typically slants left (ssk - slip two stitches to the right needle, then knit them together, not k2tog). These slants pull the fabric away from the yarn over, opening up the hole.

A simple lace pattern can be created by knitting a few stitches, knitting two together, completing a yarn over, and then knitting some more. Repeating this will produce a horizontal row of holes. (k5, k2tog, yo, k5). Just purl all "wrong side" rows.

To get the lace pattern, or holes, to go on the diagonal, shift the k2tog and yarn overs in your rows.

For example:

  • row 1 - k1, k2tog, yo, k5
  • row 2 (and all even rows) - purl all stitches
  • row 3 - k3, k2tog, yo, k3
  • row 5 - k5, k2tog, yo, k1

Reversible lace knitting is created when there is no "wrong side" to the fabric. You can make this by either knitting the purl rows, or finding a pattern where the knit and purl stitches are intermixed to create the pattern. A great example of reversible knit stitches is shown in Craftsy member All Knitted Lace's Reversible Lace Baby Blanket pattern.

Beyond reversible lace, there are many different techniques you can use to craft your lace garment. Eyelets are created when there are just a few holes scattered throughout the fabric. By clustering these holes together you can create rosettes and other patterns in the knit fabric. There are few constraints on the positioning the eyelets, so practically any picture or pattern can be outlined with eyelets; common motifs include leaves, rosettes, ferns and flowers.

joined lace knit granny squares

Faggoting (also known as openwork lace knitting) is when the fabric is almost all holes with very little structure. Every stitch in this technique is either a yarn over, or a decrease. This creates a mesh look to the work. To get this type of lace to drape and fit properly, you may find the need to block it. [insert link to steam blocking blog post if live] Most openwork lace stitches are reversible. They look the same or very similar on both sides of the knit fabric. Openwork lace stitches are usually very simple and only have two to four pattern rows.

Netting stitches are the most open and the holes can be worked on a horizontal or diagonal pattern. A regular netting stitch is very easy to knit and also effective as a filling in backgrounds, but can also be used for shawls, garments, tray cloths and more. An extra large netting stitch consists almost entirely of holes with a very delicate fabric between. As such, it is an ideal stitch for use in light-weight stoles, scarves and shawls, or as filling in other lace. This stitch is often achieved using large needles and fingering weight yarn.

Lace can also be used as an edging to a stockinette or other type of knit stitch pattern. Lace edges make a delicate trim for a baby blanket or can be used to soften the look of a sweater. Craftsy member JackieES used lace to trim a tray cloth, achieving a gentle feel, providing the appropriate contrast to the harsher lines of the garter center of the cloth- it looks exquisite.

Now that you have a basic understanding of how lace knitting stitches are created, let's dive into some patterns. Our own Craftsy members have quite a running collection of extravagant lace patterns which can be seen here.

For more knitting techniques visit our Knitter's Handbook or our main knitting page that can be found here. There are a multitude of ideas and instructions!

What is your favorite lace knitting stitch?

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