Lace knitting

Lace knitting

Lace knitting is a style of knitting characterized by stable "holes" in the fabric arranged with consideration of aesthetic value. Lace is sometimes considered the pinnacle of knitting, because of its complexity and because woven fabrics cannot easily be made to have holes. True knitted lace has pattern stitches on both the right and wrong sides; knitting with pattern stitches on only one side of the fabric, so that holes are separated by at least two threads, is technically not lace, but often called "lacy knitting".

Eyelet patterns are those in which the holes make up only a small fraction of the fabric and are isolated into clusters (e.g., little rosettes of one hole surrounded by others in a hexagon).

At the other extreme, some knitted lace is almost all holes, e.g., faggoting. Famous examples include the wedding ring shawl of Shetland knitting, a shawl so fine that it could be drawn through a wedding ring. Shetland knitted lace became extremely popular in Victorian England when Queen Victoria became a Shetland lace enthusiast. From there, knitting patterns for the shawls were printed in English women's magazines where they were copied in Iceland with single ply wool.

Knitted lace with no bound-off edges is extremely elastic, deforming easily to fit whatever it is draped on. As a consequence, knitted lace garments must be blocked or "dressed" before use, and tend to stretch over time.


A hole can be introduced into a knitted fabric by pairing a yarn-over stitch with a nearby (usually adjacent) decrease. If the decrease "precedes" the yarn-over, it typically slants "right" as seen from the right side (e.g., k2tog, "not" k2tog tbl; see knitting abbreviations). If the decrease "follows" the yarn-over, it typically slants "left" as seen from the right side (e.g., k2tog tbl or ssk, "not" k2tog). These slants pull the fabric away from the yarn-over, opening up the hole.

Pairing a yarn-over with a decrease keeps the stitch count constant. Many beautiful patterns separate the yarn-over and decrease stitches, e.g., k2tog, k5, yo. Separating the yarn-over from its decrease "tilts" all the intervening stitches towards the decrease. The tilt may form part of the design, e.g., mimicking the veins in a leaf.

There are few constraints on positioning the holes, so practically any picture or pattern can be outlined with holes; common motifs include leaves, rosettes, ferns and flowers. To design a simple lace motif, a knitter can draw its lines on a piece of knitting graph paper; right-slanting lines should be produced with "k2tog, yo" stitch-pairs (as seen on the right side) whereas left-slanting lines should be produced with "yo, k2tog tbl" (or, equivalently, "yo, ssk" or "yo, skp") stitch pairs (again, as seen on the right side). More sophisticated patterns will change the grain of the fabric to help the design, by separating the yarn-overs and decreases.

imple examples

A horizontal row of holes can be produced by the pattern: *k3, k2tog, yo, k3*.

A pair of vertical columns can be produced by stacking the pattern: (k, k2tog, yo, k, yo, k2tog tbl, k)on the right side. Here the flanking decreases slant outwards away from the central stitch. For a thicker central column, one can move the decreases so that they slant inwards: (k, yo, dec 2 symmetrically, yo, k).For making the same pattern on the wrong side, the converse stitch patterns are: (p, p2tog, yo, p, yo, p2tog tbl, p) and (p, yo, dec 2 symmetrically, yo, p), respectively.

A diagonal row of holes can be made by shifting the (yo, dec) every row or every other row, e.g.,
* Row 1: k, k2tog, yo, k5
* Row 3: k3, k2tog, yo, k3
* Row 5: k5, k2tog, yo, k1

History and comparison to other laces

Lace knitting is generally not as fine as other forms of lace, such as
needle lace or bobbin lace. However, it is better suited for garments, being softer and much faster to produce.


* (2002) "Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book", updated ed., Sixth and Spring Books. ISBN 1-931543-16-X
* (1979) "Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework", Reader's Digest Association. ISBN 0-89577-059-8
* June Hemmons Hiatt (1988) "The Principles of Knitting", Simon and Schuster, pp. 92-105. ISBN 0-671-55233-3

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