Many people seem to be intimidated by lace knitting because they don't want to follow complex charts or are worried they'll mess up a perfectly symmetrical and regimented pattern and not notice it, meaning they'll have to rip out a lot of work and waste a lot of time that could be better spent knitting.
British knitter Myra Wood has a solution for those sorts of knitters: Don't follow patterns. Don't fix mistakes. Just do whatever you want to do.
Sound crazy? She thinks so, too, and she describes how to do it in her book Crazy lace: An Artistic Approach to Creative Lace Knitting.
Learning to Let Go
As I was reading Crazy Lace, I was thinking "oh, that sounds like a lot of fun" and "I'm sure I'd never be able to knit a lace something that was truly completely random." There's no way I could let go enough to just make increases and decreases whenever the mood struck and just accept whatever the finished project looked like.
But for knitters who are much more interested in the process, and in really learning how and why lace works, for that matter, probably will enjoy the idea that there are no rules that have to be followed. You really can just pick up your needles and knit and see where they take you.
Of course, Wood advocates having a little knowledge and understanding about lace knitting before you set out completely on your own. The beginning of the book explains a bit about lace knitting, how lace is made, the tools and supplies you'll need and how to think more creatively and let go during the knitting process.
She covers different kinds of decreases and how to create your own lace patterning, should you want to. She also advocates swatching, even if you're going for a random look, so that you can block your sample and make sure that you like the look of the finished fabric, even if it's not exactly the same as what your finished piece will look like.
Instructions for casting on, binding off, reading charts and making your own charts round out the introductory material.
Knitting Your Own
There aren't really any patterns in this book, but there is a description of how to go about knitting a lace sampler scarf that will help you get the hang of lace knitting and show you how different lace patterns can work together.
There are charts for 21 different simple lace pattern repeats, ranging in size from five to 12 stitches, and Wood advises choosing at least five different stitch patterns, preferably ones that can be worked in about the same number of stitches so the width of your piece is uniform.
Each pattern is knit for as long as you want, either with some rows of plain knitting between or just running one pattern into the next.
By the time you've finished your scarf you'll have a better grasp of how lace knitting works, how patterns work together and how to knit a little more intuitively rather than strictly following a pattern.
Once that sample project is covered, Wood goes on to explain how to make your own Crazy Lace, either by developing a symmetrical pattern of your own design or working a completely random piece. She talks about how to add stitches to a pattern repeat to make it fit in the project you're working and how to add other stitches to a lace project. Tons of artful pictures throughout the bok provide inspiration and show you what this technique can do.
Finally, she describes the basic shapes of lace -- squares, rectangles, diamonds, triangles and circles -- how to make them and how to incorporate lace into those designs.
Whether you like Crazy Lace will depend entirely on your temperament as a knitter. If you're a dive right in and see what happens kind of person, you're sure to love this technique. If you insist on following a pattern to the letter even for simple projects, run away fast. The very idea of Crazy Lace will, in fact, make you crazy.
As I mentioned, I kind of feel in the middle ground on this one. The idea of completely charting your own course when it comes to lace knitting sounds like a lot of fun. At the same time, I'd be worried that my random would end up looking like a big mess or that I wouldn't go crazy enough and would make something that looked like it was charted.
I think this is something I definitely want to try. If nothing else, the spirit of try it and see is a good one to bring to any knitting project, and that's a good lesson for all of us.
Publication date: November 2009