Demystifying Lace, Class 3: Gauge, Casting on, and the ‘Holey’ stitch

Hello again! In this installment of Demystifying Lace, I’ll tell you why getting gauge isn’t really all that important, basics of casting on for different types of lace, and give a quick primer on the holeyest of stitches, the yarn over!

But before that, here are some answers to questions I got from last week’s post.

Michelle asked:
Q: what do you do when you have to make no stitch in the
next stitch? there’s a book ‘101 luxury yarn 1 skein projects’ that has a sweet
violet scarf pattern that says that in the chart. what do i do with the stitch
that is on my needles? how do I “skip” a stitch without dropping a stitch and
then having a runner down my 1/4″ of knitted scarf?

A: “No Stitch” in a
chart is simply a place holder – nothing happens. Essentially, a stitch would
have been there if it hadn’t been decreased away, but to keep the proper
alignment of other stitches on the chart, a placeholder is left where the stitch
had been. It’s only used in charts and doesn’t indicate that you should do
anything to existing stitches – so, essentially, you just ignore it and move on
to the next!

Pat asked:
Q: The Russian Join was also interesting. Does that work with only natural fibers
or can it be used with manmade as well?

A: The Russian Join works with all fibers, both natural
and synthetic! That’s the beauty of it. It does create a slightly thicker area
of the yarn, which should be taken into consideration when using it in heavier
projects, but overall, it’s nearly invisible. It’s also perfect for color changes
without having to weave in ends!

Barbara asked:
Q: I know you mentioned that natural fibers
like wool can be spit spliced, but does that include super wash wool?

A: Only fibers that can
felt will be able to be spit-spliced – so, unfortunately, superwash is out! Spit
splicing provides all the necessary ingredients for felting: Moisture, Friction,
and Heat. It takes advantage of wool’s natural ability to felt. So, 100% wool or
alpaca yarns will splice the best, but anything that won’t felt is better joined
with a Russian Join.
Colene asked:
Q: I got a book on lace shawls out and here is part of the direction: *k2tog, yo,
yo, k2tog, k2tog, yo, yo, k2tog….. I know what a yo is (and all the others)
but I’ve never seen the “yo, yo” together. How exactly is this done? Do you
think it’s a misprint? Or is it really part of the directions. 
A: Nope, that’s no misprint! Multiple yarnovers in a row
will create a bigger hole than one by itself – thanks to your question, I cover
the answer in depth in this week’s class. The key to multiple yarn overs is to
be patient with them on the next row or round, and when working them, knit
into the front of one and the back of the next, or vice versa. You’ll see what I
mean in the video!
Elenor asked:
Q: My swift seems to be ‘sticky’. Is there a way I can oil the center part to make
it less sticky?
A: That’s a pretty common problem with swifts. Since they
are wooden, they are pretty susceptible to the humidity in the air and that can
cause sticking. If your swift is finished with varnish, a tiny bit of machine
oil or furniture oil can help, but you’ll have to clean and reapply often as it
will tend to get ‘gloppy’. If it’s unfinished, raw wood, a little sanding can
work wonders, provided you can get it apart and get to the right spot! Raw wood
can also chafe, so check to see if there are any rough areas. if you see any,
sand them with superfine sandpaper and then use a curved piece of metal (the
shaft of a screwdriver, for example) to carefully burnish the
Also, looking at where
the friction is occurring can help determine the solution. If the umbrella
portion isn’t spinning on the shaft well and when you release the screw to let
it down it stays up, sand the shaft down a little; if the umbrella moves up and
down just fine but doesn’t want to spin when the screw is tightened, it could be
rubbing on the top of the screw and need to be polished or greased. Don’t use
any lubricants with an unfinished swift, though – it will make the wood swell! 
A quick and easy way to finish the wood and keep it moving, well, swiftly, is to
treat it like a butcher block: give it a mineral oil treatment frequently. You
will need to sand the moving parts before doing this because of swelling. But,
it should keep it running smoothly and make it easier to clean.
Another thing to note, if you use your swift a lot:
Fiber gunks up moving parts like nothing else (just ask my husband about his
fishing reel vs. alpaca gloves!), so make sure your swift is free of fibers
under all the moving parts.


Eileen asked:
Q: I’m really enjoying this lace
class! I have one question though, you said that alpaca is heavier than wool
& that wool is hollow. Everything i’ve read about alpaca says the
opposite. That alpaca is lighter & hollow yet warmer than

A: This is one of those
areas that gets pretty scientific pretty fast! Both wool and alpaca are
medullated fibers, which means they contain a structure called the medulla at
their core. This is sort of like hair marrow. It’s a hollow-ish structure. But,
not every fiber will be medullated. Generally, that’s the guard hairs and
thicker hairs, from what I understand, on a sheep. Medullation is seen as quite
unfavorable in sheep’s wool, especially merino. That makes sense, since
medullated fibers would be a little stiffer and thicker versus non medullated
fibers. Alpaca fiber, from what I understand, is always medullated. But, because
of other properties of the fiber, it’s still flexible. So, technically speaking, unmedullated wool fibers are hollow, while medullated alpaca fibers are not. Confused yet? 😛
(Now, I’m no sheep scientist, that’s for sure – and information on this subject seems pretty sparse. If any of you guys out there know how medullation effects the fibers, please comment! I’ll ask our buyer [who worked on an Australian sheep ranch] to weigh in next week.)
About the weight: each
fiber of alpaca weighs less than a fiber of sheep’s wool, but it’s much finer.
So, to fill the same amount of volume, you’d need more alpaca fibers, which ends
up being heavier. And, because of how it lays, 50 grams of alpaca fiber will
take up less space in a yarn than 50 grams of sheep’s wool. It’s not a huge
difference, but when milling yarn, it certainly does effect the final
As always, thanks for your comments and questions! Keep ’em coming 🙂
And now, on to this week’s lengthy lessons! Even though these videos are pretty long, I feel like I really only skimmed over the techniques – so if you have questions, ask away. 🙂
On gauge

Casting on, part 1

Casting on, part 2

Holey stitches, Batman! Yarn-overs!

1 comment

  1. Patty Larson / June 22, 2013

    I would like to knit the Treasured Neckerchief but I’m not understanding the pattern. What is meant by sections? And I am not sure where the left and right chart goes?