Lace difficulty and me
Karie Westermann has written a fascinating series of posts about lace knitting on her Patreon (I’ve linked the first, but you’ll need to subscribe before reading), and I’ve found them very enjoyable. I think they are worth reading for anyone who wants to knit lace.
One particular subtopic made me want to explain something here. She asked on her Twitter before writing the fourth one for people’s questions about lace design. At first I couldn’t think of anything, and then I realized I was curious about her perspective on how to decide how complex to make one’s lace patterns. She kindly touched on the topic in her most recent Patreon post about lace, among other things discussing the balance to be made between the experienced knitter’s desire for complex techniques and the desire for more knittable lace, with a rhythm that can be followed more readily and memorized.
It’s not to say (as she rightly points out) that all complex lace is hard to knit, or that all lace that’s worked with only single yarnovers and the easiest decreases is easy, but the question of that balance is often on my mind.
I am certain this is not obvious from the stitch patterns you see on my blog, given how complex some of my lace can be, or how difficult some of the rhythms are. I have some unusual constraints on my secret code lace: because the encoding is done by the placement of yarnovers on a chart*, I can’t necessarily eliminate double yarnovers, nor can I move or remove an inconvenient yarnover. The most I can manage is to choose the best yarnover layout (there are many possibilities for a given word), play with symmetry and fabric design layouts, and to impose as much order as I can through the careful placement of decreases. As Karie points out, the decreases in lace knitting are as crucial as the yarnovers, if not more so.
I do my best when picking the layout I use for a given word to find one that is straightforward to knit, with as few complex maneuvers and double yarnovers as I can manage, and that has a logical layout that can be memorized. (Poppy is a recent example of one of my laces that I think is successful in this regard.) In the end, though, given the constraints of the encoding, I am occasionally stuck with something that I don’t prefer, though I hope someone likes those anyway, given variations in taste. Frequently I feel the layout of the yarnovers requires complex maneuvers to make what I think is an attractive result. And often the layout of the whole design is such that the lace has an unmemorable rhythm.
I do try to keep the complexities to as much of a minimum as I can manage — for instance, if I use more unusual double decreases or one of my bunny ears yarnover maneuvers, I will avoid using as many other complexities as I can, even when they tempt me.
Sometimes I do manage to design lace with only single yarnovers and regular decreases, and occasionally, only single yarnovers and single decreases. I am currently going back through my old posts to add them to a searchable database that I’m making for this blog, and when I find any of those more straightforward laces, I’m going to be adding the tag “straightforward lace” to them to make them more findable.
Anyway, I know my lace designs are unusual and often challenging, but I wanted you to know that I do try to minimize the difficulty given the constraints on my method.
*I have only once had it work to mark the encoded squares on a chart as decreases and then manually place the yarnovers; the marked squares rarely make good decrease lines. See Shiny lace for the one exception so far!
Featured image has a not-terribly-complex traditional mesh combined with one of my more complex laces. See Mourn lace.