Monday, June 17, 2013

Lace 103: Cast-ons and Bind-offs for Lace Knitting

Knitted lace grows – sometimes astonishingly. You cannot always tell how much when it is on the needles but once you wash it… Oh, my!
In general lace knitting spreads more sideways - just where most of the cast ons and binds offs cannot accommodate a 30% stretch.

A long tail cast-on - broken in blocking

Traditional lace knitters such as those of the Shetland lace fame avoided cast-ons and bind-offs altogether. They did this by casting on with a waste yarn (also known as a provisional cast-on) that was later removed for a knitted lace edging to be attached to the live stitches.
I love this approach. There are several ways to do a provisional cast on. Use whatever cast-on you like but start with a yarn planned to be removed later. Pick a yarn that is smooth, a similar size as the project yarn and a contrasting color. With most cast-ones this yarn will have to be picked out – a sometimes annoying procedure.

My favorite provisional cast-on is the crochet cast-on as it unravels when you are ready to remove it. This is also an elastic cast-on and can be used as “the” cast-on for lace without removing later. If you want a How-to on this cast-on scroll down to a previous blog on the Crochet Cast-On.
Add a few picots and it is decorative and even more elastic. Another lovely thing about this cast-on - there is a matching bind-off.
Another lace cast-on that is also decorative but not removable is this lace cast-on. It is worked separately to the number of stitches you want minus one. Then with the one stitch on the needle you pick up the stitches along the side. It won’t match the bind-off but that is not necessarily important.
Here is how you work it: Cast-on two stitches. Bring the yarn forward, slip the first stitch (keeping the yarn to the right of the slipped stitch) then knit the next stitch and pass the slipped stitch over. This is basically a yarn over, followed by an SSK. Turn and repeat for the number of stitches needed minus one. This cast-on will work for any lace and creates a nice edge.
Try to avoid bind-offs too but If you have to bind off use an elastic one. This is a yarn-over bind-off. Here is how it is worked:
Knit one, yarn-over, knit one; pass yarn-over second knit stitch, pass 1st knit stitch over second knit stitch; repeat from yarn-over.
This is another bind-off I like. It is easy to do and more importantly easy to remember how to do it.
Here are the directions for this bind-off: Purl two together. *Place stitch just made from the purl two together back onto the left needle. Purl two together. Repeat from *.
Happy Casting On!

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