Learning to Design Lace

My supplies and workspace as I attempt to crack the code on designing a lace shawl.

What I need:

  1. one of those fake mechanical pencils in yellow plastic, designed to look like a No. 2 Eberhard, which never need to be sharpened because you can just twist the end and get a new point
  2. graph paper from some crazy free web dealie that lets you mandate how many squares and how many rows to the page: 20 x 20, not for the mature lace designer, 10x10 about right for rough drafts, and 14x14 just right for a final version, which gives you about 40 squares across and about 28 rows up if you use the paper horizontally. Got that?
  3. clear plastic sleeves from Office Depot. The thick, more expensive kind. Don't waste your money on the flimsy, cheaper ones. You can always recycle these from project to project. I use them to hold the notes and the swatch.
  4. a copy of Barbara Walker's Treasury, volume 2, so I can crib lace designs, I mean, inspiration (next summer will be about original designs, maybe - right now, I know that I'm in good company in using Walker as the source)
  5. a copy of Interweave Knits Fall 2006, so that I can study Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail Shawl design and crib help from her methodology
  6. my reading glasses with rhinestones on the frame, because if you have to wear reading glasses, let them be fun, please.
  7. oh, and Post-It notes, for "underlining" the row on the pattern that I'm working on, for keeping a note of what the next row is, and for holding my place as I convert the written instructions in Walker into a chart.

My workspace: the dining room table. I've always studied at a dining-room table,through elemtary school and high school and years and years of graduate schools. I love the space to spread out in, the windows to look out of, and the proximity to the tea kettle and cups of tea.

Here's the goal: try to design a triangular lace shawl. The body of the shawl will be a small motif, repeated several times. Then a swoopy-style border. Then a basic Peaked Edging so that the shawl, when blocked, has that great scalloped border that you see in Clark's and other designers' shawls. So far, I've played with the Twin Leaf pattern from Walker. Here's a view of the blocked swatch. Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool. Size 7 bamboo circular needle. Garter edge border of 4 stitches on each side and garter stitch in 5 rows at beginning and end. 30 stitches. 4 pattern repeats. Gauge over lace section: about 18 st and 14 rows to 4". I like it, but it isn't as dramatic as I'd expected. Maybe drop down a needle size? Advantages: the definition of the leaves, the symmetry, only 8 rows to one repeat, with purling on all wrong side rows. In other words, only 4 rows of pattern to memorize, and only 26 stitches across a row, with most stitches either knit or purl. Disadvantages: just didn't excite me once I knit it up. Even after blocking.
Effort #2: Thistle Leaf Pattern, also from Walker, volume 2. a 10 stitch + 1 repeat. (If you know what that + 1 business means, can you let me know?) Also in Silky Wool, but this time on a size 6 bamboo circular. 25 stitches, including borders of 2 garter stitches on each side. Hmm. This is better.
Advantages: geometrical, symmetrical, a small motif (suggested by Clark's Budding Lace in her Swallowtail Shawl), purling across all wrong side rows instead of having pattern to count on right side and wrong side rows (as in Twin Leaf). Disadvantages: 28 rows in one repeat, difficult to memorize. Hey, that's not so bad. I could try this.

Next up: trying to configure the pattern so that the shawl increases 4 stitches every other row, and that the pattern looks right as the shawl widens. And finding a good, quick-to-read book on designing lace shawls. Don't try to find it at your big-box bookstore. Even if you could concentrate while the soundtrack of Hairspray plays overhead, you'll find not much but the latest, sexiest knitting books along with a good selection of the Yarn Harlot's books, which are great, but also meet the measure of a sure-fire seller for a bookstore trying to appease the masses.