One of the reasons I wrote Lace Yarn Studio was because a lot of knitters have the wrong idea about lace weight yarns. In the hope of convincing some skeptical knitters about the virtues of superfine yarn, here is my list of the top five myths about lace weight yarn.
1. “Lace weight yarns take too long to knit.”
As a knitter, you’re no doubt familiar with the concept of stitch gauge – the number of individual stitches that fit into a unit of measurement. Worsted-weight yarn tends to be knit at a gauge of around five stitches per inch. So to get an inch’s worth of fabric, you must work five stitches. As yarn gets smaller in diameter, it takes more stitches to fit into an inch’s worth of fabric. Sport weight yarn, for example, a category of yarn finer than worsted weight, usually knits at around six stitches per inch, and sock yarn at seven stitches per inch. Since lace weight is even finer than sock yarn, then it stands to reason that it would take even longer to create an inch of fabric, right?
Not necessarily. When we use lace weight yarn to create airy, filmy fabric, we knit at a looser gauge than you otherwise might expect. For example, the Graciela Pullover uses lace weight yarn at a gauge of 3 ½ stitches per inch. The Turquoise Trail Shawluses lace weight yarn at a gauge of 4 ½ stitches per inch. So projects using lace weight yarn, when knit at relaxed gauges, won’t take appreciably longer than many projects knit in thick yarns.
2. “I don’t like knitting on toothpick-sized needles.”
While it’s generally true that big yarn is knit on big needles, and small yarn is knit on small needles, when you are working with lace weight yarn, you often use needles bigger than you’d expect. Projects in Lace Yarn Studio are knit with many sizes of needle including US 5, 6, 7, 9, even US size 13, the latter of which were used to knit the Malbec Infinity Scarf.
3. “Thicker yarns can do anything a lace weight yarn can do.”
Definitely not. Because thicker yarns make thicker fabric, there are certain effects that just don’t work with bulky and superbulky yarns. Look, for example, at the beautiful pleats in the A Little Luxe Gauntlets.
You’d have a very hard time making pleats in chunky or superchunky yarns because the individual strands of yarn would be too thick to manipulate in that way, and even if you were able to make a pleat, it wouldn’t have the elegance and fluid lines of the gorgeous lace weight yarn that designer Andi Smith used.
Check out the filmy texture of Barb Brown’s Wind on the Waves scarf. Again, it’s very difficult to achieve this kind of airy, almost translucent effect with a thick yarn. But the lovely hand-painted lace weight yarn gives such a delicate and ethereal feel – something a jumbo-sized yarn just cannot do.
4. “I’m not a good enough knitter to use lace weight yarns.”
Pshaw. The patterns in Lace Yarn Studio span all difficulty levels. The Eden Scarf, for example, uses stockinette stitch and seed stitch – two stitches that are very easy to work and well within the province of a beginner.
Robyn Schrager’s Square in the Round poncho is entirely stockinette and is knit in the round, so you don’t even have to sew a single seam! The Multiply Baby Blanket is another project knit all in the round, using simple knit and purl stitches, along with a basic increase stitch – and because three strands of lace weight are held together, the knitting flies by as you change colors.
5. “I don’t like knitting lace shawls.”
Every knitter is different, and if you aren’t a fan of lace knitting or lace shawls in particular, then you will still find many fun and stylish projects to pique your curiosity. Brooke Nico’s Cobalt Nights jacket uses a metallic yarn in a star-stitch, for an un-lacy layer you’ll wear all the time. Elizabeth Morrison’s Blue River Cowl uses a slip stitch pattern to make a cozy and lovely cowl with a terrific button closure. Michele Hunter’s top uses a plying method to create a striking top. There’s a little something for everyone in Lace Yarn Studio, even if you hate lace and don’t wear shawls.
Carol J. Sulcoski is a knitwear designer, writer, hand dyer, and teacher. Her books include Sock Yarn Studio (Lark), Knit So Fine (Interweave), and Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarns (Interweave), and Carol’s work has also appeared in such magazines as Vogue Knitting, KnitSimple, Interweave Knits, KnitScene, and Noro Magazine. Carol’s hand-dyed yarn can be purchased at blackbunnyfibers.com. She lives in Villanova, PA.