Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Spring Lace Shawl Knit-Along — Gauge Swatching

April 10th, 2014

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Hi, I’m Grace and I’m so excited to be leading the knit along for the Spring Lace Shawl.

This is a great project for both experienced knitters and beginners who are ready to advance beyond simple stitch patterns. With an elegant lace pattern and a chunky, multi-stranded construction, this quick knit will be the perfect addition to your wardrobe to curl up with on those cooler spring evenings.

I’ll be posting every week giving you tips for getting through the project successfully.

Getting Started

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One great this about this pattern is that it can be easily customized. The original pattern calls for four strands of Vanna’s Choice®, which is a worsted weight yarn. I love the look of using multiple strands of yarn but if you would like to just use one strand you could use a super bulky yarn such as Wool-Ease® Thick & Quick® or our new Heartland Thick & Quick® to get a similar look without having to juggle so many balls of yarn at once.

Not into shawls? This pattern could also make a beautiful afghan. Just cast on any multiple of 16 + 1. For instance 81 stitches would give you an afghan with 5 pattern repeats instead of 2 as in the shawl. For my shawl I’ll be working with four strands of Vanna’s Choice® in Silver Blue.

Knitting Tip: To keep tangles at bay I like to put my yarn in ziplock bags and cut holes in the bottom to feed the yarn out of. The yarn twists as it comes out and gets plied into one “super-strand” that is easy to knit with and everything inside the bag stays organized.

Gauge Swatching

kal-blockBefore casting on for the project I like to do some swatching.

This gives me the opportunity to familiarize myself with the pattern and work out all of the kinks. Lace can be tricky and we will be talking about how to avoid and fix some of the common pitfalls as we go through the knit along.

For a swatch that will give you a good idea of what the pattern will look like, and a good chance to practice, cast on 17 stitches and work through 2 pattern repeats. What you see at first may not look like much. Lace tends to just look really scrunched up until it’s blocked.

Blocking helps to open up and set the stitches. To block, soak your swatch in water for 5 to 10 minutes, squeeze out the excess water then pin it down to a blocking board or towel, giving it some stretch to open the fabric up. Let it dry and you will see your lovely lace pattern revealed!

It is not essential that you match the original stitch gauge in the pattern. If you are happy with how the swatch looks and you feel comfortable with the stitches — then you are ready to get started!

I’ll be here all along the way to help so make sure to ask plenty of questions. Have fun experimenting with the swatch and stay tuned for next weeks post where I’ll tell you how to keep yourself from getting in a pickle!

About Grace: Grace DiLorenzo has been knitting for the last 10 years. What started as a hobby quickly grew into a passion. Her favorite things to make are garments and lace. As a teacher at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York City she has been able to share her love of yarn crafting teaching beginning through advanced knitting and yarn dyeing classes. She has lead the first four in studio knit alongs and is excited to do it again! grace_200px

  • Aviva Ernst

    Am not sure about your knitting tip – do you put all 4 balls in one zip lock bag or do you put each ball into its own zip lock?

    • Grace DiLorenzo

      Thanks for your question Aviva. I took two gallon sized bags and put two balls in each bag then cut the bottom corners to feed the yarn out.

      • claire

        I do something similar except I use plastic grocery bags. I pull the yarn
        through the handles then tie the handles together. This works especially well when using 2 different colors.

  • Laura

    I like the tip for using zip lock bags! I keep my yarn lined up in a small tub and it doesn’t tangle on me but then it’s not easy to take project on the go.

  • Susan Bell

    I like Maria’s idea of rewinding the 4 balls into 1 ball–works really well.

    • http://www.xyngular.com/cchmielewski Carlota Chmielewski

      When joining all 4 strands and rewinding them into one ball, I find that sometimes one strand will be looser as I work it. I’m going with keeping the 4 separate strands and knitting them together as I go along.

      • Susan Bell

        Yes, I have had that happen, especially with combo yarns, but the type of yarn I’m using is being very cooperative, and I appreciate having only one ball to take care of, lol.

  • Kit

    I usually make a scarf or something as a test project rather than just making a swatch. I especially do this when I am doing something more complicated than usual. This shawl falls into that category. I have done lace before, but the pattern called for just K2tog and yo, no ssk or sk2p. I have done both of those stitches as decreases, but not a lot of them, so this pattern is really keeping me thinking and my tension is not as steady as usual. So far, after casting on 17 stitches in a super bulky yarn on size 15 needles I have done 29 rows so I have a way to go before completing knitting up 136 yards of super bulky yarn, and by the time I finish the scarf I will be able to do ssk and sk2p in my sleep. Then when I do the shawl, probably with 4 strands of WoolEase, I expect that I will hold tension well enough to make a very pretty shawl.

    Here is the scarf after 17 rows of 17 stitches, unblocked but spread and stretched out a little. It will of course look a lot better after blocking, but even though it won’t be perfect it will be a pretty, comfortable garment. And I don’t have to find a way to store my swatches.

  • Dspouler

    So am I reading this right, you wind the four strands together and knit them as if they were one?

    • Kit

      Yes if you follow the pattern as written. Well, you do not have to actually wind the strands together with Vanna’s Choice, WoolEase, or Cotton Ease. The strands tend to wind together anyhow as you knit unless you are using a Roving type yarn or something else that does not already have twist.

      As written, you take four strands of the same yarn off of four different balls and you hold them together as if they were one strand and knit and purl on the thicker multiply yarn. Once you get used to it, it is not much harder, but some people get used to it quicker than others.

      But if you do not want to hold four strands together, you can use two strands of a bulky, or one strand of your thicker super bulky yarn with the same size needle and get close to the same gauge and close to the same overall shawl size. Or you can get a smaller shawl by taking one strand of bulky or two strands of worsted on a size 11 needle or something close to that.

      Or you can make an even smaller shawl with one strand of worsted on perhaps an 8 or 9 needle.

      Or you can increase the number of repeats in the pattern with thinner effective yarn diameter on smaller needles and make the shawl as big as you want or even make an afghan.

      Does that help, or am I just making things more confusing with too much information? If you are still confused, the leader of the group can explain much better.

      • Dspouler

        Yes that has helped, thanks so much for the info.

  • Susan

    I want to make this but am not familiar with some of the stitches are there vides on how to do ssk and sk2p?

    • http://www.xyngular.com/cchmielewski Carlota Chmielewski

      YouTube has great tutorial videos. Just put ssk on the search bar and several will come up for you.

  • Tammy

    What shape and approximate size is the finished shawl?

    • Bookworm

      The pattern says it will be about 19 x 90 inches. Of course, that depends on your gauge.

  • AdeLe

    Pretty shawl!

  • Kathleen

    I like the rewind as one ball idea, I think I would like to try that.

  • pwork

    I love this pattern. Just wondering, is it OK to block acrylic yarn? I’ve read that it doesn’t block well. Thanks much for your help.

    • Kit

      Yes it is okay to block acrylic yarn. It does not block as well as wool, but it does improve some with blocking.

  • Vicki C

    I just got my materials and I’m already confused doing the gauge lol. I’ll try again in the morning and if I still have problems I’ll scream for help

  • veggibets

    I just successfully made a swatch using a single strand. I started several times and pulling out the lace pattern was a problem every time. So, now I will use the same yarn and use the stated cast on as I have a few question regarding starting and row and ending the row. If anyone has a spinning wheel, I had an idea that works. I plied all 4 strands into one big one. I may change my mind when I start using it but I can un-ply if it doesn’t work. I only used 4 of the 12 skeins needed.

    • Kit

      Wow – great Idea. I do not have a spinning wheel now, but I will keep the tip in mind, since I love knitting with multiple strands.

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