01 January 2016

Double-Knit Lace

I didn't blog about STITCHES South 2015 (8 months ago). The show moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Nothing wrong with Nashville, but that means I have to drive four hours and stay overnight adding significant hassle and expense to the endeavor. On the other hand, Alasdair Post-Quinn was on the schedule! (He is also on the schedule for 2016.) I teamed up with a friend from Atlanta Knitting Guild and attended overnight Friday into Saturday.

The one class I took was "Double-Knitting Lace and Openwork." I was thrilled to be able to take this class advanced class and to meet Alasdair. If you are an advanced knitter and are looking for new challenges, this class could be just the thing. And truth be told, I did mess up my swatch a bit in class as I was learning. But this is knitting! I came home, unraveled the swatch, and re-knit it to practice the techniques.

The swatch Alasdair had us knit provides three examples of different ways to approach the combination of lace and double knitting. (Alasdair has you use a different cast-on and edge treatment from the one I've used here.)

Double-knit lace swatch, front (left) & back (right).
The lowest of the three examples -- and therefore, the first part we worked -- is a method of joining the layers together at the yarn-overs. Let's call this the "connected yarn-overs" method. You'll notice how one color peeks through the other color. You don't see holes so much as you see pops of color, since the holes don't align but instead are slightly mis-matched.

The middle example is straight up double-knit lace. Call it "basic double-knit lace." Both sides are identical. If blocked properly, the holes will line up. As worked, these are two separate, unconnected layers except for the joins at the selvedges. Connected yarn-overs produces a piece of fabric that behaves as one thick layer. Basic double-knit lace produces a a big lace tube. If you incorporate a little color work — for example, changing color at the center line —the color changes would connect the two layers to make the fabric behave as one thick piece. You would want to be very careful with that type of design, as it could become very busy very quickly. Not everyone is ready for retro disco style to rise again.

The top example has lace on the right side but not on the wrong side. Call it "patterned lined lace." The idea here would be the fabric has a "right" side with lace. The "wrong" side would simply be a lining. In double-knitting, that wrong-side still has patterning to it, as you need the increases and decreases unless you want to spend a lot of time rearranging stitches on your needles. And once again, as with the basic double-knit lace, this is two unconnected layers unless you add another level of complexity by incorporating color work to tie the two layers together.

Alternative double-knit and circular intarsia lace swatch, front (left) & back (right).

I wanted to see what would happen if I tried some other methods, so I made a second swatch of my own design. I initially wanted to try the connected yarn-overs but with beads from the opposite sides poking through the holes. I gave up, as it was very difficult to figure out which offset stitch would show through which yarn-over hole on the other side. So I moved on to my second idea, which was still worked in double-knitting. Instead of united the two sides with yarn overs, I used beads at the yarn overs to join the two sides together. This "join at the beads" method is based on Mondragon loop, so it is an advanced technique and a bit fussy. The beads are added as you go rather than pre-strung. It would be possible to incorporate different color or texture effects with different beads. Each bead also shows itself on both sides of the fabric -- i.e. the swatch used 16 pony beads not 32. Cool!

The middle section is simply the lace pattern worked in circular intarsia rather than double-knitting, hence the change to a smaller gauge with the same needle. I got the same effect as the basic double-knit lace swatch — a lace tube. The difference is merely in the interlacing edges at the color changes (more about this later in this post). I happen to prefer the sturdier interlacing of intarsia over the thinner interlacing of double-knitting, but that is a very personal preference. Many (most?) people probably don't have an opinion. The effect is nearly identical; thus you should choose based on whether you prefer working double-knitting or circular intarsia.

The top example is another circular intarsia example. In this case, I worked the lace pattern on half the round and plain stockinette on the other half of the round. This produces a true lined lace without any pattern in the lining. Both layers are still separate. Again, there is the slight difference in interlacing between circular intarsia versus double-knitting. If you wanted to get fancier with the lining, this would be the way to produce a fabric where both sides were independently patterned.

Right-side view of double-knitting (left) and circular intarsia (right).

Inside-out view of double-knitting (left) and circular intarsia (right).
In the photographs above, I've worked the same soap sack pattern in double knitting (left) and circular intarsia (right) on the same size needles and with the same yarn. (Yes, I did get horrible rowing-out on the white sections. These swatches would so not pass Level 1 of Master Knitter.) I've turned the soap sacks inside-out in the bottom image so you can see how the yarns interlace at the color changes. The double-knit interlace is thinner but probably looks okay from either side of the fabric. The colored dashes produced by intarsia create a more rugged join, with the trade-off that the fabric has a definite right and wrong side. From the right side of the fabric, the difference isn't noticeable unless the join is stressed/stretched.

If you want to make reversible lace using a two-layered method, you need to consider:
  • thinner reversible versus thicker non-reversible selvedge joins
  • level of comfort with double-knitting versus circular intarsia
  • connected layers versus independent layers
  • mirrored reversibility versus two-faced fabric (both sides good but different)

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