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The Basics of Crocheted Lace: A Beginner’s Primer

Making crocheted lace is as easy as learning a new stitch pattern.  Many of you have probably already made lace in larger weights of yarn (think sport, DK or worsted weight) as edgings on garments and blankets. Crocheters seem to shy away from lace for a lot of different reasons.  My goal is to debunk 2 of the most common reasons and get you excited about crocheting lace.

Fear #1: The Size of the Yarn and Hook

Usually, yarn weights dictate which hook size we should use. For example, with worsted weight yarns, the most common hook sizes used are G, H and I. So when we see lace weight yarns, we immediately think about our grandmothers with their size 6 steels and bedspread weight cotton and think, “No way, I can’t work with a hook that small!” Well, what if I told you that you could use a size G with lace weight and get great results?  Think of filmy lace the same way you do with a lace pattern in a blanket. The only difference is getting comfortable with a finer weight of yarn and learning to use a larger hook with it. To create a filmy lace, you will need to learn to crochet using lace weight yarn with a larger than normal hook.  By doing this you will find that three things will happen:
  1. It will be a whole lot easier to maintain your tension. It will take practice at first.  Start with just a small lace sample, such as a lacy stitch pattern and use just 2 or three repeats along the row. Practice until you get the right tension.
  2. You will get the right drape. Using a larger hook will actually create a very soft drape.  Your lace should be like a feather falling; slow and graceful. Crochet stitches by nature are very dense.  The larger hook opens the stitches up by putting “air” in them making them softer and lighter. The result is a feather-like fabric.
  3. Your fabric will get the larger holes that are inherent to lace. When you look at lace pieces, what makes the designs pop isn’t always the stitch pattern, but the holes around them.  The larger hook makes those holes more drastic, setting off the details even more.
The most important thing to remember when creating lace is to keep your work loose. Here are some key points to help keep things loose.
  • Do not pull your yarn when completing a stitch.  This will make your stitches too tight, which means that you will not be able to insert your hook into the stitch when you are working the next row.
  • Keep your starting chain LOOSE.  Use a larger hook to create the foundation chain if necessary. Using foundation stitches can help with this also.
  • If you tend to crochet loosely to begin with, try not to crochet TOO loosely.  You may want to go down to an F hook rather than start with a G hook.  Having your stitches too loose creates unsightly loops in the fabric that actually can catch on objects.
Because the work is so loose, your finished project may look “unfinished”.  This is absolutely normal. To rectify this, make sure you pin out the project and steam block it.  You will be amazed at the difference!

Fear #2: Reading a Chart

The most common reason crocheters don’t want to try lace is the fact that many of the most wonderful patterns use charts.  Most crocheters who have been at it a while have never actually learned how to read a chart. But it is important to learn because they are universal. You will be able to work a pattern from Japan even though you cannot actually read the words or know the European terms. Here is a sample chart. Take a look and read the key points. Lace Chart Legend
  • Every chart will have a legend that will tell you what each symbol means. Looking at this chart we are only using the Chain, Single and Double Crochets Stitches.
  • The row numbers are on either side of the chart. These tell you which row is being worked. The number is next to the turning chain, so you can also tell which direction to read the row.
  • Charts are always read from the bottom up. Just like you work the fabric.
Simple, isn’t it? Using the ideas and information above, your lace crochet projects will take on new life. Enjoy learning to crochet lace!


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