Grumperina vs. Lace

Knitting a shawl, and more generally, knitting lace, has always interested me. I must admit that I’ve tried lace before but without great success. In fact (and this speaks of my challenge-hungry nature), only two months after I learned to knit I equipped myself with very thin two-ply black silk/cashmere blend yarn and attempted to knit this:

Hello?!? Anyone insane here? Me! Me!

I’m not the type of knitter who has a lot of long-term works-in-progress, but I do have one, and it happens to be lace:

I’ve been working an inch or two a month on this project for about a year now. With no deadline and no recipient, however, my level of motivation is always a bit low.

So, what’s the hold up? Why do I say that lace hasn’t been a success for me? Why am I not cranking out shawls left and right?

I know all the tricks in the book, and I can follow them like a pro. I know how to knit and purl and decrease and increase, and I know how to use (but not abuse) stitch markers, and I know how to read, follow and write charts, and I know how to run lifelines and count stitches – you’ve seen me do all those things right here, just not in the context of lace.

My hold-up seems to be the actual physical manipulation of very thin yarn with significantly larger (compared to the yarn) needles. I just find that whole thing very frustrating and my hands don’t like doing it.

Maybe I haven’t tried the right needles? Or maybe the lace yarn I previously tried was just too thin for a first-time lace knitter? (not to mention black)

And so, I’ve been itching to give it another try, and Mom Dearest has finally provided me with a reason to get into the action – and I’ll tell you all about that next time :).


41 thoughts on “Grumperina vs. Lace

  1. Cyndi

    I have got to get my hands on that book! Reading this made me realize that I started out knitting in the combined method, and then changed to traditional western when I realized that sometimes I was ending up with twisted stitches (when the pattern called for specific increases or decreases). I didn’t understand enough about what I was doing to re-write the increases/decreases, so I just figured that I was knitting it “wrong” and changed to the “right” way of knitting to conform to the patterns. I may have to give it another shot… after I read Annie’s book, that is!

    By the way – your cabling without a cable needle tutorial is fabulous… I’m using it on my latest sweater, and it makes the cabling go so quickly! Bye bye cable needle!

  2. paula

    Love those stripes! I can’t wait to see the whole thing felted and assembled — complete with doggie, of course. 😉

    That Annie really is a clever cookie. Hehe.

  3. Agnes

    I am reading Annie’s book right now … love it. I especially like the anecdote of the yarn shop owner thinking she was playing a trick on her bringing the finished intarsia sweater back to the shop after just a few days asking for instructions to bind off!

  4. ivete

    so is it akward for you when you have to switch for certain stitch patterns? I can knit both ways but knit western as a default, and when I’m helping someone at work who knits eastern like you, it slows me down A LOT to have to change the way I knit & wrap my purls.

    I also don’t understand why you say that knitting your way lets you understand the way the stitches lay better — how does it make it easier to see that as compared to a western knitter? I’m self-taught, too, and I also wrapped my purls the other way when I started. But when I figured out I was twisting my sts, I just changed the way I wrapped my purl, that was more intuitive for me. Then I found out all the different types of knitting and labeled my style western continental, although I don’t pick so much as wrap. . .

  5. Teresa C

    Wow, that is some build up for a dog bed! I can’t wait to see it, it is something to get that much praise from a knitter like you.

    I’m a knit as it suits me knitter. Sometimes combined, sometimes not, I never had any problem working a pattern, no matter how I am knitting. Thanks for the post, it is a good one.

  6. jess

    I’m a fairly new knitter (longtime crocheter) and I fought purling for a long time before I just said to myself, “you know what the yarn needs to do, just make it do it.”

    And hooray, I figured out combination knitting on my own. For a long time I wondered why my method was so… different from everyone else I knew. Until I came across your videos and links to Annie’s pages! It made a difference, so thank you! 🙂

  7. ~Jo~

    I started combination knitting yesterday and it’s been going well, thanks to your videos! I hope to get Annie’s book and be inspired by her words. 🙂

    I’ve been a knitter for 3 years now but just started to really understand my knitting recently. I am a fearful knitter so I mostly stick to patterns. 😉

  8. Michelle

    I love CK! It is much faster for me to knit, and makes a huge difference in the even-ness of my rows. I also can knit in the dark – I did 4 rows during Wallace and Gromit.

  9. tanti

    hi kathy,

    as self-taught knitter, i was overwhelmed with tons of info on the website on how to make knit/purl stitch and the style.

    after lots of reading and asking and practicing and made so many project, i like the combined and continental knit..:)

  10. betty

    i am reading “knitting without tears” right now (knitting heretic is on the amazon wishlist, hehe) and EZ says that there are no wrong ways to knit, just unsuitable ones for certain projects.

    i like combined method purling, so i’m willing to use it in my next suitable project. 🙂

    and i understand what you say about “translating” the direccions for one method. i’m a leftie, and long time crocheter, so i’ve had to “transpose” all crochet instructions since the beginning. (and it’s not so difficult).

  11. Stephanie

    Thanks for the info. I’m going to try to find Annie’s book (or order it) and I just started the front of a ss sweater – maybe I can try combined knitting on it and see how it works for me. The stipes and pockets look fabulous!

  12. nona

    Thanks for the great information and the pointer to Annie’s site. I just ordered her “Heretic” book and cannot wait for it to arrive. The dog bed looks like a neat project — unfortunately my Golden Retriever would probably eat it!

  13. Alice Twain

    Cindy, the funny part is that I started out teaching myself Combination Knitting from looking at knitted fabric that my grannies had produced in the trditional western style, than found out that I was twisting stistches when purling and ended up guessing how to untwist them by working a modified Eastern Knitting that is NOT Modesitt’s Combination! >_Cindy, the funny part is that I started out teaching myself Combination Knitting from looking at knitted fabric that my grannies had produced in the trditional western style, than found out that I was twisting stistches when purling and ended up guessing how to untwist them by working a modified Eastern Knitting that is NOT Modesitt’s Combination! >_< Basically, my stitches are always mounted the Eastern way and I always work the back loop.

  14. cec

    I have my own way of holding my yarn on a curled finger in front when purling that is v. fast, but otherwise I do continental, holding my yarn the way I did/do to crochet. . . interesting subject!

  15. Jennifer

    I prefer to knit lace on bamboo. The wood tends to grip the yarn a bit more, and makes the whole lace idea more manageable and less fiddly. I’m interested to see what you’re going to be working on!

  16. Christina

    I agree with Jennifer- lace works better on bamboo or similar. Have you tried rosewood? It is slightly slick and well put together like an Addi Turbo, but has the grip, warmth and beauty of bamboo. Suzanne carries some.

  17. Katy

    Oh yes. I tried knitting that pattern in the top photo a few years ago. As soon as I realized that you didn’t purl every other row I became a little freaked out–you mean I have to pay attention to EVERY ROW??–and with little ones around I just couldn’t get my act together to make it work. Someday, someday.

    But not in black.

  18. twig

    I’m just now finishing my first big lace project, but I had the same issue with the super thin yarn and the bigger needles. So I decided to get my lacy feet wet with worsted weight. I survived!

  19. Eva (EvaLux)


    I started knitting lace about 3 months after I started knitting. I started out with some fingering weight yarn and size 4 mm needles. I knit lace, but I use pretty fine needles, because I just like the fabric more that way. Right now I’m knitting some KnitPicks Shadow using 2.75 mm needles (I do realise my endproduct will be smaller, but I’ll like it more). The suggestion is to use 4 or 4.5 mm needles. I’m now trying to use 4.5 mm needles with some lace weight yarn by and it is nice looking but too holey for my taste. So, what I’m trying to say is… just knit lace with whatever size needles you’re comfortable with 🙂

    Cheers Eva

  20. Jes

    Okay, this is really funny, cuz I’m doing almost the exact same thing right now. I haven’t been knitting for very long and am trying lace pattern after pattern to try to find one I can do. The only difference here is that I’m using a tan yarn, on bamboo needles, which makes it blend in….really well. It’s like knitting with fishing line. And just about as fun.

    The one thing I’ve learned is that bamboo does help, but don’t get the skaecel bamboo version of the addi’s turbos. There is an indentation at the join where fingering weight yarn loves to get stuck. It’s very frustrating and starts to destroy the yarn.

  21. anne

    It’s a mental thing.

    You have to be READY to knit lace. You might think you are READY but if you are not really READY you’ll be miserable.

    I’ve been knitting for 20 years and while I had made items that had lace in them (even and entire lace cardigan once) I wasn’t really into it. Even at the beginning of this year, as I was struggling thru one of Evelyn Clarks designs I didn’t get it. It wan’t the knitting itself, it was the process – little yarns, big needles, etc. I could do it but it was torture.

    Then something clicked and I’ve turned into a lace knitting fool. If only this would happen with fair isle, I have so many lovely Starmore and Dale patterns…..

  22. Leigha

    My first lace experience was with Knitty’s Branching Out. I bought some KnitPicks Alpaca Cloud and gave it a shot, only to throw the entire thing across the room in frustration. Then, I got smart and tried the scarf again with KnitPicks Palette (fingering weight), and behold! Branching Out was conquered! I’m now on my second lace project, the famous Kiri, and I have to say that as far as the knitting is going, this pattern is fabulous for a beginner. And Crystal Palace Kid Mohair is a great substitution for the expensive yarn recommended.

    I think that it really is a mental thing, because all of the stitches that are in Branching Out or Kiri are the same stitches that I do with any other pattern; it’s just that the yarn is so delicate and the needles seem so huge comparitively. The Boye circs have the pointy-ness that I need for knitting lace, and so far are the only thing that I’ve tried with it. With the recommendations so far on your comments, though, I might try some bamboo circs.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what you’re going to churn out next! I have no clue how you knit so fast, and where you find the time to knit so much, but you’re very speedy.

  23. Kim

    Ehehehehe.. non-retarded looking shawl!!!

    Your mom is going to be famous for saying “it looks retarded” for quite a while.

    Lace eh.. with lace weight yarn…. *Shudder*.. not me, not yet atleast.. but I might just try it one day so I can see how “magical” the blocking part is.

  24. Martha

    Go Grumperina go! Join the lace knitters of the world! Two caveats:

    1)it is slightly harder to knit lace in black. My second and third lace shawls were in black and it is just a little harder to see what you are doing with a dark color. Not a lot harder, though.

    2)in my experience, the needles are going to annoy your hands over the length of a shawl, no matter what. When you use small needles for other projects, they are usually small projects (socks, mittens, the like). After 60 hours (about how long a shawl takes, in my experience), even size 3 needles feel pretty darn tiny. But I bet if you alternate your shawl project with another, more restful project, and take your time knitting the shawl, your hands won’t have a problem.

    3) I found my laceweight snagged on bamboo needles and Addis weren’t pointy enough, so I used Inox circulars, which seemed pointy and smooth enough to me.

  25. Stephanie

    I enjoy lace (or the one lace shawl I made), but I think it’s a mind set thing. You have to be in the mood. What you have is lovely and I can’t wait to hear about your mom.

  26. Lorette

    I’m doing that Heartstrings pattern right now! I’m doing it in more of a fingering weight yarn, which helps a bit, as I’m pretty new to lace. My only other lace thing was Birch, which had all-purl rows on the wrong side, much easier when you are just starting. Biggest thing that has helped? Markers, markers, and more stitch markers. I use little plain silver closed jump rings so they don’t catch in the yarn, and use them for every freaking section of the pattern. And I use a lifeline (dental floss) every time I finish a pattern repeat. I’ve only had to frog back to it once, but that would have been enough to derail the whole thing without it.

  27. Jodi

    I haven’t knit a ton of lace but I’m knitting a morehouse merino lace scarf (kit) right now and I had to switch to susan bates straight metal needles. I had been using bamboo and the yarn wouldn’t slide well and the tips weren’t pointy enough to dig into a K2tog. I think you have to play around with your tools. We all will have our personal preferences for how it feels when we’re knitting. I’m knitting the scarf on size 6 and like it alot. I can’t work for hours on this though – I have to switch to something bigger off and on (worsted weight). Good luck. Lace is awesome!

  28. Joelene

    I finally am enjoing knitting Birch after I switched to straight needles instead of cirs. No matter what the yarn was getting stuck in the join!

    I find it hard to pace myself, I can’t knit lace as fast as I would like. But over all I am starting to find it enjoy able.

  29. claudia

    If this was a Vegas boxing ring. And if lace was in one corner and Grumperina was in the other. And if the bell for the first round just sounded.

    I’d lay my money down on Grumperina.

  30. eunny

    Hooray for lace! The black yarn should shoulder all the blame – it’s a bitch to try and read your decs and yos and whatnot(s) in what seems like a boundless sea of light-sucking flatness. Do it with lighter yarn, on bamboo or birch needles filed to weapon-sharpness – and you’ll be awesome at it like everything else you do 🙂

  31. gail

    I love knitting lace, but I use vintage, nylon circular needles to do so and markers for pattern repeats made out of a loop of yarn with LONG tails. I buy the nylon circular needles on ebay. These needles have great pointed tips, that don’t hurt your hands for fingers, and the stitches don’t slip off the needles. I find bamboo needles to have dull points, making knitting lace more difficult. I also use a chart on which I mark off each row. But, if you don’t like it, don’t do it!! There are so many other wonderful things to knit. You don’t have to love them all.

  32. nikki

    What about those flex-y bryspun circs for lace? Also, I’m ususally a Addi fan, but for Kiri (Kid Silk Hase on US9’s) I’m using Inox Express. They’re similar but with a sharper point.

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