There comes a time (and hopefully not more than one time!) in every lace project when you just have to throw up your hands and curse your luck and rip back to your lifeline. It happened to me last week.
I am getting painfully close to the end of the Peacock Feathers shawl and perhaps getting sloppy, or maybe just lulled into a lace-coma . . . but whatever the reason, I was stumped. I occasionally come up one stitch short when working a repeat (which I note with stitch-markers) and then go looking for a missing yarn-over in the row below. With yarn-overs, it’s easy to pick them up, knit them into the next (wrong side or purl) row and just keep going.
This time, though, I was just totally stuck. I tinked back all the way to the center-point of the shawl and just couldn’t figure out where I’d gone wrong. I re-knit and still came up wrong. Finally I just pulled out the entire repeat down to the lifeline just a few rows below. Then disaster struck again — I must have missed a stitch when I put in the lifeline, because as I unraveled my work a stitch that was right on the border between the center section and the first repeat slipped out and below the lifeline. What could I do? I just snipped the first lifeline and unraveled down to the next.
But then what? This is where it gets really tricky . . . and why I feel I should share my pain . . .
HOW TO RESCUE LACE:
– A flat work surface that will accept pins. A bulletin board would do nicely — I used a very flat, firm pillow and covered it with a sturdy dishtowel.
– Blocking pins. If you’re working lace you’ll need these later anyway.
– Good light. This is tricky stuff, so don’t torture yourself! A magnifying glass probably wouldn’t hurt either if you have one handy.
– Two DPNs in the size or a size smaller than the lace you’re working and/or a small crochet hook.
Prepare for surgery:
– Unravel down to the lifeline you feel good about.
– Pin down each side of the needle you’re working on. I’m lucky enough to have the Knitpicks Options set, so I took off the needle tips, put caps on my cables, and then just pinned the cables down by sticking a pin through the hole in the end of each cable.
– You’ll have a bunch of kinked yarn clustered up next to the lifeline. Strand by strand, pin each length of yarn up above the lifeline. This keeps it out of the way and also lets you count your strands (which I’ll get to later). Sometimes it can be hard to tell what’s what. Start from the top (the most recently worked strand) , go slowly, and if you get confused just try and spread your work out, tugging at the left and right sides to figure out where the yarn goes.
– Stick a pin through each “live” stitch you need to work from your lifeline.
In this picture you can see my needles pinned out to the sides (though I capped the cable to be sure no other stitches would fall off), the strands of yarn still-to-be-worked pinned out of the way, and a pin through each “live” stitch.
Once you’ve prepped the patient, you have to know where to start. The best way to figure this out is by counting your now-unraveled-and-pinned strands. Each strand represents a row you’ve worked, so count backwards. Say (for easy figuring) that I was in the middle of working row 10 when disaster struck. That means that my working yarn, the piece still attached to the ball and not pictured above, is working row 10. Therefore, the strand at the top, farthest away from the live stitches, was the yarn used to work row 9. The strand directly below that one was used to work row 8, and so on. Using this system, once you get down to the strand closest to your live stitches, you’ll know what to do with it.
If you feel confident you can put your “live” stitches onto one of your DPNs and start working, being careful to follow each row of the pattern correctly. If the pattern calls for purling on the wrong-side, be sure you’re either lifting the work up gently so you can purl from the wrong side or knitting (from the right side) the stitches instead.
If you don’t feel confident (and this is me!) then work each row stitch by stitch using pins and a crochet hook like so:
– Stitch by stitch, using your small crochet hook, pick up the first stitch you want to work with the hook and remove the pin.
– Unpin the strand of yarn closest to the live stitches and hold it in your fingers.
– Use your crochet hook to work the stitch with the yarn you’re holding, according to pattern. (If you’re working something trickier than a knit-one, say a knit-two-together, then pick up both/all stitches with the crochet hook, just as you would do if you were using knitting needles). Don’t forget to include yarn-overs — pin them down just as you would any other “live” stitch.
– Re-pin the new stitch and slip the crochet hook out.
Continue to work across the row. When you’re done, you can clearly see the pinned-out row and check your work against the pattern.
The biggest problem with ripping out a small lace section is that when you are finally able to re-knit all the stitches correctly, the fabric is often stretched out and misshapen. I think my pinning technique helps to moderate this somewhat, but don’t despair if your work looks as funky as mine does in the photo below. I suggest working past the repair a few rows, putting in a new lifeline, and then going back through the misshapen section with a small knitting needle (I like to use my clover yarn needle with the bent tip) and gently pull the stitches back into place. You’ll need to work past the re-knit section and into the neighboring stitches, but if you go slowly and work row-by-row to even out your gauge, you can make a big difference in the look of your lace.
Here’s what my lace looks like after some serious re-shaping efforts, with the rebuilt section highlighted by pink flags. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than the tangled mess I started with!
And finally, when I finish the piece (hopefully soon), I expect blocking will improve the look/gauge of the repaired section even more. Stay tuned for the triumphant (!) conclusion to the Peacock Feathers shawl saga . . .