Learning a foreign language means starting with studying basic words and progress by combining them into phrases and then into whole sentences by using certain grammar rules. Your set of sentences then forms the language.
Lace knitting is very much the same.
You first have to learn words (the lace knitting stitches), combine them into phrases (stitch combinations, like paired yarn over and decreases) and then into sentences (by using groups of stitch combinations) into a language (a lace shawl pattern).
Your First Words: Basic Lace Stitches
The basic lace stitches are knit (k), purl (p), central double decrease (cdd), knit 2 together (k2tog), slip slip knit (ssk) and yarn over (YO). Combinations of these stitches (on a stockinette or garter stitch ground) make up more than 90% of all lace knitting stitches.
There are other, more exotic stitches (like Nupps in Estonian knitting), but more on these later. First, we’ll talk about basic lace stitches: the knit (k), purl (p), k2tog (knit two together), ssk (slip, slip, knit) and central double decrease (cdd) stitches.
Many lace knitting patterns come with charts so let’s talk about abbreviations and chart symbols for these stitches first.
Lace Knitting Stitches: Abbreviations and Chart Symbols
Working a yarn over
To work a yarn over stitch, wrap the yarn around the needle from front to back. In case you need really detailed instructions, here we go: Yarn over for dummies.
Working a central double decrease (cdd)
A central double decrease (cdd) is worked by slipping two stitches knitwise (slip knitwise: insert needle into stitch as if to knit, but don’t work it, just slip it from the left onto the right needle), then knitting one stitch into its back loop, then slip the slipped stitches over the stitch just worked. Twist Collective got instructions on how to work a cdd and here’s a video explaining it.
Working a slip, slip, knit (ssk)
Slip, slip, knit (abbreviated ssk) results in a left-slanting decrease. The ssk decrease is the mirror image of knit 2 stitches together (k2tog). A ssk is worked by slipping the first stitch on the left hand needle (as if to knit) to the right hand needle without actually knitting it, repeating the same procedure once more, then slipping these two stitches back onto the left hand needle and knitting them together as one. Here’s a tutorial with pictures on ssk and here’s a video about working a ssk.
Links for details on knit and purl stitches and how to work decreases are provided below. Enjoy!
Knit and purl stitches
I assume you’re already familiar with basic knit and purl stitches but just in case here are a few links to instructions and tutorials on how to work them:
Decreases are important elements as well as yarn overs. When pairing these two together, you make sure your overall stitch count stay the same and does not increase (or decrease) uncontrollably.
Basic decrease stitches are the knit two together (k2tog), the slip, slip, knit (discussed above) and the purl two together (p2tog) stitches. In case you need more info, here we go:
An advanced stitch is the Nupp stitch, for instance.
Work a nupp by repeating a (knit stitch, yarn over) any number of times (2,3, …) into the same stitch ending with a knit stitch. Usually end when you have worked 5, 7 or 9 loops, depending on how big you want the Nupp to be. Put all loops back on left hand needle and knit all loops into 1 stitch. Tighten yarn and keep on knitting.
Alternatively, you can follow the instructions above but not putting all loops back onto the left needle and knit all loops. Instead, on the following row, treat each knit (or yarn over) stitch as one single stitch – work them all together as if they were one stitch.
For instance, if you worked a Nupp as (k1, YO) 3 times, k1 on the next row you would knit all these 7 stitches together as one stitch.