The first and only time I knit a lace triangle prior to designing Clothilde, I found myself really taken with the way the pattern sped along to a quick finish. (The pattern was the Diamonds and Pearls Shawl, from The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, and I completely forgot that I made it soon after finishing.) The next time I thought of making a shawl, I got it into my head that I had to design one myself. And I liked the triangle shape. It was going to be a triangle. Nevermind that I was not an experienced lace knitter and that I had little idea of how to construct a lace triangle. I was going to make one.
I don’t know how other people design lace triangles, but I’ve had some questions about my methods lately, so I thought I’d put together a little description of how I work on this sort of thing. Keep in mind that I am not the most organized or natural designer. It takes me a lot of trial and error to get what I want.
I have to admit that Clothilde was a long haul. My original idea was far more complex than my limited experience was ready to allow. I wanted an all over lace that flowed seamlessly from one lace pattern into another. I started with charts of laces I liked and played around with them, but whenever it came time to plug them into a shawl, the tiling stopped working out and they didn’t line up properly with my shawl edge. I swatched so many times and found myself starting over each time.
It was only in frustration that I decided to use the Gull Wing Lace insert as a main design element. I wanted to simplify the pattern to the point where I could make things work, and the easiest answer to having a lacy body that wasn’t as hard to chart seemed to be using an insert rather than an all over pattern.
I make my charts in Excel. (Marnie MacLean has some excellent tutorials on using Excel for this purpose.) This is a blank shawl chart to show you the shape I was using. The increases occur on every right side row. It’s very possible, of course, to make a triangle shawl with increases on every row, which will give you a shallower triangle with longer wings. But for the purposes of this explanation, we’ll be assuming that you’re making a shawl with increases on the right side only.
This set up is the one I use for my charts. I have two garter edge stitches on the right hand side of the chart, the shawl body in the center triangle portion, and a center stitch on the left. After the center stitch, the knitter will start over with the body stitches, working from right to left, and ending with two more edge stitches. You can use as many or as few edge stitches as you please. Some shawls use one or three, though I don’t think I’ve generally seen shawls with more than three edge stitches. Not to say it’s not possible, of course!
Below is a crude mock up of how these chart pieces look on a finished shawl.
Using the shawl blank, I can fill in anything I like. This is easiest with lace inserts. These are like lace stripes. You decide on your lace, and then decide on how far you’d like them to be spaced from one another. Then it’s simply a matter of placing these stripes over your shawl blank. You need to maintain a consistent stitch count for a simple shawl, so it’s important to remember that every increase stitch needs a matching decrease stitch and vice versa. I’ll demonstrate with a very simple lace insert below.
We have a simple lace insert of two yarn overs surrounding a double decrease, spaced three stitches apart. I picked this at random, and for simplicity’s sake, but you can use any insert in a similar way. Note that as the lace insert gets close the shawl edges, the double decrease is replaced by a single decrease. We’re keeping our stitch count even. There’s only one yarn over, so there can be only one decrease.
I’ll continue in a future post with discussion of how to make an all lace. My methods are perhaps a little crude and not necessarily like other people’s, so keep in mind that I’m hardly the last word. For a more detailed method, I’ve heard excellent things about Evelyn Clark’s Knitting Lace Triangles. (I do not have this book, but I’ve flipped through it and it’s nifty.)