Learning Mosaic Lace
How can a knitter combine colorwork and lace? That was the challenge. And could it be done in such a way that the end process wasn’t overwhelmingly complex?
By Barbara Benson
Even more of a challenge, but I found the solution in slip-stitch (specifically mosaic) style colorwork. In mosaic colorwork the knitter does not have to “carry” multiple colors along the same row/round. One is only ever working with one strand of yarn at a time, knitting stripes. The magic occurs when you start slipping stitches. The slipped stitches are stretched across the stripes, creating the illusion of more complex styles of colorwork but with no additional yarns “floating” along the back of each round/row. It is the very absence of these “floats” that made mosaic the perfect solution to colorwork lace.
By combining the slip-stitch colorwork technique with lace the knitter is able both to bring color to her lace and to bring lightness and movement to her colorwork. By opening up sections of what is a typically dense fabric, lace allows colorwork garments to be worn in the warmer seasons. But in the end, if you are comfortable knitting lace, the slipped stitches do not bring much more complexity to the party. There are just a few guidelines that you need to keep in mind and you will be able to knit up the Cruising Cowlette (or one of my other slip-stitch lace patterns found in Mosaic & Lace Knits, see page 10) in no time!
You are knitting stripes. Using one color of yarn you are knitting two row/round stripes. When you finish your stripe you drop the color you are working with and pick up the other color. Carry the unused yarn loosely up the side/inside of your work.
Always slip the stitches purlwise with the yarn held to the wrong side of your work. And when you are slipping stitches, the color of the stitch slipped will always be the opposite of the one that you are actively knitting with. In this way, this style of pattern is self-correcting—if you need to slip a stitch and it is the same color as your working yarn, then you need to look back and see where you made a mistake.
Do not substitute decreases. The decreases are chosen for how they manipulate the direction of the colorwork. If you change the direction of a decrease you run the risk of your colorwork not coming out correctly.
As with any technique there are exceptions and complications, and I go further in depth in my book, but with a firm grasp on these 3 principles you will be well on your way to mastering slipstitch lace. But let us finish with a few more tips so that you can successfully complete the Cruising Cowlette found in this magazine on page 32.
Let’s start with reading the charts. Chart A begins with a stripe of the CC. From this point you know that you will be changing colors every two rounds and this is reflected in the charts. When stitches are slipped, they have the “V” shaped slip-stitch symbol on them and they are shown in the color of the yarn being slipped. All of the lace “action” symbols such as decreases and increases will only be found in the working color, meaning the color being actively knitted. When you work decreases on a round where stitches were slipped on the previous rounds, make note of how the decreases are manipulating those slipped stitches. This is where the magic happens. The decreases move the colors, thereby creating the colorwork illusion.
One element that can be tricky is when you have slipped stitches and yarn overs on the same round: specifically it gets tricky on the following round. In the Cruising Cowlette the round to watch is Round 10 on Chart B. When the stitches are sliding over your needles and cables, the yarn overs can creep up and over the slipped stitches, at times getting out of their correct placement. When knitting these rows, pay extra attention to the order in which the stitches are progressing. It might be necessary to coax some yarn overs back into their rightful seats.
The final round of the cowl before bind-off will illustrate the importance of number 3 in the above guidelines. There are two double decreases at work here. One is a left leaning sk2p where the three component stitches are all the same color, but the other is CDD, which is a centered double decrease. When you work the CDD you insert the right-hand needle as if to knit two stitches together and slip both stitches off of the left-hand needle. You then knit the next stitch and pass both slipped stitches simultaneously over the newly made stitch. The end result is that you have a double decrease where the center stitch is on top, which just so happens to be the stitch you slipped on the previous stripe! This creates a decrease with a stripe running up the middle and is precisely what we want.
All of these elements make the Cruising Cowlette a perfect introduction to the techniques that make up slipstitch lace. In the end you have a new bag of tricks for knitting colorwork lace and a lovely springtime accessory to spruce up your wardrobe.