Permanent cast-on for circular pieces

Sometimes you’ll want to make a circular piece of lace. There are plenty of applications – hats, shawls, tablecloths… The way you often make them is to start in the centre by casting on six or eight stitches, spreading them over three or four double-pointed needles and knitting round in circles. When the piece is developed enough you’ll change onto a circular needle and keep knitting round in circles. Pieces made like this look wonderful but they take concentration to knit well!

Your first few stitches, that you’re putting on double-pointed needles, can be made using any permanent cast-on method including the basic one, but really these all look a bit clumsy because they all form a definite edge, which will be left as a little raised patch right in the centre of your circle of lace. If you’re doing it in fine yarn it probably won’t matter much, but you’ll know the finish is clumsy and it will annoy you, if you take any pride in the quality of your knitting.

So, there’s a way round it! You still cast it on to double pointed needles, but what you’re doing is forming the loops around the trailing end of your yarn, which you then pull tight to close the centre, like the top of a drawstring bag. It gives you a perfect circular start without the irritating bump forming.







Using your proper yarn and the double-pointed needles you will be starting to knit with, hold the trailing end of the yarn in your right hand and the working end in your left. Leave a generous trailing end of at least a foot. Form the yarn into a circle. Using your right hand, put the point of a DPN through the loop from front to back.

Catch the trailing end of the yarn with the tip of the dpn. Bring it back through the circle, forming a loop on the dpn which is your first stitch.

Wrap the trailing end of the yarn over the needle from back to front. This is your second stitch.

Make further stitches as per the last two steps, and you will end up with the number of stitches you need (usually about eight are needed for circles), with the trailing end of the yarn forming the basis of the cast-on edge.

Spread the stitches across three or four dpns and start knitting. On the first round, make sure you work into the back loop of the even-numbered stitches (the ones formed as per the second stitch above). Knit a few rounds, then pull the trailing end of the yarn to close the centre of the work. You’ll darn in the trailing end later to finish the piece.

Techniques – Permanent cast-ons

These casting on techniques are ones that you leave in place. They give nicely presented edges which can still be used to pick stitches up from for borders if you need to. It’s also important that your cast-on edge is not done too tightly as you will later wash and stretch the piece and a tight cast-on will spoil the appearance. These methods make it difficult to fall into that error.

General rules – always leave a trailing end of yarn at least eight inches long. Always use a crochet hook which is the same guage as your knitting needles.

Loop cast-on






All you’re doing here is creating loops around the needle, not really creating stitches in the same sense as the basic cast-on. You can form them so they slant left or right, it doesn’t matter which – just be consistent.

Holding the needle and trailing end in your left hand, and the working yarn in your right, use your index finger and thumb to form the loops, noting that the working end of the yarn is always looped over the needle first so that the loops hold onto the needle. If you did it any other way you’d just be wrapping the yarn round the needle, which wouldn’t work as a cast-on.

Cable cast-on





Make a slip knot on the left needle. Insert the right needle through the loop from front to back, and wrap the working yarn over the top of the RH needle. Pull the loop through and slip it onto the left needle. This forms the first two stitches.

Slip the RH needle between the two stitches (Note, between the stitches, not through their loops), bring the yarn over the top of the RH needle and pull the loop through. This forms the third stitch. Slip it onto the LH needle. Continue like this, always forming the new stitch from between the previous two.

Crochet cast-on





Form a slip knot on your crochet hook.

With your knitting needle in your left hand and crochet hook in your right, bring the working end of the yarn behind the knitting needle so it catches in the crochet hook. Using the hook, bring the yarn down through the loop of the slip knot. This forms a stitch on the knitting needle. Bring the working yarn back round the point of the needle and catch it with the crochet hook. Bring it though the loop on the crochet hook, forming the next stitch.

Techniques – Removing Temporary Cast-ons

So, you cast on using waste yarn as per the previous post, then you knit the main panel in your proper yarn. You have a panel hanging from your needle, and you now need to pick up the stitches around the two sides and the bottom so you have a working edge all the way round to knit your pretty border onto. (Assuming your piece is square/rectangular for this example! You probably wouldn’t have used a temporary cast-on for a triangular piece)


The sides aren’t difficult. As you can see, there are definite loops down each side, formed as part of the pattern of the main panel, which you can just pick up. You can usually pick up one side stitch for every two rows knitted, so if your middle panel will be square you will often have to knit two rows for every stitch you cast on.

The bottom can be more fiddly!

When the waste wool is taken out, it will leave a loop which you put on your needle, forming the new working edge. (Quick before you lose it, otherwise your main panel will unravel!)




So, there are two basic ways to do it.

(1) You can pick the loops up before you cut the waste wool. This is safer as it saves you from the waste wool pulling out faster than you can pick the loops up and the bottom edge of your main panel unravelling. It’s also more awkward because picking up the loops before you cut the wool can be fiddly and you have to make sure you get them all. So, you pick up each loop, then cut the waste wool stitches (carefully! if you cut your proper wool by accident you’re in real trouble! Do it with embroidery scissors with small blades, it’s safer.) and simply pull them out.

(2) You can pick the loops up as you unravel the waste wool. This needs real care but can be easier to do than the first method as you cut the waste wool so that it starts to unravel, and simply pick up the loop as the waste wool comes out.

Either way you will end up with the loops forming the bottom of row 1 of your main panel, now forming a knittable working edge on your knitting needle.

One thing to note is that, when you pick the stitches up like this as you take out the temporary cast-on waste yarn, you will always end up with one fewer stitch than you originally cast on. If you look at the picture above, you will see that at the bottom left-hand corner, where the proper yarn was begun, there is a cast-on stitch in waste yarn that doesn’t have a loop in proper yarn, because the trailing end of the proper yarn doesn’t form a loop.

Sometimes this will be compensated for in your pattern by putting in an increased stitch in the first row of the border somewhere. On the needle which still holds the top row of the centre panel you’ll still have the same number of stitches you originally cast on, so that edge will be fine, but your bottom edge is now one short, and that difference needs compensating for to make a symmetrical pattern.

Techniques – Temporary cast-ons

As mentioned before, finished knitted lace doesn’t often have a definite cast-on edge, like the top edge of a sock for instance. Instead, you’ll knit a panel, then you’ll go back and pick up stitches round the edge and knit a pretty border on. It therefore makes a difference how you cast on – the basic cast-on method listed previously does not give you an edge that you can pick up stitches from to turn it back into a working edge.

The following methods are called temporary because you make them out of waste wool and you literally cut them out when you’ve finished. (How to do this follows later!)

When waste yarn is referred to, use whatever you’ve got in your ‘odds and ends’ bag of yarn. It should be of a similar thickness but a contrasting colour to your ‘proper’ yarn. I tend to avoid fluffy mohair-type yarns for waste cast-ons, I find the fluffiness can make it fiddly. (Mind you, I don’t like fluffy yarn at the best of times, so don’t let that put you off if fluffy is what you have and you like it!)

You should always do the waste cast-on using the same knitting needles you’re going to use for the rest of the panel.

When casting on, you should always leave trailing ends of yarn at least eight inches long, unless instructed otherwise.

Knitted waste yarn cast-on

Using waste yarn, cast on the number of stitches quoted in your pattern, using any cast-on method you like. The basic cast-on is fine. Knit a few plain rows – I usually do four, but it doesn’t matter, just enough to give you a definite strip of knitting. Cut off the waste yarn.

Start using your ‘proper’ yarn, and start with the first row of your pattern. You will end up with your finished panel of knitting, with a contrasting strip across the bottom.

Chain cast-on

This is one of the crochet cast-ons. Using waste yarn, crochet a chain of the number of stitches mentioned in the pattern, plus a few. Use a crochet hook the same size as your knitting needles. Make sure your chain stitches aren’t too tight. Cut the yarn, and finish the chain by passing the end of the yarn through the loop of the last chain. It should pull tight, forming its own knot.

With your knitting needle and proper yarn, start a couple of loops along the chain, and pick up one stitch into the back of each ‘bump’ on the back of the chain stitch.




You end up with your completed panel of knitting, with a crocheted contrasting edge at the bottom, slightly longer than the main panel.

Temporary (Invisible) cast-on

Knot your waste yarn to your proper yarn, leaving trailing ends of both about eight inches long. Hold your knitting needle in your right hand, and the dual yarn is positioned so that the waste yarn goes along the ‘bottom’ of your needle and the proper yarn forms the first loop, over the needle front to back, coming down in front of the waste yarn.




Holding both yarns taut, pivot the needle so that the next loop is formed by bringing the proper yarn over the needle and behind the waste wool. Continue in this manner, one loop formed in front of the waste wool and one loop formed behind, until you have the right number of stitches.

Which to use

As you’re going to cut the waste wool out anyway, if you’ve got to use one of these it won’t actually make much difference which you use. I tend to use one of the first two methods because I find the invisible cast-on very fiddly, especially if I have a lot of stitches to cast on.

Knit, purl, chain – three stitches you have to be able to do!


I know, I’m putting this post in between casting-on posts. But it does make sense, because for some lace cast-ons you have to be able to do chain stitches with a crochet hook. I have done some crochet in the dim and distant past, and have forgotton most of it, so I often have to look up how to make chain stitches before I can cast on!

Two knitting stitches – knit and purl

There are two basic knitting stitches, knit and purl. They’re used to create different effects on the right side of the knitting (the presentation side, that you’ll look at).

Knit stitches

1.  Hold the needle with the stitches in your left hand, and the second needle in your right, with the yarn coming through your right fingers.

Insert the RH needle through the first stitch, from front to back, underneath the LH needle.




2. Take the yarn round the tip of the RH needle, starting underneath the needle.






3. Draw the loop through the stitch on the LH needle.






4. The new knit stitch is now formed on the RH needle.






5. Allow the LH stitch to slide off the LH needle. The new stitch is now complete on the RH needle.






6. As you continue to knit, all the stitches will move across from the LH needle to the RH needle.






If you do Shetland lace patterns you’ll almost invariable use knit stitches all the time, if you have to purl at all it’ll be marked in your pattern.  Shetland lace, as with some other styles, doesn’t have a right side, you can use either as the presentation side.

Purl stitches

A purl stitch is like doing a knit stitch, but seen from the other side. In figure 6 above, alternate rows would have been knitted and purled, to make it look like that – so, a purl stitch worked on the wrong side, gives the appearance of a knit stitch on the right side. It’s not the easiest thing to explain!

1. The needle holding the existing stitches goes in your left hand, the second needle in your right, and the spare yarn comes through the fingers of your right hand.

Insert the RH needle into the loop of the first stitch, from back to front.




2. Loop the yarn round the point of the RH needle, over it then under it.






3. Draw the loop on the RH needle, through the loop on the LH needle. The newly-formed purl stitch is held on the RH needle.







4. Allow the stitch on the LH needle to slide off it. The completed purl stitch is now on the RH needle. As you continue knitting across the row, the stitches will move from the LH needle to the RH needle.




Chain stitch

This is the only crochet stitch you’ll need for lace knitting. It’s used for some methods of casting on, and occasionally for forming edges. It’s done using a crochet hook, not a knitting needle – unless instructed otherwise in your pattern you should always use a hook which is the same guage as your knitting needles.

1. Form a slip knot on the crochet hook, leaving a trailing end of yarn at least 8 inches long. Don’t pull the knot too tight.

2. Hold the needle with the hook facing down.

3. Wrap the working yarn around the hook, from back to front. The loop of yarn will catch in the hook.




4. Pull the hook backwards, so it pulls the new loop of yarn back through the existing loop. You’ll end up with the slip knot hanging from your newly-formed stitch. As you continue you’ll end up with a chain of stitches – hence the name!


Techniques – Casting On (Basic)

When you start your piece of knitting, the first thing you do is ‘cast on’ – that is, create the first row of stitches on your needle so you can get cracking with the rest of your pattern. Your pattern will tell you how many stitches, and may recommend a particular method of casting on.

There are several methods to cast on, and which to use depends on (1) what you want the edge to look like and (2) whether you’re going to come back and add a border later. We’ll go into construction methods for lace in more detail later, but one of the common ones is that you knit a centre panel and then you pick up all the stitches around the edge of the panel and use them to add a border. This means you don’t actually end up with a cast on edge, you end up with a knitted edge.

I am just going to cover the basic method here, and will cover the more useful lace cast-ons in the next. The basic cast-on is easy to do but fiddly to describe. For lace, you’ll rarely use it for long stretches because lace doesn’t really use this kind of definite edge – but if you’re doing a circular piece where you cast on about eight stitches and knit outwards in circles, it’s useful.


Basic casting on. Uses one circular needle, or two straight/double pointed needles. It’s the one most people learn when they first learn to knit.

You create the first stitch using a slip knot which goes on the left needle, then with the yarn coming through your right hand, you use the right needle to create stitches.

1. Slip knot on left needle. Make sure it’s not too tight. Leave a trailing end of yarn at least eight inches long.






2. Push point of RH needle through the loop from front to back.






3. Wrap the yarn around the point of the RH needle.






4. Pull the loop created in (3) forwards through the slip knot.






5. You now have a newly-formed stitch on the right needle.






6. Slip the new stitch onto the LH needle.






7. Hurrah! You now have two stitches on your LH needle! Repeat steps 2-6, to form as many stitches as you want.

Elfin safety (did you know that elves can knit?)

OK, disclaimer first, I am not a doctor! If you have health problems, go see your GP, that’s what they’re there for…

Knitting can cause or exacerbate some medical problems, particularly of the hands and wrists.

In the first place you need to make sure your technique is good. Don’t hold your knitting in an uncomfortable position. Take breaks when your hands, wrists or arms get tired. Don’t sit in draughts or in the cold.

There are a few specific conditions to mention…

Arthritis. Arthritis can be very painful and debilitating, and many people unfortunate enough to get it in the joints of their fingers, wrists and arms often stop knitting because it hurts. I sympathise, both my grandmothers stopped knitting for this very reason. In the first place, go talk to your doctor about pain relief. Also – and yes, I know this sounds nuts – take your knitting with you to see your doctor. Tell him/her you love knitting and you want to keep on as long as possible, and ask what can be done. Your doctor may ask to see you knitting and may be able to suggest changes to your technique which will make it easier for you. Try different needles – this is one of the brilliant things about bamboo circular needles. They’re light and easy to hold, and the weight of your knitting will rest in your lap rather than on your hands, as it does if you’re knitting on straight needles. It will just help take the pressure off your joints.

If you have arthritis, and of course with your doctor’s advice, knitting can actually be beneficial. The motion helps to keep your joints mobile. Just do it carefully and stop when you’re uncomfortable.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This painful condition can be caused by knitting – just as it can be caused by any activity involving a lot of use of the hands. You can get it from typing, playing the piano… any number of causes. The underlying cause is poor technique. The carpal tunnel is a little passage which runs through your wrist. It exists to provide a route for the nerve which provides feeling in your thumb, index and ring fingers, and for the tendons which flex your fingers and thumb. If the surrounding tissues become inflamed, there is pressure on the nerve and tendons, which results in pain, numbness, tingling and/or loss of function in your thumb or fingers.

You need to go to your doctor about it, and you often need to stop doing whatever is causing it until the inflammation goes down, letting the pressure off the nerve and tendons. When it has recovered you can resume normal activity. However, if it’s caused by typing, piano playing, knitting, or any similar activity, you need to check your technique to avoid the problem occurring again. For knitting, try different needles – again, circular bamboo needles are often the best to reduce the pressure on your wrists. Elasticated support gloves are also available to give your wrists some support, ask your doctor if they might help.

Eyesight. The other main health problem knitters tend to find limits their knitting is their eyesight. You should always make sure you knit in good light, preferably natural light. You should also make sure your pattern is positioned somewhere easy to read – this is a particular problem for lace knitters because you refer to your pattern constantly, unlike knitting a plain item where you’ll only check it occasionally. If you have to wear glasses for reading or computer use, odds are you should wear them for knitting, too. Everybody should get their eyes tested by an optician every few years – if you already wear glasses or have eye problems you should have them tested at the interval recommended by your optician.

Knitting techniques: A quick introduction

Knitting technique is a big subject – this is a very quick introduction!

You can knit by hand or you can get a knitting machine. Let me say here and now that I’ve never used a knitting machine, nor had any inclination to do so. They have the virtue that you can make pieces very quickly, which is great if you’re knitting for commercial purposes or you need pieces in a rush. However, in my biased view, if you’ve made a piece on a knitting machine, all you’ve really done is sew the bits together. You didn’t knit it, the machine did. So, I am not going to consider machine knitting here.

There are different methods of knitting by hand, which developed in different parts of the world. Roughly speaking there are two main Western methods, English and Continental. The English method involves guiding the yarn using your right hand; the Continental method means guiding the yarn using your left hand. Being English and having been taught to knit by my mother and grandmother, I use the English method and that’s what I’ll talk about in this blog. I hope all the Continental knitters out there won’t feel slighted!

It seems to make very little difference whether you’re right or left handed, which method you choose to knit. Both English and Continental are used by both right- and left-handed people – it seems to be a question of what you’re comfortable with. Since either way you have to use both hands to knit, it’s not the case that because you’re holding the yarn with your right hand means your left hand isn’t doing anything, or vice versa. The point is simply what job you prefer your dominant hand to be doing.

Navigating lace patterns

When you choose your first lace project, you need to be able to follow the pattern!

There are two basic methods of writing out a knitting pattern. They can be fully written out, or they can be charts with some written instructions. Most recently-produced patterns are charts, because writing out a lace pattern is horribly complicated both to do and to follow. If you only ever learn to use one of the two options, you need to learn to read charts – but I will cover both here for completeness. (Don’t worry if you’re not sure about some of the terms, we’ll go into knitting techniques later!)

Written patterns

For instance, you may see a pattern which says something along the lines of:

Cast on 50 stitches.

Rows 1-4: k

Row 5: k5, (k2tog, yo)x20, k5

Row 6: k5, p40, k5

This is fairly straightfoward. It tells you how many stitches to cast on. Then your first four rows are all done using knit stitches. The motif starts in row 5, which translates as: knit five stitches, then do (knit two together, then pass the yarn over the needle to create a loop) twenty times, then knit the last five stitches. Row six translates as: five knit stitches, 40 purl stitches, 5 knit stitches.

The instructions should always give you a list of the abbreviations used, such as k2tog=knit two together. They will usually assume you know that k=knit stitch and p=purl stitch.

Written patterns are ok for simple pieces of lace, as lace is usually made up of repeated motifs. However, for big or complex pieces a written pattern can become very long and horribly complicated, as they often run into hundreds of lines and hundreds of stitches on each line.

Charted patterns

Charts are, when you get used to reading them, easier to follow than written patterns, because you can see the motif you’re knitting. You will get some written instructions, telling you how many stitches to cast on, and how many times to knit each chart. You may get a chart for each individual motif, and instructed that the motif should be repeated five times in each row, and should be knitted ten times. This might be a main panel for a scarf, for instance – you’d have a rectangular panel five motifs wide and ten motifs long. If you’re doing a complicated piece you may get a full chart for the piece showing all the stitches – slightly harder to read but simpler to follow without mistakes.

You should get a key to the symbols in the chart, which are drawn on a grid to make the pattern. The scale is that one square = one stitch. For example:

Here, you have a chart which is ten stitches across by twelve rows high. There is a note saying ‘8 stitch repeat’. This means that you knit the first stitch, then you repeat the next eight stitches until you get to the far end of the section, then you knit the last stitch. In other words, the motif is in the middle 8 stitches, and the extra stitch at either end is just a containing border.

A key would be supplied. Very often, O means pass the yarn over the needle, forming a loop, and / or \ mean knit two together in the direction of the diagonal line. (More on this later – for the moment, suffice it to say that to make a perfect motif, it makes a difference whether, to knit two stitches together, you pass the right stitch over the left or the left stitch over the right. As with most things in life, the devil’s in the detail.)

Usually a blank square means one stitch. Whether knit or purl will depend on what effect you are using on the ‘right side’ of the knitting. In traditional Shetland lace knitting, which doesn’t have a right side, all blank squares are knit stitches. If you need to purl a stitch, it’ll have a symbol. However, in later patterns, there is a ‘right side’, so rows with odd numbers might be knit stitches and even numbers purl stitches. This will be noted in the written instructions with the pattern.

One thing to note is which direction to read the rows. The chart represents how the pattern looks on one side of the knitting, but you have to turn the knitting each time you start the next row so you’re knitting the next row backwards (as seen from the ‘right side’). As you can see on this one, the rows are numbered, the odd numbers on the right and the even numbers on the left. This is useful, because it will remind you which end you have to read and work each row from. You read and knit row one from right to left, then turn the work. Read and knit row two from left to right, then turn the work. Row three – right to left, then turn the work.

So, what the first few rows mean is the following. (I am assuming here that the eight-stitch repeat is done five times).

Row 1. Knit 1, (Knit 6, knit 2 together on a left slant, pass yarn over)x5, Knit 1

Row 2. Knit 1, (Knit 6, knit 2 together on a right slant, pass yarn over)x5, Knit 1

Row 3. Knit 1, (Knit 6, knit 2 together on a left slant, pass yarn over)x5, Knit 1

….. moving further up the pattern…

Row 7. Knit 1, (Knit 4, pass yarn over on a right slant, knit 2 together, knit 2)x5, Knit 1

Row 8. Knit 1, (Knit 4, pass yarn over on a left slant, knit 2 together, knit 2)x5, Knit 1

See how much easier the chart is to read than the instructions, even on a simple pattern?

Useful things and where to find them

So, having talked (at length) about needles, here’s some other stuff you may find useful. You won’t need it all for any one project, but you’ll develop a supply of bits and pieces. I’m not including yarn here though, that’s another topic to be talked about at length elsewhere!

If you click on any of the pictures here, you’ll end up at a link where you can purchase these items if you like. (Same goes for most pictures anywhere on this blog, it saves you the job of searching).

Accessories bag/box. There are any number of these on the market, and don’t restrict your choice to haberdashery specialists. Any bag or box you like will do, as long as it has a few basic properties:

Size. You’ll probably want to keep your spare knitting needles in their case in your accessory bag/box, so it really needs a compartment of at least eighteen inches long to accommodate this easily.

Pockets. A few small pockets will be useful to stop things like scissors in, so you don’t puncture your hands when you’re looking for something. If no pockets, then a separate container to keep scissors and all the fiddly little things which gravitate to the bottom of bags may be useful. (See below comments about containers for circular needles!)

Material. It needs to be made of something fairly durable, so your needles or scissors won’t poke through it and stab people in passing.

Yarn storage. You may want to keep odds and ends of yarn (and the supply of that new exciting yarn you just bought!) in your accessories bag/box if it’s big enough, otherwise you probably want a second bag. Again, don’t restrict yourself to haberdashery suppliers, any bag you take a fancy to will do very nicely as long as it’s fairly roomy and made of somthing fairly durable.

Work in progress bag. This really is optional, I don’t have one. If I”m taking my knitting out and about, I find a strong carrier bag is ample for my knitting, a spare ball of wool and my pattern. If I’m at a point in my knitting where I’ll need complicated equipment, I don’t take it out with me.

Needle case.As your collection of needles grows you’ll need something to keep them in. For straight and double-pointed needles, and crochet hooks, wrap-around cases like this are great:


You can keep circular needles in these, but they’re awkward, they’re the wrong shape for it and you’ll probably find they’re in constant danger of falling out.  There are one or two cases on the market for circular needles in the same kind of design, but to be honest you’ll do just as well using any soft bag or a biscuit tin. Try Marks and Spencers, their biscuit tins are always fun designs – or Lush do gift sets of bath bombs in pretty tins. (Sorry, I realise this is an encouragement to either eat biscuits or have lots of baths – I’m afraid you have to suffer for your art! Enjoy… tell them the kntting site said you had to so it’s not your fault…)

Yarn winder. It is fairly common among lace-weight yarn suppliers to sell yarn in hanks rather than already wound into balls or onto cones. This is better for the yarn itself – because it’s so fine, the less time it spends under tension the better. However, this does mean that when you buy your yarn, you either need a very patient friend to sit and hold the yarn over their hands while you wind it into a ball (and patient is the operative word, bearing in mind that a hank of laceweight yarn can easily be over 1000yds long!), or you need one of these gadgets. The arms open out like a concertina to hold your hank of yarn, and the whole thing spins round so you can sit and wind your ball of wool easily. You can also get electric winders to do this for you – just bear in mind that laceweight yarn is very fine and breaks and knots easily. They’re not cheap, but with care they will last forever, and they really do make a tedious job easier on you and your long-suffering friends.

Crochet hooks. I know, you’re knitting not crocheting, but crochet hooks are useful. They come in the same materials as knitting needles. You use them for some casting on techniques, and they’re also great for rescuing dropped stitches. For preference, use one of the same guage as the knitting needles you’re using.

Scissors. You’ll have to cut your yarn sometimes – fine yarn is thin enough that you can just snap it, but it’s not good practice. Really you need a pair of scissors with sharp edges that you’re only going to use with your knitting, or other material-based crafts. You only need a small pair of scissors for yarn-cutting purposes but feel free to use other sizes – if you’re a sewer, your dressmaking shears will do for most purposes. For yarn and thread-based activities, embroidery scissors are all you need, like this:


Needle point protectors. Sometimes you’ll be carrying your knitting around with you and want to know it won’t fall off the needles or prod you somewhere painful, or you’ll have to stop in the middle of a row and you just need to know your knitting isn’t going to slide off the ends of the needles. They’re essential if you’re using double-pointed needles all the time because your knitting can fall off either end of the needles at any time.

In this case you need something you can put on the ends of your needles to stop your stitches escaping. Wine corks are ideal for this – I assume you drink proper wine which comes in corked bottles, not the stuff that comes in screw-topped bottles or worse, boxes. (Don’t take this as encouragement to go out and drink wine purely for the sake of getting a cork – or if you must, do it responsibly! Biscuits, baths, now wine, you had no idea how much fun lace knitting was going to be, did you!)

For those who don’t want to up their alcohol intake for their art, you can also get specially made bungs for the ends of your needles. Make sure you get the correct size for your needles. Wine corks are multi-purpose, you won’t need to worry about that if you chose the alcoholic option… (OK, so you don’t have to have the alcohol. You can get packets of corks from home-brew suppliers.)


Tape measure. Probably not really an essential piece of kit, but still useful, especially when you’re stretching a finished piece of work if you want it to stretch to a specific size. They can also be handy if you’re making lace clothing to get the size right.

Row counter. Only really useful if you’re working on straight needles, on a circular needle you’d have to keep passing it from end to end of the needle and that would soon irritate you. However, on straight needles, they can be handy for keeping track of where you are in a pattern. They sit on the blunt end of the needle, and you just turn the dial each time you knit a row, so you always know which line of pattern you just did. They usually come in large or small, choose one that will fit your needles.

Sewing needles. Depending what you’re making and how it’s constructed, you may or may not have to sew edges of your knitting together. Even if you don’t, you’ll still have to darn in ends of yarn occasionally, so you need sewing needles.

For sewing yarn into knitting, you need long needles with large eyes. And as your stitches aren’t terribly tiny, it’s ok for the needles to be blunt. You can get these in plastic or metal – personally I use plastic sewing needles, but it’s just preference. This type of needle won’t go into a traditional sewing needle holder, so usually you can just keep them in their packaging, or in your bag of knitting accessories.

Pins. You’ll need these when you’re finishing your lace, so you can stretch it to the size and shape you want. You do this when you’ve washed the lace and leave it to dry in the shape you want, so it has to be held while it dries. If you’re doing this on a carpeted floor, or by laying your lace out on towels, pins are good for holding it. You need nice long pins and plenty of them, preferably with big heads so they’re easy to see and handle and won’t slip through your lace. They’re also handy if you’re having to sew pieces of knitting together, to hold them accurately while you sew.

Fishing weights. No, really! If you’re going to lay your finished lace out to stretch on a hard surface that you can’t pin it into, you need something to anchor it at regular points round the edge instead, and whatever objects you use should preferably be as small as possible so your wet knitting dries evenly. Now, you can use pretty much anything for this as long as it won’t get damaged by the wetness from your knitting, and isn’t made from something whose colours will run in the damp. You can use anything to hand, you needn’t buy anything, but if you want to, I find fishing weights work well.