From what I could find, the technique we are going to discuss in this tutorial was invented by a brilliant knitter Debbie New. I learned this incredibly simple way to knit a gorgeous loose fabric from her book “Unexpected Knitting”.
The fabric is quite unusual, and that makes anything made using this technique absolutely stunning. Because it is a loose knit, it works best for shawls and wraps, but if you decide to make a loose see-through sweater using scribble lace knitting, you will create a masterpiece.
This technique is so simple that you can use it to make anything you like. You can work in the round or back and forth, and you can do any kind of shaping required for the project without any significant issues.
It is also possible to quickly change the look of the fabric depending on the materials we decide to use and the stitch pattern we choose to apply. We’ll talk about different options a bit later, but first, let’s see how to make a piece of “scribble lace”.
As usual, there is a video tutorial that shows every step of the process. Click here to watch it.
The choice of materials is crucial for this technique. We would need two different yarns – one much thinner than the other. For my swatch, I used a wool slub yarn in a bulky weight as the thick yarn.
For a thinner yarn, Debbie New recommends choosing a yarn in lace weight or even a cotton sewing thread. I don’t have any of that in a colour that will work nicely with the wool slub. But I do have an extra fine merino yarn in a DK weight in a lovely shade of pear green. This yarn is comprised of six plies. I cut a few meters of that yarn and split it into six tiny strands. Those strands are perfect for scribble lace, so I’ve used one of them as the thin yarn in my swatch.
When it comes to choosing needles, there are two things to remember:
1. Use only double pointed or circular needles because at some point we’ll need to slide stitches to the other tip of the needle.
2. The needle size should be a bit bigger than the size recommended for the thick yarn you choose for the project.
With that in mind, I will use 10mm (US size 15) double pointed needles. In fact, Debbie New suggested 12mm needles, but the fabric made on such big needles is too loose to my liking, so I’ll be using slightly thinner needles.
We’ll work in the same pattern that is described in the “Unexpected Knitting” book, but of course, once you understand the basics of scribble lace, feel free to make any adjustments to create your own one-of-a-kind design.
Here’s a summary of what we’ll be doing – we’ll work in stockinette stitch, and we’ll work one row with the thick yarn and three rows with the thin yarn. Altogether, the pattern repeat is formed by eight rows.
Here’s how to do it step by step. If you’d like to watch each step in a video tutorial, click the name of the step, and the link will take you to the video.
Cast on is done with the thick yarn. If you are making a test swatch, cast on any number of stitches. I’ll make a tiny swatch eight stitches wide.
As to the type of the cast on, I didn’t quite like the way the long-tail cast on looks. It seems that the knit on or cable cast ons look much better.
Before we move on to the first row, tie the thin yarn to the thick yarn as close to the first stitch as possible. Now we are ready to knit.
This row is quite simple – knit all stitches using the thin yarn. To prevent stitches from getting too tight, move each stitch farther from the tip of the right needle as soon as you knit it. Watch how to do it.
It could feel a bit unusual to knit with such a thin yarn on 10mm needles. Take your time and work each stitch carefully. As you work more on this swatch, you will get more comfortable with this odd combination of yarn and needles.
To create a nicely shaped “scribble”, spread stitches on the right needle after you make a few stitches and pull the work down. This way the thick yarn won’t get tangled in the cobweb of stitches made with the thin yarn.
Turn your work.
Purl all stitches using the thin yarn. Turn your work.
At the beginning of this row both yarns “meet”. That means it’s time to twist them to carry the thick yarn up the side of the work.
Here’s how to do it – place the thick yarn on top of the thin yarn. Then pick the thin yarn and use it to knit all stitches in this row.
Don’t turn your work. Instead, slide all stitches to the other tip of the needle. Now the thick yarn is at the beginning of the row.
Knit all stitches using the thick yarn. Turn your work.
Purl all stitches using the thin yarn. Just as we did in row 1, every now and then spread the stitches on the right needle and pull the work down to shape the scribble made with the thick yarn. Turn your work.
Knit all stitches using the thin yarn. Turn your work.
The yarns “meet” again. Place the thick yarn on the thin one to twist the strands, then pick up the thin yarn and use it to purl all stitches.
Don’t turn your work. Slide the stitches to the other tip of the right needle, as we did after row 3.
Purl all stitches using the thick yarn. Turn your work.
These 8 rows form the pattern. Repeat them to make your swatch or project as long as you like.
It’s better to bind off stitches using the thick yarn. This way the edges will be less flimsy, and the project itself will be perfectly framed.
Work to row 4 or 8 of the pattern.
Pick up the thick yarn and use it to knit two stitches. Pull the work down to form the two stitches worked in the thick yarn. Pass one stitch over the other as we normally do when we bind off stitches.
Knit another stitch. Pull the work down again to form this new stitch. Pass one stitch over the other and off the right needle. Repeat until one stitch left.
Cut the yarn and pass the yarn tail through the last stitch. Pull tight to secure.
If you’d like to add more definition to the sides of the project, leave a long tail after you bind off all stitches. After you pass it through the last stitch and pull to secure, thread this tail into a wool needle and run it along the side of the work, then along the cast on edge, and finally, along the other side of the work, as it is shown in the photo below:
Weave in the loose ends. Your lovely scribble lace piece is finished.
1. HORIZONTAL VS VERTICAL
If you cast one more stitches and work fewer rows, the project (most likely, a wrap or a shawl) will have a horizontal layout with long scribbles running across it. For a vertical design, cast on fewer stitches and work more rows. This way, when you wrap the shawl around your shoulders, the scribbles will run vertically.
2. CHOICE OF YARN
Scribble lace knitting is perfect for showing off your best handspun, boucle, novelty and other highly textured yarns. The more unusual the yarn, the more exquisite the look of the fabric.
When it comes to colours, the sky is the limit. The fabric will look equally nice in subtle colour combinations (like the colours of my swatch) and more contrasting colours. So go, raid your stash and find the colours you like most 🙂
4. STITCH PATTERN
We worked in stockinette, but this type of knitting will also look great on a garter, moss or seed stitch. In fact, feel free to use any stitch pattern you like, but keep in mind that most stitch patterns won’t be visible on a loose textured fabric created by scribble lace knitting.
5. WIDTH OF EACH STRIPE
Another way to change the finished look of the fabric is to work more or fewer rows in the thin yarn. If you work 5 or more rows, the fabric will be looser and will look more like a cobweb. If you work one row using thin yarn, the fabric will be more dense and textured.
Experiment! Play with yarns, different needle sizes, colours and textures.
Most importantly, have fun and enjoy creating extraordinary knits!
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.
Dealing with Unfinished Projects
Dictionary of Knitting Symbols and Abbreviations – E-Book
Eastern (Russian) Knitting Simplified
Knitting Collection #6
Simple Socks in Any Size with Any Yarn
Top-Down Hat in Any Size with Any Yarn