How to Decrease a Lace Knitting Pattern


I love knitting lace patterns, the textures you can achieve are beautiful, and all from a few yarn overs and decreases. Now, following a lace pattern is fairly simple, once you’ve got your head round where those increases and decreases are supposed to be, and hope you don’t forget to do a yarn over like I usually do. But what if you’re trying to devise your own pattern? How on earth are you supposed to decrease and still keep the lace pattern going? You can’t just k2tog wherever you feel like, who knows what you’d end up with.

This is where hopefully this post will help. I have been trying to create a hat using a lovely lace repeat I found, but when it came to the decreasing I suddenly realised I didn’t have a clue what to do. As usual I resorted to Google, but didn’t find a whole lot very helpful (I didn’t look very hard though…) There were a couple of sites that gave a few hints, giving me an idea of where to get started. The main point is: lace patterns are made up of sections of increases and decreases, whether they follow after one another in the same row, or increase on one row and decrease the next, it doesn’t matter. These sections have to stay the same. As long as you keep the right amount of stitches in the right place, your pattern will look fine and there will be no obvious sign of a decrease in your work (except it getting smaller!). I guess this will also apply to increasing your work, however I haven’t tried that so will focus on decreasing here.

Now, I’ll show you the lace pattern I’m using, and the basic decrease structure to give you an example. This took me quite a few goes to get right, so don’t worry if you don’t get it right straight away for your lace pattern.

My base pattern is a four row repeat:

Row 1: k1 (s1, k2, psso, k3) k1
Row 2: p1 (p4, yo, p1) p1
Row 3: k1 (k3, s1, k2, psso) k1
Row 4: p1 (p1, yo, p4) p1

As you can see the first and second rows contain the pattern decrease, with the ‘s1’ and ‘psso’, whilst rows two and four contain the pattern increase, with the ‘yo’. The stitches in between the brackets are the sections, you will only decrease your stitches within one section, so the others are kept the same. It’s kind of hard to explain, so I’ll show you the four row repeat with a normal section highlighted in green, and a decrease section next to it highlighted in red. These evolve over the rows as the decrease section gets smaller.

Row 1: k1 (s1, k2, psso, k3) (s1, k2tog, psso, k2tog, k1) k1
Row 2: p1 (p4, yo, p1) (p2tog, p1) p1
Row 3: k1 (k3, s1, k2, psso) (k2tog) k1
Row 4: p1 (p1, yo, p4) (p2tog, yo, p4) p1

Each section has six stitches. For the decrease section in the first row we take that down to three, a combination of the psso which is part of the original section, and the two k2tog’s. In the second row that is taken down to two stitches, then one in the third row. In the fourth the last stitch is decreased by purling it together with the first stitch of the next section.

I hope that makes sense. How often you repeat this decrease section across your row depends on how many stitches you have, and how quickly you want to decrease. I repeated the normal section three times between each decease section to create a gradual decrease. However you can also repeat the decrease every other section if you want a faster decrease, it would just mean on the last row (if you’re using this pattern only) you would have to repeat the decrease section (p2tog, yo, p4) across the whole row, as it is just one last stitch you are getting rid of in the p2tog.

The basic idea then, is to gradually decrease your stitches within a section, making sure that those sections are in the same place across the rows. It can take quite a bit of trial and error to get right, but I hope I’ve helped somehow! I’m making a few adjustments to my hat pattern at the moment, but once that’s done I’ll be releasing it on here, so keep a look out.

If anything is unclear, or you have any questions, feel free to ask!

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