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Thread from natural fibers such as cotton, linen, hemp or silk, or manmade threads based on these such as rayon or tencel, are the most suitable for knitting doiles. Synthetics such as acrylic are less suitable as they do not block well.

Gauge is not terribly important when knitting lace, especially when knitting doilies. You are pretty much free to choose whatever thread and needles you feel like, depending on what look you want to achieve, ie how open you want your lace to be, and how big you want your finished work. But if you are unsure, the following may serve as a starting point:

(US, UK, metric)
Pearl Cotton, size 5.3, 11, 3mm
Crochet Cotton, size 10.2, 12, 2.5-3mm
Crochet Cotton, size 20.
Pearl Cotton, size 8.
1, 13, 2-2.5mm
Crochet Cotton, size 30.0, 14, 2mm
Crochet Cotton, size 40.
Pearl Cotton, size 12.
2-0, 15, 1.75mm
Crochet Cotton, size 50.3-0, 16, 1.5mm
Crochet Cotton, size 60.4-0, 17, 1.25mm

Please remember that this is just a rough guide, and by no means applies to all patterns.

See also:
Comments on the knitting of Oma's Lace.

Light, pointy needles makes knitting lace easier, especially when doing decreases.

Round designs are usually worked in the round with the right side always facing the front. You start on double-pointed needles and then switch to a circular when you have enough stitches. Make sure to use a circular needle the same size as the double-pointed needles you started with.

If you find that your needles slip out of the work, you can try puttting small pieces of cork or rubber on the tips. Or, if the work is large enough, pull the middle together and tie it with a small hair elastic (like you were closing a bag).

Choose whatever method you are most comfortable with. Some suggestions:

  1. Cast on stitches in the usual way and then distribute on more needles as needed.
  2. Cast on 1 loose stitch and knit required no. of stitches into this stitch, (alternately through front and back of stitch).
  3. Use a crochet hook to make as many chain as stitches required and join to a ring with a slip stitch. This becomes the first stitch. Draw a slip stitch through each chain, and transfer to to knitting needles.
  4. Twist thread to make a circle, leaving a tail. * Using a crochet hook, draw a loop through the circle, draw a new loop through the first loop to create 1 stitcth. Repeat from * until you have required no. of stitches. Transfer to knitting needles and pull tail to close circle.
  5. Cast on required no. of stitches in usual way and work a small length of i-cord, before switching to more needles and starting pattern. After you finish your work, unravel i-cord and draw thread though all stitches of the first pattern round.

See also:
Emily Ocker's Cast-on.

When looking at a round doily design you will notice that they are usually made up of one section that is repeated several times to make up a circle - like slices of a pie. Patterns usually give instructions for one such section with a note on how many times it is to be repeated.

It is useful to mark each section with some kind of marker in a contrasting color to the thread you are using. Use yet another color to mark the section that starts the round.

Usually you just slip these markers to the other needle as you come across them, but occasionally the pattern row will start at a different point in the design. In this case the instructions will tell you to omit knitting, or knit "x" no. of stitches more, before starting the new round. You will then need to move the starting marker, and all other markers as you encounter them, accordingly.

A common design feature in doilies are large holes in an area of stockinette stitch. Most patterns achieve this by specifying "x" number of yarn overs on the pattern row, with a corresponding number of K1, P1 to be worked in these on the following round. However, many (if not most) knitters find that making as many yarn overs as stitches required will make the hole too large. The solution is to use fewer YO's, eg 1 for every 3-4 stitches, but still working the required number of stitches in the between round. Experiment to see what works best for you.

When working on double-pointed needles pay special attention to the stitches where you change needles - work them tighter so you won't end up with ladders.

A rule of thumb for doilies that won't lie flat is: If it "cups", try using smaller needles. If it "ruffles", try using bigger needles

Having a crochet hook on hand can be useful for picking up stray stitches!

See also:
The Lifeline Insurance
Helene Lesveque: Doily Knitting with a Safety Net

Best and most easily done on a plain round. Preferably in a patterned area rather than plain stockinette, as it would be more noticable in the latter. Tie thread with a reef knot. When finished weave in, but do not cut ends until your work has been blocked.

Many doilies are finished by crocheting off the stitches - usually "x" no. of stitches are pulled together with "x" no. of chain stitches in between. The chain stitches will form the the little loops on the outer edge, and you may wish to ajust the no. of chain stitches if you prefer smaller loops. Remember to allow for blocking though - loops should be big enough that they do not pull at the edge.

Don't panic - basically all you do is use the crochet hook to pull the thread though 1 or more stitches.

To crochet stitches together in a group:
Insert crochet hook into the required number of stitches from right to left, yarn over hook and draw thread through stitches. You should now have 2 stitches on the crochet hook. Yarn over hook and draw thread through the 2 stitches. You should now have 1 stitch on the hook.

To crochet the loops between the grouped stitches:
Yarn over hook, draw thread through stitch. Continue to yarn over and draw thread through stitch until desired number of chain stitches.

However tedious it may be, you have to block your work for it to display its true beauty.

Wash your work in a way that is appropriate to the thread you used. Rinse (mixing in starch if you are using the traditional stuff), and squeeze out excess water in a towel, leaving work still damp.

You will now need:

A - a surface on which to pin out your work; cardboard covered with a towel, carpet, rug or whatever works for you. Remember it must be able to withstand getting wet.

B - something on which to draw the shape of your doily, eg. freezer paper, brown paper etc. Be sure to use something which is colourfast when wet - the same goes for your writing!

You may be able to combine A and B, eg by using styrofoam boards.

Using a compass ,(or a tapemeasure or string secured with a pin in centre and a pencil at the end), draw a circle the required size. Divide into halves, quarters, eights etc. as appropriate. If your doily has protruding points it may be useful to draw a second, slightly smaller, circle inside the first one.

Place work on the circle you have drawn and pin out to full capacity, putting in pins in diagonal pairs to ensure even blocking. Be sure to use rustproof pins! Spray with starch, and leave till completely dry before removing pins.

See also :
Earth Heart Designs: Blocking Lace
Heartstrings: Blocking Tips
Judy Gibsons: Blocking the Rose of England