When knitting or crocheting lace, most crafters use a special kind of yarn called lace yarn. Lace yarn differs from other types of yarn both in the yarn gauge and the yarn weight. The weight of lace yarn is considerably less than worsted, and the gauge is much higher, meaning that the light weight of the yarn allows more stitches per inch of fabric knitted. Using lace yarn provides a light, often airy material appropriate for shawls, doilies, lace trims and other projects requiring a fine texture, delicate drape and intricate detailing.
Typically, lace yarn knits up at a gauge of seven to eight stitches on size one or two knitting needles. This means that when the yarn is knitted in stockinette stitch, the standard knitting stitch, there will be seven or eight stitches for each inch of knitting, measured horizontally. If a project is size-sensitive, such as a sweater or other fitted garment, gauge is very important to ensure the correct size. With shawls and other projects more commonly knitted or crocheted from lace yarn, however, gauge often is not as important.
Lace yarn usually is worked in intricate designs with many open loops and spaces to create delicate, lacy patterns. These usually are achieved through techniques such as yarn overs and slipped stitches or through the use of crocheted chains. In most cases, projects requiring lace yarn are considered to be an intermediate to advanced level, as far as knitting or crocheting experience.
The texture and quality of lace yarn is largely determined by its makeup. For example, cotton yarn tends to have a less fluid drape than other yarns such as silk yarn or angora yarn. Hand-spun yarn often has a less consistent weight than other yarns, and hand-dyed yarn or hand-painted yarn often provides variegated color schemes that can add an interesting look to the finished product. For those who enjoy novelty yarn, lace yarn also comes in variations such as bamboo yarn, llama yarn and even dog yarn. More traditional materials include nylon yarn, acrylic yarn and vicose yarn, a soft form of rayon yarn.
Regardless of the type of yarn used, making lace can provide a challenging project for knitters or crocheters wishing to expand their abilities. Patterns to make lace can be difficult to read for a beginner and often require close attention in order to maintain the required pattern. For those wishing to take their knitting to a higher level, lace is a great project to tackle.