Firstly, let me clear up a common misconception: knitting lace is not hard. If you can knit, purl, k2tog and make yarn overs, you can knit lace. A lace pattern might be complicated and difficult to follow but as far as technique is concerned, it’s not hard.
Unless your technique is wrong, as I discovered last night. Apparently, there is a right way and a wrong way to make yarn overs. Now yarn overs are a way of deliberately introducing holes into your knitting. Obviously, holes are very important in lace, so if you’re not making them properly, you’ve got a problem. Having knit several rows of a lace pattern and not getting anything that looked like the pictures accompanying the pattern, I decided to take a closer look at what was supposed to be happening. Clearly, the pattern pictures had holes and, just as clearly, my work didn’t. This suggested a problem with my yarn overs so I thought I’d check that I was making them the way I was supposed to.
Enter Google. The first page I found explained that there is no standard method for yarn overs so if the pattern didn’t explain how to make them, I was probably screwed. Not really what I wanted to hear so I moved right along. The next page said that (and I quote) “the yarn should be wrapped counter-clockwise around the needle looking directly at the point of the right hand needle”. Personally, I’m not terribly keen on the idea of looking directly at the points of my needles even when I’m not knitting with them. Fortunately, I was third time lucky and found a site that explained that I should be bringing the yarn to the front of my work under the needle and then putting it to the back over the needle and not the other way round as I had been doing. This method gets a very loose length of yarn wrapped over the needle (just what you need to introduce a hole) unlike the opposite way which gets you a nice neat stitch and no hole. At last I have holes in my knitting!
The final amusement was the site that explained to me that making a stitch (a yarn over increases the number of stitches by one) in this way was called ‘lace’ when done intentionally and a ‘hole’ otherwise.