Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The way I knit, sometimes

Like many knitters, I'm self-taught. I learned to knit while I was living and working in Ireland, back in 1986. There wasn't much to do in the evenings other than huddle around the coal-fed fireplace and watch television. The biggest excitement was when the electricity ran down and we had to feed another 50p into the meter.

One Sunday, my life changed forever. One of my flatmates came home from a weekend in County Meath, where her parents lived, and she was knitting a sweater. I wanted in on that action.

When I got paid that week, I went to the department store near where I worked and bought a pattern and yarn. (Isn't that cool that you could by yarn in the department store?). I had learned to knit when I was in 5th grade during "X Period," a once-a-month afternoon where we could sign up to do a fun activity, but then, as now, garter stitch didn't excite me, so I abandoned it, not knowing what else I could do.

In Dublin, though, I had three flatmates who all knew how to knit, having been taught by nuns (and corrected with a ruler smack if they didn't hold their hands just so) My flatmates showed me how to cast on using the knitting on method, and corrected me when I wrapped the yarn in the wrong direction, without the use of corporal punishment.

Then the weekend came, and they all left town again, and I wanted to learn how to purl. So I went to the bookstore and found a book on knitting. I had spent that week's disposable income on yarn and needles, so I couldn't afford to buy the book, so I studied the pictures, trying to understand exactly what to do. By the time they all returned Sunday evening, my hands were cramped and my neck hurt, but I had managed to cast on and make progress on the bottom k1p1 ribbing.

I learned a lot from books and patterns after that, as I was good at following directions (I even helped my flatmate with her sweater when it came time to do simultaneous neck and shoulder shaping), but what I never managed to do was get the yarn tensioned around the fingers of my right hand so that I could hold the needles and wrap the yarn for stitches. What I did instead was to develop a style of knitting that worked for me, which was to avoid holding the right needle at all. I anchored the right needle at the junction of my hip and thigh. The nuns would never have approved.

I still use this method when I knit flat (I knit continental with dpns and circs) and I find it extremely comfortable, physically. The weight of the knitting is held by the needle, not my hands, so I don't get fatigued, and I have nice, even tension. Because my right hand isn't holding the needle, it is free to do other work. The yarn is tensioned against the palm of my hand with my ring and pinky fingers. When I wrap the yarn, my thumb and index finger take over tensioning the yarn while my index and middle fingers do the job of wrapping the yarn. When the stitch is finished, the yarn is back in my palm, held there by those ring and pinky fingers while my other fingers move the new stitches down the needle shaft.

Here's a video of me working a row of k3, p3

I won't win any speed contests, but it's efficient enough, and as I mentioned, very comfortable physically.


Sonya said...

Thank you for posting your video. I love to see how other knitters knit. I learned from books too and always tell non-knitters that knitting is just following the directions.

twistedinstitches said...

Wow, do we knit differently from each other! It's fun to see how others "do it" and your way seems very efficient!

I won't win any speed contests either...and I kind of "taught" myself as well because I'm a leftie.

Your stationary right needle had me thinking of some video I saw awhile back on Utube...I think the guy knitting was in Peru or something--same thing. Stationary right needle kind of jammed into his side.

I'm going to have to play sometime with different positions, I think it's good to know more than one way to knit.


Thanks for sharing!

Walden said...

Very nifty, thanks for posting a video. It's always interesting to see how differently people knit/crochet, etc.