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Archive for October 25th, 2007

A Peek at How I Work

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Non-knitters, you will want to skip this post and visit me again tomorrow. Thanks for coming by!

You do not want to know how I work at my desk… I’m relatively messy and inefficient much of the time when it comes to paper. But as a knitter, I work relatively efficiently. I have learned many ways of holding my yarn over the years, and every way was my favorite for a while. Who knows if I’ll change my mind again.

I first learned to knit by controlling the yarn with my Right Hand. This is referred to as American or British/English style. Even within this style, folks sometimes wrap yarn around a finger or two on the right hand, and some (like me) pick up the yarn long enough to wrap the needle, then drop the yarn until the next wrap. This seems absolutely normal to me and is how I teach kids these days (though some go on to ask about how I currently knit and I show them that as well).

Mind you, I learned to knit in Mr. Johnson’s class in 1969. I learned a backward-loop/half-hitch cast on and the knit stitch. I do not remember binding off, but I figured out if I took the yarn tail and worked it through all the last row’s loops, the scarf would not unravel. This is how I knit scarves for 20 years. Nothing but garter-fabric scarves with fringe. I loved how relaxing it was. I must have known that some people knit sweaters but I did not. It never interested me.

So when I was a young married woman, probably around 1990 or so, I had a friend from Germany who knit a lot. She would not knit for me (good girl) but said she’d pick up yarn for me in Germany when she went back. I signed up for a class. I learned to purl, to increase and decrease, cable and rib. Maybe more, too. But the coolest thing was Continental knitting, where I learned to hold the yarn in my left hand and not drop the yarn between stitches.

When I was knitting my 6th pair of socks ever (one yarn), I listened to a Norwegian woman talk about doing stranded colorwork. She said she held both yarns in one hand. So when I found Nancy Bush’s book Folk Socks, I picked out the Lithuanian Amber socks as my 10th pair of socks ever (see photo, pink with black designs). And I tried to hold the yarns in one hand. Since I used more pink than black, the yarn tangled. I decided I did not enjoy colorwork, which was a sad decision.

Later I found out that the Philosophers’ Wool folks had a book out where you held one yarn in each hand over the whole row. I tried that and it worked great. Loved it. I knit my 13th pair ever, using this technique. That pair became my pattern which is called Eva’s Socks, my first pattern ever (see photo, blue with red/yellow/green).

Then long after that, I took a class on Norwegian Mittens from Beth Brown-Reinsel (see photo). She showed me how to hold both yarns in my left hand, but to wrap the yarns around different fingers so they can feed at different rates. Oh, wow!

I knit pretty darned fast already. I can knit nearly as fast with two yarns as with one now. Yahoo! Well, that is as long as I’m in the light and I can look at my knitting as I go. I can knit with one yarn in each hand, without having to look down very often at all. With two in one hand I need my eyes to be sure I do not pick the wrong color at any moment (the yarns are very close to one another as I work).

But this two-in-left-hand thing is really quick for me. And as a professional, speed is more important than relaxation with some projects. I’d like that to not be true, but work is work… although I do love what I do more than when I worked in an office. There are knitting deadlines now, though, rather than paperwork ones all the time.

Here is a photo of my left hand with two yarns held on one hand. I wrapped the green yarn first… over index finger, under middle, over ring finger, under pinkie. Then I wrapped the peach colored yarn. Over both index and middle, then under ring finger, and over pinkie. The tension happens between the fingers, which are held together, touching each others’ sides.

It works well for me. If you wrap the yarn fully around any one finger, this method may not work as well for you. My fingers are never fully wrapped, and they stay down, touching the left needle. They do not go up in the air at all. For me this method is just about perfect. I am really clear that everyone will have their own favorite way. Or they will choose knit/purl texture over colorwork. For me, the color is much easier.