Friday, February 24, 2012

A Knitting Method for my madness

I read my CYC knitting Teachers Handbook from cover to cover and I found it very thought provoking.  I know that sounds incredibly nerdy but it's true.

The 1st of many thoughts that came to mind:
When teaching a knitter to knit, you have to start with the basics and a good place to start would be the method.  How do you hold your yarn and needles?  Do you Pick or do you throw?  Do you control the working yarn with your left or right hand?  How do you tension the yarn to make your stitches even?

People have been practicing the craft of Knitting for centuries and as a result it has been elaborated on quite a bit and we humans, as crafty as we are, have come up with countless ways to go about it.  The most popular methods of modern knitters are Continental and English, or some variation of those.

 When I first learned to knit I would notice demonstrators using a seemingly unique knitting method and I would try it in hopes it might be faster or more comfortable.  Some methods I liked, some I didn't, and some I only liked under specific circumstances.  As a result, I am, for all intents and purposes, a Continental Knitter.   I control the working yarn with my left hand index finger and I pick rather than throw; however, I purl with my thumb, except when ribbing.  When I purl for ribbing I swing the yarn through to the front of my work with my index finger, swinging it over the needle, pressing the yarn down horizontal to the stitch, in one motion; simultaneously, I bring my thumb up to take over and complete the stitch. (I just had to go knit some ribbing and pay attention to what exactly I did in order to explain it.) I don't know the name of this technique, or if it is named, but I imagine most knitters, as they gain experience, will find their own way of manipulating their strings that is comfortable for them, just as I have done.

I am pretty comfortable with the way I knit, it is what works for me, but would it work for my students?  Maybe, maybe not.  So, I gave myself a little homework assignment, research knitting methods.   I think that this assignment will not only help me to become a better teacher, but also a better knitter.  Although I am comfortable with and have knitted in my usual fashion long enough that the motions have become automatic to me, I am still open to trying something new.  I like to be pleasantly surprised and perhaps I will discover a new method that might work even better for me in both speed and quality.

I decided to turn to my brand new copy of The Principles of Knitting by June Hiatt to begin my research.  I have to say I am impressed by the thoroughness of her book.  I especially love that she includes so many historical tid bits and trivia facts about knitting throughout her text.  In order to truly understand something, it helps to understand the origin from which it came.  My only criticism of the book so far is that sometimes her terminology is hard to follow because she does not always use the more commonly known terms in her text.  Instead of using the terms Continental and English, she uses "Left-Hand" and "Right-hand".  Although her terms are more literal, they are not the terms most commonly known.  At first glance I thought these listed methods might be alternative methods, then I read the description and realized what she was actually talking about.  I felt this was far to thorough of a book to exclude such well used terms, so I turned to the Index to find both Continental and English sited.  They were sited with "see Left hand method" and "see right-hand method".  I think that it would have been more clear had she just stated that in the actual text.

Despite this little pet peeve, I found the text rich with explanations of various knitting methods.  I read the entire chapter, which led me to search online for video demonstrations.  I am a visual learner and needed to see some of these methods in action in order to truly grasp them.

One method that really peeked my curiosity was the "Knitting Belt" method.  In the text the method is described as "fast and extremely efficient."  The dream of all knitters, the speed to squeeze in a few more projects (but when you are addicted enough is never enough).  The author also states, "Knit and Purl are done with nearly identical motions and facility, and there is no difficulty in working any stitch technique."  Wha-what???  easy and fast??  I had to see this for myself; there must be some kind of catch, otherwise it would be a more well known and popular method.  So I consulted the almighty internet and found this video on You Tube.  It is  a video of Hazel Tindall, the Worlds Fastest knitter, and sure enough, she uses a Knitting Belt.

In my research I found that one major reason why this method is not more popular is that the belts are extremely hard to find, unless, of course, you know how to work with leather and steel to make your own belt and specialized needles.  In fact, I only found one place, located in the UK, that sells them, Jamieson & Smith Shetland Wool Brokers Ltd. .  The belts were probably even more inaccessible before the internet came to be.  Why is this method not more widespread?  June Hiatt offers and interesting explanation, Victorian middle class women might have thought it less refined and wanted to distance themselves from the crafts working class origins.  Possibly, the industrial revolution and the invention of machine knitting might have also contributed to making these belts obsolete, making speedy hand knitting less necessary.  

Never the less, I really would like to try this someday.  I have bookmarked the webpage and added it to my knitting wish list.  

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