Sunday 27 January 2008

Continental Knitting

Yesterday at the DowntownKnitCollective's Winter Workshop I had a great day.

I taught a group of knitters how to knit in the continental method. Learning to knit with the yarn in your left hand is an excellent technique for knitting 2 colours in a row for a repeating pattern in the round. If you know 2 methods of knitting you can work the colour pattern with one colour in your right hand (English throwing method) and one colour in your left hand (continental picking method), but it is also an exercise in frustration. It's like learning to knit all over again. You can hold onto the needles fine but the tension in your left hand sucks and you feel awkward as hell but hopefully after a bit of practice you get an ah,ha moment where you can say I think I got it, I think I got it! And now practice, practice, practice.

Purling, on the other hand, is an entirely different experience. It is not easy. It remains awkward for a long time. It requires that you move your left hand forward and backwards in a fashion not known to the English throwing method knitter. It is not necessary for knitting repeating colour patterns in the round and although it seems if you know how to knit in a method you should also know how to purl I would approach 'the purl' with patience, lots of sleep and a low expectation of any sort of mastery in a one hour class.

I knit in the continental method. I was taught the English throwing method as a child (my mother is from good english stock) but it didn't take. I turned to crocheting (it was the 60's) little knowing that crocheting (and holding the yarn in my left hand) was setting me up for my future in knitting. In university I was taught again to knit but in the continental method and that was it. My way was clear and my knitting path set from that moment.

I never try to convert knitters to the other side entirely. But learning to knit in this second method can make colour knitting a joy to work. Holding one wool in one hand and a second colour in your left hand means that the two wools never tangle, lowering your frustration level, you also would work all the colour work on your chart in your off hand and work the background in your good hand (your regular method of knitting) which can make chart reading easier.

Besides, learning something new is good for your brain. And now practice, practice, practice.


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