Ever felt as though you need to learn how to knit faster? Those afghans and skirts and scarves won’t finish themselves, y’know. Yes yes, I realize we’re doing this for fun not efficiency, but I’ve got so many pattern ideas – and so many of other people’s patterns – fizzing around in my head, and I want to knit/crochet them all, right now.
Stamps foot, petulantly. Tell me that I’m not alone?
Just for context, I’ve always been an English-style knitter of the most inefficient kind, shamefully lifting my hand from the right needle to wrap the yarn, each and every stitch. Every. Single. Stitch. I do it pretty rapidly in the hope that nobody will notice but still, that’s not good, is it? I’ve tried flicking the yarn so that all fingers can remain on-duty at needle-HQ, as taught to me by Mother Twisted many years ago, but, well maybe I’ve got weird fingers but that never seemed to work. Anyway, I’m not going to tell you how few stitches I was knitting per minute, because you’d laugh at me. And then you’d catch your breath enough to say, ‘Really?‘ And then you’d laugh at me some more. By which time my meagre ego would be crushed. Crushed, I tell you.
So, what to do? A rapid brainstorm yielded the following options:-
1. Convince the Stoic Spouse to learn to knit, using a complex system of cheese-related inducements, thus potentially doubling household knitting output.
2. Learn to knit continental style.
Having made this short list, I glanced over at the Stoic Spouse, who was idly winkling gravel out of the sole of his shoe with the brass toasting fork*, and looking remarkably unlike any kind of fibre artist, so that left option 2.
Y’know, it was surprisingly easy to master continental knitting. It’s even easier if you’ve been knitting (and frogging) for a while, and have a decent grasp of the anatomy of a stitch. Instead of the “in, wrap, pull through, off” of English knitting, you hold your yarn in your left hand and use your right needle to reach in and scoop a loop of yarn then push the stitch off. That’s it! Wowsers! After a bit of practice, you can do it with negligible finger movements, and thus very very fast.
That said, of the two fastest knitters in the world (Miriam Tegels and Hazel Tindall), one knits continental-style and the other knits English, so it’s not all about the style per se, more about the smoothness and smallness and efficiency of movements.
After a couple of days of dodgy tension and wiggly fingers, I’d become respectably fast. YouTube is your friend, people, if you want to learn continental.
And whilst I’m busy humiliating myself in public I may as well add this: I broke my own cardinal knitting/crochet rule and paid dearly for it. Always practice new techniques on spare yarn, I say. Get your fibrous snarl-ups out of the way on the cheapest acrylic you can find, before you attempt to make an exquisite fairisle cushion cover of arctic qiviut for your best friend. Normally, I stick rigidly to this rule and it’s served me well. But this time, for some reason I can no longer recall but which may have involved grape-derived alcoholic beverages and overconfidence, I decided to learn continental knitting right in the middle of knitting a blanket for my friend’s baby. I know, I know, the very best outcome I could have hoped for was an unsightly shift in gauge. What I got was an ugly mish-mash of wildly fluctuating tension. *Sigh* Time to call on Mr Frog. 🙁 So I pulled out my needle, and re-inserted it about twenty rows back:-
and ripped and ripped and ripped. (Ouch.)
and didn’t come back until I’d properly mastered continental knitting on some scrappy old spare yarn of uncommon ghastliness, by which time I was getting respectably fast.
The trick to speed really is to keep those movements small. I keep all of my fingers very close to the needles. I know some knitters have the left index finger raised with the yarn around it, but I keep it on the needle, and that seems to help. And by pressing your left index finger against the needle/stitch, you can stretch the stitch enough to make it easy to reach through and scoop the loop with your right needle. Just so you know, I finished the blanket. And the baby hasn’t even been born yet. It’s a clever log cabin design by Sirdar, using some of the yarn from my Deramores prize. I just hope that the baby likes it, when he/she arrives in a few weeks’ time…
*Not really. He was actually baking an apple crumble, but that didn’t fit with my anecdote.