Thursday, June 9, 2011

On technique

As I trundle along on the SSP June socks, and blast my way through a sweater for my sister so I can get moving on a sweater for myself, I've been thinking about my technique a lot.

(Postjack - look! It's a leg!)

My mother knits English style - yarn carried in the right hand, wrapped elegantly about her middle and ring fingers, throwing to create stitches. My mother taught me to knit when I was wee, so she taught me this style - sort of. My young brain did not understand how winding the yarn through the fingers allowed you to tension it properly, so I simply held on to it using my thumb and index finger, but still threw (sort of) to wrap the needle to form the stitch.

When I picked up the needles again many years later, I remembered holding on to the yarn as a child, so that's exactly what I did as an adult. It worked, I kept going. The style was subject to some modification over time as I grew more comfortable with the movements needed to form knitted stitches, and adjusted for ease and speed. I timed myself the other night and learned that I now knit at 35 sts/minute, purl 33 sts/minute, in stockinette, using DK yarn on 4 mm / US 6 needles. Not exactly breaking any land speed records, but projects seem to move along at a decent clip at that rate.

Thanks to a few technique videos I've seen on YouTube, I now know what Continental style knitting is, and I know what lever knitting is. I also know that what I do doesn't match up with anything I've seen online.

Yes, I carry the yarn in my right hand, but it's tensioned by grasping between my thumb and index finger. I use my middle finger to sort of position the yarn for wrapping around the needle to form stitches - most of the time, but sometimes the middle finger stays out of it.

My right needle is mostly stationary - the left needle is the one that moves toward and away in the formation of stitches.

When I wrap the yarn, I actually drop the right needle - sort of. It leaves my right hand, but it's actually been grabbed by my left hand. For a knit stitch, the right needle ends up between my left middle finger and thumb. For a purl stitch, the right needle ends up being grabbed by both my index and middle left fingers, and the thumb. The middle finger actually exerts some pressure, establishing a pivot point, so that the movement of the needle as it's being grabbed by the left hand is causing the wrap to be formed - my right hand barely moves in wrapping. I think it moves more on a purl than it does on a knit, but it's still absolutely not a throwing motion.

So yes, my technique is, erm, odd. It churns the yardage out in a quick enough sort of way, though. I have thought about trying to learn Continental for a speed boost on stockinette - turns out my adult brain still can't figure the tensioning of yarn by winding through fingers, though, which presents a problem.

Then again, I've seen accounts of knitters developing injuries, due to long hours at the needles. I've never had a moment's trouble. Even after knitting nearly continuously (minus five or ten minutes to eat some snack mix) through four hour flights. Sure, it could be that I just don't knit enough to develop any sort of knitting-related injury. But I'm beginning to suspect that because no one really taught me a really specific technique, the way I knit has sort of grown so that I can keep doing those motions without hurting myself. Anyone who really teaches you how to knit is not going to put together all the things that make up my technique. With me, it just sort of happened.

So yes, I'm happy with my technique, even if I'm not the fastest out there. While it would be nice to finish things more quickly, it would also mean I'd have to bump up my yarn purchasing to keep up. I'm not sure my budget would be too happy with that.

It would be fun, though.

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