I have heard some people who knit refer to themselves as turtles because, for them, knitting is sloooooow. I get it. I am a former knitting turtle. I was one for damn near 25 years. It was excruciatingly slow. Even though I loved the look of knitting, I didn't enjoy doing it because I knew it would take me forever to finish any project.
So, I picked up a crochet hook most of the time. I taught myself how to do both after my maternal grandmother died, but, I was just always faster at crochet. Every now and then I would pick up needles and start to knit something, but more often than not, I would leave the project in a sad unfinished heap at the bottom of a box.
I figured that's just the way knitting is. It's a laborious process that takes eons to finish. Still, in the back of my mind, I always wanted to pick up those needles and try again. I figured there had to be a better way to knit that didn't make me feel like I was crafting under water. And there is!
As I often do, I turned to the internet, more specifically YouTube, for information. I discovered many things in my quest for knitting happiness. One thing I discovered, which I knew already, is that I was knitting completely wrong. I can't even describe how wrong I was doing it because it was such a convoluted mess that it defies explanation. My second discovery was that there are two primary styles of knitting. English, (sometimes called American) or “throwing” and Continental (sometimes called German) or “picking”. There are other styles, but more on that later. I taught myself how to knit English style, where the working yarn is held in the right hand and is “thrown” over the right-hand needle to create stitches. This is the most common style of knitting, but was always awkward for me as a left-hander. It literally caused my arthritic shoulder to ache. Which was also a reason to keep away from knitting, but I digress. Continental style is the opposite, where the working yarn is held in the left hand and is “picked” with the right-hand needle to create stitches. My mind was blown! How could this be?! When I learned how to crochet, I taught myself right-handed, not left, because I didn't want to bother with reversing patterns. So, I knew that this style of knitting, with the working yarn held in my left hand, would be so much easier for me since I was already used to that from crocheting. I believe that anyone who already knows how to crochet right-handed can benefit in this way too, but again I digress.
When I actually saw the Continental style of knitting being done in a video, I could visualize my grandmother knitting. She had done it this way. This also made sense to me because my mother's side of the family is mostly from Germany. I discovered that this method of knitting fell out of favor during World War Two and English knitting became the preferred method as a way of showing patriotism.
I grabbed some needles, fired up a few videos and began to practice. I won't kid you, there was a learning curve. I was really learning how to knit all over again, the right way. It was tricky, but not as tricky as I thought it would be. The hardest part was purling. I watched a ton of videos about purling Continental and found this to be the most difficult part because usually the working yarn is brought to the front to complete the stitch. I was frustrated trying to complete that purl stitch the way they were showing in the videos and found it impossible to do. They were doing some weird contortion with their hand that was mind boggling.
This brings me to the “other styles of knitting" comment I made earlier. I discovered another way of completing that purl stitch that was far easier for me. As a result, the stitch gets seated in the opposite direction on the needle, which seems to upset many hardcore knitters. However, it's very easily untwisted on the next row. Honestly, it's not a big deal and I think is an important thing to know how to do. Anyway, this style of knitting is called Combined knitting because apparently it's a combination of Continental and Eastern knitting. I don't know anything about Eastern knitting, but the purl stitch was so much easier to do because the working yarn is sort of “pulled” through without any hand yoga necessary.
Then I decided that if I were to ever work on a project that required long stretches of purling it might be a pain to untwist that many stitches. I was now on a quest to find a Continental purl that I could accomplish without the hand yoga. I discovered the Norwegian purl stitch. This type of purl is made with the yarn held in the back of the needle, just like the Continental knit stitch. No flopping the yarn back and forth! But if you want to learn this way of purling, don't be upset if it takes some time to master. I'm not saying you will have to practice for weeks to get it down. But, for me anyway, it took about a day of constant purling to get right.
So, that's pretty much my journey to knitting nirvana. I am so much faster now and, more importantly, actually have completed projects. Several projects. Many, many projects. I still crochet too, but I am so in love with knitting that it's kind of hard to stop!
There were many, many people who posted videos on YouTube that I have to thank for my new crazy knittin' ninja skillz! Here are a few of my favorites if you want to travel to the world of the Continental:
Awesome knitting instructors:
Continental knitting vids:
Norwegian purling vids:
I often feel as if I belong on the Island of Misfit Toys because I'm not a creative with just one area of expertise. I enjoy making digital creations in Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. I love knit and crochet. I love glass art. The creative process is very therapeutic for me and, mostly, keeps me somewhat sane in an insane world.