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Knitting Style

January 21, 2016

I have been knitting for almost six years now and ever since I picked up the needles (again, there was a lapse, but I had to relearn so I don’t really count that time) I have knit Contintental. When I was first learning to knit, a long time ago, this was how I was taught and when I picked up the needles (again) I just browsed until I found the style that looked like mine. At the time I never really thought about the fact that there was a difference; I mean I did wonder why, when I knit, the needles didn’t stand up like they do in the cartoons. Other than that it wasn’t until I joined Ravelry that I discovered the difference.

In the intervening years I haven’t found myself ever really dipping into the English style and when I think about Portugese style I find myself getting an itchy neck. Why am I bringing this up? Well like most knitters I would love to be faster. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part I am a process knitter, but at the same time it would be nice to have things done at a quicker pace. Think of how long it takes to knit a sock for a Giant person (who by the way, wants me to clarify, does not have feet the size of snowboards.)

So for the last few months I have been researching just what I can do to improve my knitting speed. The usual suggestions seem to indicate that knitting continental is a great way to increase your speed (as opposed to English style) that is my style now so that didn’t really help. I heard that “flicking” or American knitting is also a great way to increase speed; although this one relies on the fact that you can in fact knit English style. Whenever I try the English way I usually end up in a tangled mess that makes me feel like I am all thumbs. Lastly there is the more ergonomic way, known as Irish cottage knitting ( I have heard it called a lot of other names as well.) This one is something I have been trying to get a handle on for a little while now, but since I don’t knit much on straight needles it is a little hard to get down.

My next move was to look at the knitting style of those who seem to be forever showing a parade of knitting. One of the first people that springs to mind is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee aka the Yarn Harlot. Now I know that there have been numerous discussions on her knitting style, Irish Cottage knitting, and there are videos of her knitting and it seems as if the fabric just appears out of her hands (which it does, in a way.) Another person who seems to knit really fast is Mina Phillip from the Expat Podcast, her style is in line with flicking. Of course there is always the words fastest knitter, Miriam Tegels, and if I understand her micro movements correctly she seems ot knit continental.

So three people who by my estimation (or in the case of one, the Guiness Book of World Records) knit incredibly fast, but they all seem to do it in different ways. Does that help me? No, not really, at least not on the surface. One thing they all have in common is that they make very small movements. This is great in practice, but makes for a poor visuals in randomly captured youtube videos. Of course I know it is important to practice the technique and that speed will eventually happen, but I think my biggest problem is that I make rather large movements (relatively speaking.)

It appears the next step is to learn the two other styles (well three if you figure it might be good to learn English before Flicking) and work on making my movemetns a lot smaller.

Here’s to trying something new in 2016, right?

How do you knit? Do you consider yourself a fast knitter, slow, or somewhere in between. Have you “bridged” the gap and learned a new style of knitting?


From → Fiber Arts, Knitting

  1. sparkeespud permalink

    I used to be an English knitter, but a few years back I learned Continental. I haven’t looked back. I also knit in a different way that is rather hard to describe here. If you want a fun read about styles, the Exotic Knitting Styles group on Ravelry is always good.

  2. 1marylou permalink

    I knit English style. I’ve tried Continental, but revert back to what I first learned. I don’t really knit for speed, I knit for pleasure. The more you do, whatever style, the faster you knit.

  3. I think it’s awesome that you are exploring new styles! It’s a very good thing to add techniques to your personal toolbox. Though my first knitting “language” is English, I like to use the Continental method whenever I need to shift yarn position, such as while ribbing, because it’s a much smaller movement. Point is, it’s great to be able to apply different knitting skills to different situations.

  4. I suspect it’s pretty rare that the style of knitting really makes a measurable difference. For people like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, I would bet that the sheer number of hours they spend knitting has allowed their bodies to naturally fall into the absolute most efficient movements through sheer muscle memory, and that it’s that efficiency (all right, and alllllllll those hours they spend knitting) that allows them to be so productive. So, generally speaking, the more you knit the same kind of stuff the faster you’ll get at it?

  5. I knit English, and according to my knitting friends I knit fast (I think I knit too slowly as there are so many thing I want to make, and not enough time!) I learnt continental to crochet and do colourwork, and somtimes I use it- my tension is a smidge tighter with it, so if my gauge is somewhere between sizes, I use continental!

  6. When I was a knitting teacher I was always asked to by my students how to be more productive, they compared their output to mine. To each and everyone I answered, it is not the speed of your needles that make for a productive knitter, it is the time you can devote to the craft. I can accomplish much because I can knit 24/7 if I wanted to. I do not work outside of the home, so beyond caring for the house and family, I have all the time to devote to knitting. I knit in the car, I knit at sporting events, I knit at social events, I knit at home. Ergonomically speaking, Continental is good for knitters. Speed wise, I am a faster knitter with my English knitting than all of my Continental knitting friends. Practice does help in speeding up the knitting. But it also has to do with what you are knitting and how easily you follow a pattern. If you can quickly pick up a stitch pattern you will not be tied to reading every line of a pattern. Ultimately there are many factors that create output, your actual knitting speed is just one of them. Better to just enjoy your knitting than to worry about how quickly you can produce each item.

    • shellssells permalink

      I think the other thing that students don’t quite get is that when you are newer, you should only be knitting at the speed which creates no mistakes. Ripping, frogging, and tinking are huge time wasters. Knitting slowly but correctly is faster than a fast knitter who makes mistakes.

  7. I am a left handed knitter because I stood in front of mom and not next to her when learning.

  8. If you want to boost your confidence- surround yourself with newbie knitters. Your stitches FLY onto the needles… or at least that’s how they see it. And the really tend to get a kick out of my carrying conversations, looking at them, and still knitting away.

  9. shellssells permalink

    I found it pretty easy to learn English style by learning to do colorwork holding my colors in different hands. For instance, I hold my main color in my left hand like normal, and the accent color in my right hand, english style. Once I got used to that move, I could take away the colorwork portion and the yarn in the left hand and just knit english style. However, a consequence to this is that while knitting english, my left hand index finger sticks up in the air as if it were still tensioning and maneuvering yarn, rather than being useless in that situation. Kind of hilarious.

    I think I am a fast knitter. As evidenced by the fact that I really don’t knit very much, but people imagine I am obsessed. Slower purler. I’ve tried to be faster at purling but it’s never happened.At some point in my knitting career I decided that it was just getting too expensive to try to get faster. The more yarn I knit the more yarn I’d have to buy. So, I decided just to enjoy the speed I was at, and the yarn I was using.

    Of course, when I am doing a project that’s more of an obligation than a pleasure, I still want to knit faster.

    I agree about the smaller movements btw. My purling movements are much larger than my knitting movements, and I am convinced that’s what causes the major difference in my speeds.

    • I don’t seem to have too much of an issue for purling, but I use my thumb on the left hand to pull the yarn down instead of dipping my index finger. As for the index finger in the air, that is what happens whenever I try to knit Irish Cottage style, and the few times I have tried English. I have to agree that you seem like a wicked fast knitter as well. Things to aspire to, right?

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