The Yarn Harlot didn’t make me cry

Yesterday I took Stephanie Pearl-McPhee‘s class on knitting for speed and efficiency. It was kind of like a spinach class for me: I knew I needed it, but it’s not my favourite thing in the world. Trying to learn new styles of knitting and working to make improvements to a style I’ve been comfortable with for 20 years is not exactly natural. Stephanie was exactly right to begin by telling us to be nice in our self talk. She also warned us that people do sometimes cry in this class. I hadn’t worn mascara.

The morning flew by as we learned about the history of knitting and different styles of knitting. There were pictures and examples of how you can tell from looking at a culture’s knitting what style of knitting is predominant. Fascinating stuff. Then we started out learning “throwing” and then “picking”. The afternoon was pretty much devoted to lever knitting. In lever knitting the right needle is stationary and the yarn is usually tensioned on the lower fingers of the right hand.

First, let me tell you a little bit about my current knitting style. I throw the yarn, kind of, but with my left hand, not the right. And the yarn isn’t tensioned, it’s kind of ┬áresting in my left hand. My gauge is loose – intentionally, as I started out as a tight knitter and ended up with sore hands. While I initially learned to knit as a Brownie, I re-learned basic knitting and then everything else I could learn from books on a university work term in Montreal. I didn’t hang around with knitters until fairly recently, so I developed a rather odd style.

I knew going into this class that I’d have to learn to tension my yarn. My initial attempts to get the yarn wrapping around my fingers gave me flashbacks to aerobics classes where I just couldn’t follow what was happening. I felt like my fingers were tied up, like I couldn’t get enough yarn to come through. Frustration (but no crying), and I kind of got the gist of things. The first time I felt like a had a technique almost working was when I was purling with the yarn tensioned around my neck.

Lever knitting was quite a challenge. Despite trying not to use my “dumb” lower fingers to do things, there they were, touching the needle, touching the yarn, trying to help me. Even when I didn’t think I was doing it, there was Stephanie as the voice of truth to point out that I was still doing it. Eventually I think I got the motion down. Then I was purling. Then I was knitting and purling.

My plan┬ánow is to start a project that is purely a lever knitting project. I’m going to follow Stephanie’s advice and keep going with straight needles until I’ve got the hang of this technique. I’m hoping that my recently finished Shetland handspun will work for this project. My goal is to knit on this project for 15 minutes a day for a month to get better at this new style of knitting. I certainly have enough yarn for that!

Thanks for the great class and the challenge to change, Stephanie! And I have already mentally taken on the new non-insult insult of “couche-tard“, because I used it on myself this morning when I spilled some cereal.

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4 Responses to The Yarn Harlot didn’t make me cry

  1. Francine says:

    great entry and great picture :)

  2. grace says:

    I remember the first time I went to Yarn Forward, back when Louise, Rose-Marie and I were the regulars . When I broke out my knitting Louise squealed “Oooooooo, Grace, you are a crotch knitter” We all have our style. BTW I am a very fast crotch knitter.

  3. Mary Lou says:

    I’d love to see a video of lever knitting. How do you keep the knitting from bunching up over your thumb? If that makes sense.

  4. Amanda says:

    That lever knitting sounds like what I started off doing! My mom used to laugh at me. I’ll have to tell her it’s “legitimate.” Do you rest the end of your right needle in your hip? I found it to be very fast, but had to learn a different style for knitting in the round.