Posts Tagged hand knitting method

Hand Knitting Methods 4: Stitch Orientation

Tying in with the knitting styles and techniques, I’ve been discussing a stitch orientation quite a bit. I figured I should just pop a few quick notes about stitch orientation here for that and future reference.

To put it simply stitch orientation refers  to how stitches are sitting on your needles while you knit.

Eastern Style:

 Popular in Arabic influenced knitting as well as Eastern Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, this is generally considered the oldest style of stitch orientation. In Eastern style knitting, the left leg of the stitch is on the front of the needle. When knitting and purling the yarn is wrapped around the needle in a clockwise motion (when staring down the point of the needle from above).

This style works well with all of the knitting methods. It doesn’t make any real difference in English Knitting but it is particularly useful in Continental knitting (this specific combination is commonly referred to as Eastern European Knitting) because it makes the purl stitch considerably easier to execute than it is in Western Continental knitting. It should be noted that eastern stitches in Portuguese Knitting cannot be knitted in the way normally taught and require a slightly modified Portuguese knit stitch (see Portuguese Knitting for further explanation).

Western Style:

Popular in the Western Europe and the English-speaking world, this is the style of knitting that nearly all knitting patterns written in English use, regardless of handhold or knitting method. In Western Style knitting, the right leg of a stitch is on the front of the needle (sometimes said as “the leading leg is forward). When knitting and purling, the yarn is wrapped around the needle counterclockwise.

This style works very well with all of the knitting methods. It does make the purl stitch in Continental Knitting slightly more difficult and the knit stitch in Portuguese as well, though neither are enough of nuisance to deter a knitter from this style.

Combination or Combined Style:

This style appears to be the most recent of the styles and as the name suggests uses a combination of Eastern and Western style stitches. Knit stitches are worked Western Style and the yarn is wrapped counterclockwise. Purl stitches are worked Eastern style and the yarn is wrapped counterclockwise. This results in stitches facing both directions on the knitting needles and requires some care on the knitters part to ensure the right knitting needle is inserted between the legs of the stitches in a manner that won’t twist or cross the stitches.

This style works very well with both English and Continental methods. When worked in Continental Knitting, this is sometimes called Russian Knitting (similar to how Eastern Style Continental Knitting is often called Eastern European Knitting). It also works with Portuguese knitting.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people also refer to Combination Knitting as Eastern Uncrossed Knitting, which I find to be a misnomer maybe unrelated to the terms eastern and western style knitting. Eastern style knitting means that all of the stitches – both knit and purl – have the left leg forward at all times. In Combination knitting there are both eastern and western oriented stitches within a piece of work depending on exactly where you’re at.  (I also question the necessity of the word unwrapped in the name, but that’s neither here nor there).

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Hand Knitting Methods 3: Portuguese Knitting

This method, also called Turkish Knitting, Incan Knitting, Andean Knitting and Around the Neck Knitting, originated among Arabic knitters and spread north from Africa and the Middle East to the  Mediterranean, the Balkans (Bulgaria and Greece in particular), the Iberian Peninsula and subsequently to South America through Spanish and Portuguese colonization. It is sometimes seen performed with hooked needles in these countries though this is by no means a necessity as many American knitters have picked up this method of knitting and use standard needles.

Portuguese knitting requires a slightly different set up than English and Continental knitting. Rather than running from the ball directly to your work, the active yarn instead is strung either over the back of the knitter’s neck or through a pin on the front of the of the knitter’s shirt (there are pins made specifically for this purpose but a partially unbent paper clip can work as well).  This allows the yarn to be tensioned in a way that the wraps for knitting can be executed with one movement of the left thumb.

Portuguese Purl Stitch:

This is the golden attribute to Portuguese Knitting. Portuguese purling is extremely requires only a small movement of the thumb to wrap the yarn around the needle. Purling is so easy that items worked in the round such as hats are often worked inside out so they consist only of purl stitches.

 Portuguese Knit Stitch with Yarn in Front:

Because the yarn comes to the work from the front, Portuguese knit stitches are slightly different than their than their English and Continental counterparts. To knit with the yarn in front, the right hand needle must be inserted into loop on the left hand needle so that the right needle is closer to the front of the work than the left needle. This process is similar to the Norwegian Purl in Continental Knitting.

Portuguese Knit Stitch with Yarn in Back:

A second way to make knit stitches is with the yarn at the back of the work. This can take a little experience to get used to but is no harder than the basic Portuguese knit stitch. If you knit Eastern or Combination Style, it is nearly impossible to knit an eastern style stitch with the yarn out from and you’ll find a modified knit stitch preferable.

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Hand Knitting Methods 2: Continental Knitting

These knitting methods, also known as German KnittingEuropean Knitting or Picking, originated in Continental Europe and remains popular there. Because of it’s strong association with German culture, Continental Knitting lost favor among people of the Allied nations during WWII but it has seen a steady increase in use in more recent years among English-speaking knitters, often credited to the avocation of knitting instructor and author Elizabeth Zimmerman. Today Continental Knitting methods remain popular among Central European, Eastern European, Scandinavian, the Balkan, Russian and Japanese knitters. It also shares popularity with Portuguese Knitting in Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Greece and Peru.

In Continental Knitting, the active yarn is held in the left hand while knitting. The left hand never leaves the left needle and instead a combination of finger and needle movements allow for the yarn to be pulled through loops on the left needle to create new stitches. When mastered, Continental Knitting can be very fast. It’s often called more economical in movement than some forms of English Knitting and can result in tighter, squarer stitches for some knitters comparable to knitting with needles two sizes smaller than their English equivalent.

The following clip is a great tutorial for the basic Continental knitting and purling:

Continental Knit Stitches

Generally speaking, there are two main ways to make the Continental knit stitch: Picking and Wrapping.

With picking, the yarn is generally held close to the work and the right needle is used to “pick” stitches through the loops on the left needle and on to the right needle. This often requires that the needle be held parallel to each other.

With wrapping, the yarn is wrapped around the needle in a similar fashion but the right index finger is then used to hold the wrap in place to make a new stitch. This is sometimes easier for people new to Continental Knitting as it allows a greater variance of angle between the needles (the needles can be held perpendicular to each other) without slipping stitches.

 

Continental Purl Stitches

In Continental Knitting, the purl stitch is often more difficult than the knit stitch. As a result, there is more than one take on the purling. A Traditional Continental Purl Stitch involves bringing the yarn to the front of the work and bending the left index finger (sometimes quite a distance) to wrap the yarn around the right needle.

[Note: In this video, Liat Gat says that scooping the yarn clockwise around the right needle is incorrect. This isn’t incorrect but rather Combination Style Knitting, which is discussed more below].

The following clip shows a more fluid way to make a Continental purl stitch:

Another variation of the purl stitch is the Norwegian Purl which allows a purl stitch to be made with the yarn still at the back of the work. This appears to have originated among Scandinavian knitters but has found popularity among knitters in the rest of the world as well.  Norwegian purling incorporates a pair of yarn overs that cancel each other out to allow a knitter to purl continental with the yarn still at the back of the work. When a knitter pairs the Norwegian Purl stitch with a Continental knit stitch, they are sometimes said to be Norwegian Knitting. However, this term is also commonly used to describe Scandinavian stranded color work similar to Fair Isle Knitting and patterns regardless of the actual knitting process used.

Other Continental Knitting Variations

Continental Lever Knitting: As with English lever knitting, the right needle can also be held as a pencil while knitting Continental. This hold is said to have been most popular at the beginning of the 20th century but quickly fell out of favor and isn’t seen much among contemporary knitters.

 Eastern European Knitting: As the namesake suggests, this technique is popular with Eastern European knitters. Eastern European knitting is Continental Knitting worked with Eastern Style stitches (see my post on Stitch Orientation). Eastern European Knitting can use either the Norwegian Purl or a modified Eastern Style purl stitch. In the following clips, note how the stitches are sitting on the needles (the left leg forward) and the direction which the yarn is wrapped around the right needle.

This clip also provides some additional information concerning Eastern European Knitting and shows how to make purl without using the Norwegian Purl.

Combined Continental Knitting: This is exactly the same as standard Continental knitting except that the stitches are knitted Combination Style (see my post on Stitch Orientation). This method is popular because the knit stitches are made the same way as in standard Continental Knitting but the yarn is wrapped the opposite way when purling (i.e. Eastern Style). This makes makes purling much easier. It does however require some experience with Combination Style Knitting in order to keep from twisting and crossing stitches. This method is sometime referred to as Russian Knitting and is also supposed to be the popular way of knitting in Mexico. The following video fro KnittingHelp.com  gives a really great demonstration of this technique:

If you use or know of another variation of Continental Knitting, please leave a comment below as I’d love to hear about it.

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Hand Knitting Methods 1: English Knitting

English Knitting, sometimes called American Knitting or Throwing, refers to a group of hand knitting methods where the active yarn is held, tensioned and wrapped with the right hand while knitting. These methods are extremely popular in the English-speaking world (England, Ireland, Scotland, the USA, Canada, Australia, etc.), China, parts of South America and apparently shares popularity with Continental Knitting among contemporary French Knitters. The right needle is inserted into a stitch on the left needle and then dropped or held in the left hand so that the right hand can wrap the yarn around the tip of the needle before returning to the right hand needle and pulling a new loop off on to the right need. Purling is executed in an identical fashion except that the right needle is inserted from back to the front through of the loops on the left hand needle. This is where most knitters start because it is easy to see and comprehend and requires no movements that your average human being isn’t used to.  In this way a diligent knitter could make miles of fabric, and many knitters are perfectly content to do so.

Modified English Holds:

Generally speaking, knitters make their own modifications to the knitting process to what they find comfortable and effective as they gain experience. One of the most common and perhaps useful advances made upon basic English knitting is keeping the yarn tensioned in the right hand rather than letting it hang loosely to the ball. It can be wrapped a number of different ways through and around the fingers of the right hand according to the knitter’s preference but generally ends up wrapped around the index finger before leading to the work on the needles. With the right needle held between the thumb and last three fingers of the hand, this allows for knitters to wrap the yarn around the tip of the right hand needle with a small movement of the right index finger rather than the whole hand. Additionally, this allows the knitter to make wraps without taking their hand off of the right needle if they so wish. Either way, a modified English Hold can result in more comfortable and considerably faster knitting as it minimizes unnecessary hand movement.

Another modified English hold worth noting is that of Staci Perry who uses a method she calls Flicking:

As you can see, Staci holds the right hand needle fairly far down to create a fulcrum that it can swivel on. Paired with small movements from both hands towards and away from one another, this makes the right needle both wrap the yarn and position itself in a very clever manner.

Lever Knitting aka Australian, Peruvian, Catholic or Pencil Knitting:

Another variation on basic English knitting involves how the right hand needle is held. The examples above all showed the needle held with an overhand grip touching or near the palm. Some knitters, however, hold the right knitting needle in the same way they hold a pencil between either the thumb and middle finger or thumb and index finger. The yarn can then be wrapped with your index or ring finger. As with the modified English holds I mentioned above, because your hand doesn’t have to leave the right needle, this method can also be very fast. It also has the benefit that it uses muscles and movements it uses muscles and movements that your hand should already be accustomed to from writing.

[Note: the video above is confusingly labeled “Irish Cottage Knitting”. This is a reference to the name the method that the knitter, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, teaches on straight needles. More on that below. Irish Cottage Knitting isn’t possible on short double-pointed needles; however, so the method shown above is Stephanie’s take on a lever knitting method for working in the round].

Old Way, Irish Cottage, Scottish or Pit Knitting:

This group of methods is based off of the techniques used by knitting guilds and cottage cottage industry knitters. Traditionally, this method of knitting involves equipment used to hold the right needle stationary against the knitters body. This can be done with a knitting sheath (a wooden handle of sorts that can be tucked into the belt or an apron string) or a specialized knitting belt that sits anywhere between the hip and the lower rib cage. Knitting sheaths aren’t seen very often among contemporary knitters, however, and a third option is to simply tuck the right hand needle between the arm and right side (this generally requires knitting needles that are at least thirteen inches long). Whatever the set up, the actual knitting is done the same way. The left-hand needle does all of the actual knitting and is the only needle that moves at all. The right hand needle remains still and the only responsibility of the right hand is to wrap the yarn. Because this method was developed among professional knitters where time was money, it can be extremely fast when perfected. The current holder of the world’s fastest knitting record Hazel Tindall uses this method.

Here’s a clip of Hazel demonstrating her method:

Another prominent knitter known to knit this way is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot) who can be seen knitting and discussing this method in the following videos. Notice how she holds the yarn in her right hand.

And here’s a slower demonstration from one of Stephanie’s students:

If you use or know of another variation of English Knitting, please leave a comment below as I’d love to hear about it.

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