Some of my favourite hashtags at the moment are the series on #howiknit and #loop2loop over on Instagram. As a knitter, nothing fascinates me more than how other people knit (apart from what they are knitting of course). Whenever I teach a class or go to a Knit Night I am always struck by how differently we all knit. We all do much the same thing, in much the same order and produce the same fabric but the actual mechanisms by which we achieve that vary greatly.
Like many people I was taught by my grandmother to knit, using long grey metal needles, in the 'English' or 'throwing' style. Wedged into the comfy chair at my Grandma's side I remember watching her practiced, fluid movements and trying desperately to get my needles to do the same. It didn't help that she knit by tucking her left hand needle between her armpit and ample busom and try as I might, I couldn't manage that skill. Nearly 40 years on, I am still lacking that essential life skill...and the ample busom to go with it.
Last year I started to get some wrist and shoulder pain and decided to learn to knit the Continental way in order to give my joints a bit of a rest. I came across the online course by Anniken Annis aka YarnAddictAnni and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I managed to pick it up. I was inspired in my learnings by Claire of the New Hampshire Knits podcast who also recently made the switch to Continental knitting and on her advice I chose a simple garter stitch project to learn on, rather than trying to change part way through existing projects. A simple baby blanket was ideal and after the first few rows I found that by keeping my left index finger very close to the needle tip I was able to keep a good even tension on the yarn - something which had always eluded me before.
Purling proved to be a little trickier, but practice really does make perfect and now I can happily both knit and purl in the Continental style. My knitting is defintely faster with this method and with fewer movements I am hoping that it will place less strain on my joints. Purling is slower than my knitting, but it is still much faster than my old way of throwing the yarn and it is still improving.
To check out the videos on my Instagram feed and to see how others knit just click here.
When it comes to learning new techniques muscle memory really is the key. If you are planning to learn this or any other new skill in 2016 my top tips would be:
1. Pick a simple project solely to learn that skill on.
2. Practice daily for 15 minutes - don't try to do too much in one sitting and risk frustration. Do your 15 minutes and then pick up something else to work on.
3. Persevere - learning a new skill takes time.