T is for Technique

Not a very glamorous Topic, True.  But Terribly important to any knitter, new or experienced.

When I learned to knit, I learned ‘English’ style, the way the majority of American knitters do.   But my mother and Elizabeth Zimmermann convinced me to Try Continental, and I wanted to feel comfortable with this Technique before I started my first colorwork project.  (That was also the project I learned the Technique of grafting, or the Kitchener stitch, incidentally; I learned both from “Knitting Without Tears”.)

I still love to use both Techniques Together for colorwork.  I just started a new winter hat for the Gothlet, one I had mentioned earlier, the Bathat (Ravelry link). (BTW, thanks to Lisa [Knitnzu] for turning me on to the Bathat.  She thought, correctly, that the Gothlet would like it, as I recall.) The Gothlet picked these colors out.  The chartreuse gives a new meaning to the word ‘fluorescent‘.  Here I am carrying the Dale Falk Neon in my left hand to knit those stitches Continental, and I am just wrapping the black yarn English style to make a black stitch.  It’s like painting — painting by number, I suppose, but it’s very fast and easy to switch from hand to hand; I don’t have to think about it, just look and see neon, neon, neon, black, neon….and my fingers take care of it.

Well, once I got my feet wet, or my finger wrapped, rather, I never looked back from Continental knitting.  I can Teach people either style, but I go faster doin’ the Continental, especially with my preferred knitting in the round.  I have Taught my daughters to knit (more than once, actually); The RockStar knits English, but the Gothlet, who also crochets (Thanks, Grandma, for Teaching her!) prefers Continental too, since she carries her yarn the same way as with crochet.

Thinking about Techniques Turned me philosophical.  Why do English and Continental knitters sometimes argue about which is better?  Passionately! Fiercely! With unsupported allegations and inflammatory rhetoric!   Granted, Elizabeth Zimmermann was pretty vocal in her advocacy of Continental knitting, though of course at the time she was a lone voice crying in the wilderness (semi-literally, being in rural Wisconsin) and also took a certain amount of satisfaction, I think, in calling herself “The Opinionated Knitter”.  I do have a contemporaneous book to EZ’s, Barbara Abbey’s “Knitting Lace”, and the author (a friend of EZ’s) earnestly states essentially that Continental knitting is not well suited to lace knitting.  Fascinating!

Once again, I realize that I am a lumper, not a splitter; a peacemaker, a “Can’t We All Just Be Friends?” Pollyanna kind of person.  English and Continental both have their strong points.  For example, until Two days ago, I was wearing this mini-Iron Maiden 24/7 for my left Thumb issue

(and will probably need to continue to wear it on and off).  With no ability to move my left Thumb base in the brace (that’s the whole point), it’s very difficult to purl Continental, but it’s do-able (slowly) English-style.  (Purling is generally recognized to be a little easier English-style than conventional Continental style, in any case.)  And then, if we’re talking Techniques, there’s ‘combination’ (also called Eastern Uncrossed, which name appeals to me somehow) knitting, which Technique I have Tried, knit a couple projects using, and learned something from (though I usually choose Continental as I mentioned, as I wasn’t significantly faster with combination.)

When I was at Ewetopia Fiber Shop earlier today, though, I picked up This:

A yarn guide for carrying both yarns over the left finger (see the little diagram).  Elizabeth Zimmermann’s daughter Meg Swansen, a self-confessed “Time and motion freak”, prefers this method of knitting colorwork.  So when I saw this gadget, given that I had just started a colorwork project, I thought I’d Try a new Technique. And next on my list of Techniques to Try is Steeking!  (Finally.)

Because (even if you’re a project knitter) knitting as a whole is a journey, not a goal that one achieves.  I am an experienced knitter, True.  Almost 25 years of semi-obsession, curbed primarily by lack of Time.  Have I done every Technique there is?  Not on your Tunisian crochet hook, I haven’t!  And I’m excited that there are more Techniques to Try! It’s not about what’s intrinsically ‘better’ — usually.  It’s about what works for you, or for me, or for this particular project/yarn/what have you.

And it’s about being a lifelong learner.  Because if you stop learning, you stagnate.  And stagnation in nature equals decay and death.  (For us, we actually lose brain function if we stop using our brain to learn new things.  Use it or lose it.)

Besides which, stagnation smells bad.

SO:  T is for Technique.  Try a new one soon!

6 responses to “T is for Technique

  1. I am always fascinated by the different ways people knit… and the different ways they do either style. Someone told me recently I do “continental” more like throwing left handed. And I was telling somebody else the other day that I think of “english” as how some of the old fashioned knitters hold the needle, like a pencil. And there’s so many ways to throw… I hold the yarn almost like you do to scoop and then slide my finger/part of the hand forward like a little machine…. I have always heard that continental was faster (but it isn’t for me, see above, wonky technique), but that the very fastest knitters actually throw. Do you know? …Things here suck right now, thus the sleeplessness…

  2. bad enough that I don’t know if going to Rhinebeck is a good thing or not….

  3. Great post! I’m sort of with EZ in terms of not wanting to purl, ever (at least that’s why I think she was so enamored of knitting in the round) – I find it awkward and it makes me cranky, especially on loooong lace WS rows. I can knit Continental, a bit laboriously, but I don’t think I could do the “both at the same time” bit you’re doing – I have never been any good at making my hands do two different things at once, which is why I never got anywhere with piano. My brain is wired for logical and linear.

    BTW, you’ll never lose that piece of knitting in a dark room… 😉

  4. That is a very bright hat for sure! 🙂

    I knit a bit of everyway. I throw with my right hand when things get tricky or fiddly, I knit continental most the time, especially when knitting in the round, and lots of times I throw in a bit of that combination knitting too 🙂

    Saying one is better than the other would be like saying only semi-sweet chocolate tastes good!

  5. For what it’s worth, there may be a fair number of continental knitters in rural Wisconsin b/c of all the German immigrants. I knit “German” by way of my Wisconsin mother who learned from her immigrant grandmother.

  6. I learned to knit as a thrower, but when I returned to knitting after pursuing crochet for a while I switched to Continental without even thinking about it. I am curious to hear how you like that little gadget; I bought something similar but have never used it.

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