Trying my hand at continental knitting for the first time turned out to be a surprising success. Trying to purl Continental style however, was not. Unsurprisingly it is a slightly more complicated movement than the knit stitch, just as in the English style. I needed a significantly longer practice session before the purl stitches started to take the right shape.
As you can probably tell from my super tense hands in the above photos I did, to some not insignificant degree, struggle to ‘pick up’ and make the stitch this way. Things started looking desperate and I was one or two dropped stitches away from yelling at magic knitting creatures that had clearly cursed me forever. Then, however, expert intervention arrived in the form of the one and only Biggan. The knitting goddess herself sat down to give me some pointers from her sought after continental knitting classes. I had thought that watching her crazy fast skills would be more depressing than helpful but it turned out to be quite inspiration and more than a little useful. Unsurprisingly her number one tip is PRACTICE and MORE PRACTICE. Even when the tutoring was done and dusted the most useful part of her instruction was just sitting on the BD couch knitting away, albeit a good deal slower and more clumsily, while she worked her magic on her needles next to me. As per her instructions I abandoned all other projects for a week or two and just worked on continental method until it started to come together. Eventually I even switched over the jumper-knitting project I’ve been working on to continental method and you can barely see the difference where I changed. That, I think, is a pretty good indicator of success!
So if you ever feel the desire to learn Continental stirring in your knitters heart then I cannot recommend giving it a go highly enough. Especially if you are lucky enough to take one of Biggan’s classes! Keep an eye on out the blog and/or FB for notification of any upcoming classes.
Coming Up Next: Festive Feasting and Christmas Crafting.
Last week I turned up at Biggan Design HQ for my first ever continental knitting lesson. Despite assurances that it would be easier, quicker and most importantly easier on the wrists (because no one likes explaining to your physician that you’ve managed to give yourself a knitted-related stress injury) I was a little skeptical. This skepticism fell into three broad categories; first the belief that my limbs are inherently incapable of any movements that could be described as ‘smooth’ or ‘rhythmic’, second that I was already an embarrassingly slow knitter and learning a new method was not going to help things and finally that I really don’t like change. You may laugh but completely changing the way I knit felt like it might be the kind of seismic shift in my life that could forever undermine my fragile sense of self. Needles go in my hands, yarn goes on the right, music comes out of the speakers and the piping hot coffee goes in my mug. That is just how things are and how they should remain.
Taking all this on board you can understand why I was a little hesitant when I began learning. It sounded very confusing. This was my my face at the start and for most of the next hour.
The first thing that started to change my mind was the new casting on method they taught me. It changed everything, it is just so easy. It looks a little bit like the kind of knitting Spiderman might do at first, yarn strung everywhere and an uncertain new power in the palm of your hand. Get the hang of it however and it makes casting on the easiest thing in the world. Seriously I even went home and cast on about a hundred stitches for no reason. Pulled them right apart once I was done and started again. It was awesome.
The actual knitting part of it was not so straightforward. Even though I’m still a bit of a beginner in knitting terms doing that cardigan did take the best part of a year and during that time I got pretty used to the old yarn-in-the-right-hand-flick-it-around method of knitting. I know it’s nothing compared to you hardened knitters who might have been doing it English style for years but it still took a lot of thinking to undo all those hard-wired hand movements.
Putting the yarn in your left hand then using the needle to pick up the yarn, make a knit stitch and pull it through and off feels really weird the first couple of times. I persevered and started to get into a surprisingly convincing rhythm. After about an hour I’d managed this:
Not bad when you consider a – that I’m naturally slow and b- that I spent at least half the time pulling comical faces to illustrate my distress. See below.
I still have a bit of work to do before I can match up to even the relatively low standard of my old style of knitting. The most important thing, other than listening intently to instructions especially when given by teachers as good as the Biggan Design team, is to keep practicing. It’s the same as the first lesson we all learned as knitting virgins trying to decipher how a ball of softness gets turned into a scarf – JUST KEEP STITCHING!
Coming Up in Part 2: The dreaded purl and some expert intervention.