Gemma-Rose needs new cardigans for winter. That means a lot of knitting. But if I knit, I won't have time to write. I could just buy some ready made cardigans...
“Will you knit my cardigans, Mum? Gemma-Rose asks. “I just love the ones you made me last time.”
I look at her sweet face. Writing or knitting? Knitting of course. I remember fulfilling little girl promises.
Gemma-Rose and I discuss patterns and she decides she’ll like another zip-up cardigan just like her favourite one. I take her to town to choose some wool. We stand before the shelves and look and look… so many colours, so much choice…
“Pink. I’d like pink,” Gemma-Rose says eventually. Bright pink? Pale pink? Multicolour balls of wool with different shades of pink and cream? Yes! Gemma-Rose leaves the shop clutching a bag stuffed full of wool and she has a huge smile on her face.
Writing or knitting? I made the right choice. But then I remember something…
I remember a post written by my sister Vicky called Continental Knitting or Confessions of a Knitting Numbskull. I always knit using the traditional (or English or 'throwing') method. But did Vicky describe the Continental method as being more efficient and much quicker to do than my usual way of knitting? I am thinking… I have an idea. If I could knit more quickly, wouldn’t I have time for writing too? I could knit and write. Perhaps I should give it a go.
I cast on 96 stitches, and then I follow the link to the Continental knitting demonstration. I am sure I’ll soon have this conquered. Soon I will be zipping across each row, and my knitting will grow and… I’ll be able to get back to writing.
I watch the video very carefully. The needle with the cast-on stitches is in my left hand. I have wound the wool around my left hand fingers just so… With the needle in my right hand I am ‘picking’ the stitches… except I’m not. I keep forgetting to use my middle finger to hold onto the stitches and add like a pad. My stitches keep flying off the end of the needle. I persist. I finally make it to the end of the row. My fingers are stiff and aching and I’ve only knitted one row. I tell myself that practice makes perfect and I attack another row and another and another…
Finally, I take a break. My poor fingers can’t take any more. The woman on the video says this method of knitting is good for those people with arthritis. I don’t have arthritis. Well, I didn’t. Can knitting make fingers arthritic?
I examine my work and discover some more dropped stitches. I fix them up and consider the tension. It’s not quite as even as I’d like. How can Continental knitting look so easy on the video but actually be so difficult to put into action? I feel like a beginner knitter. And then I remember teaching my children to knit.
“Mum! I only have 23 stitches. How many did I start with?”
“You’ve dropped a few stitches. Never mind, I’ll pick them up for you.”
“Mum, I seem to have a hole in my knitting.”
“Let me look. I can fix that for you.”
“Mum, why can’t I knit like you? Your knitting is so much better than mine.”
“I’ve had more practice. You’re doing well. Just keeping going. You’ll get the hang of it.”
But the question is: will I get the hang of Continental knitting?
I know I should persevere with the Continental method for how will I get better if I don’t practice? But my fingers are aching. I am fed up of picking up dropped stitches. I am impatient to see my knitting grow. I have had enough. I decide to switch back to my old method and soon I am ‘throwing’ the wool around the needle using my right hand, instead of wrapping the wool with my left hand and 'picking' the stitches.
Soon I am knitting -really knitting this time – and I have another idea. Perhaps there is a quicker way of ‘throwing’ the wool. Maybe if I adjust how I am holding the needles and the wool, I can increase the pace of my traditional method. I watch a few more videos online and try out some new ways of winding the wool around my right hand fingers. Success! Soon I am zipping across the row. My knitting is growing. Gemma-Rose comes in and takes a look and smiles: “Wow! Mum, you’ll soon have my cardigan finished!”
But the thought of Continental knitting remains in the back of my mind. Should I have given up so quickly? Is this method worth all the practice? If I conquered this technique, would I knit more garments and finish them more quickly?
Do you knit? Are you a Continental knitter or a traditional knitter? And has anyone converted from one method to the other?
Oh yes, I’ve just thought of something else. I guess whatever method of knitting I decide upon, my knitting will not grow unless I actually take it out of my basket and work on it. So I’d better hurry up and finish this story so I can go and work on that cardigan. I have a little girl promise to fulfil.
Please share your thoughts because I really do want to knit and write!