Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Making Time for Writing by Knitting More Quickly



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!


16 comments:

  1. Sue, I didn't know you knit? One more thing we have in common.:) I knit continentally, and I love it. I had terrible upper arm pain so I had to try a different method. This one works for me. I am able to knit a lot faster and can usually finish projects pretty quickly. I also taught myself to knit without looking so if I'm doing a garter stitch or a knit row with no yarn-overs or purling, I can do those and read at the same time! That comes in very handy when I read-aloud to the kids. I agree the only way to get a project done is to pull your work out and work on it. I'm so glad you opted to knit for GR. But, please don't stop writing. OK, you can knit more than you write!;)

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    1. Grace,

      Yes, I knit! Though I spend more time writing... I love knitting and thinking. It's very relaxing. And I really love the look on my girls' faces when I finish things and they try them on for the first time. Yes, handmade is definitely special and the best.

      My older girls can read and knit at the same time. I can't. I will have to practise!

      If you can learn a new method, I should be able to. As long as I practise!

      I don't suppose I can knit and write at the same time. But I could knit and think about what I am going to write. Thank you for your encouraging words, Grace.

      Delete
  2. Just had a brilliant thought. In fact I might patent it and make lots of money.

    Instead of knitting a new cardigan; why not knit an extension and add it to the bottom of the garment. You can add an extra bit every year as children grow. Also add extras to the sleeves. In different colours too ... so the garment would look like a rainbow over the years.

    In fact, I have a business idea. These extensions could be made at a factory and sold in shops. So people can just buy them and add them to their knitted garments every year.

    Never quite understood knitting. Threading bits of string over two or more needles. I wondered who first invented knitting and why? Was it to tie up bits of wool found lying around the house?

    I did some research. It was in fact an Italian who invented knitting. He was eating a plate of spaghetti and all his pasta got tangled up and sauce flew everywhere. He tried to separate the spaghetti using two kebab skewers ... et voila (he said in an Italian accent) ... KNITTING !!!

    God bless.

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    1. Victor,

      I also did a little research about the origins of knitting. It's all a bit of a mystery because few knitted garments have survived to give us any clues. So maybe an Italian was the inventor. I can't prove it wasn't. But what was he doing with kebab sticks in his spaghetti? Kebab sticks aren't Italian. If the first knitted items were made of pasta of course they are long gone, having been eaten. I am just not sure about your story, Victor...

      But I do like your knitted extension idea. I saw a pattern for wrist warmers not long ago. At the time I thought it was a silly idea. However if the wrist warmers are knitted using that ball of wool that is always left over from making a jumper, they'd match the garment beautifully. I wouldn't even have to sew the extensions to the sleeves. I might try that.

      I am sure my grandmother used to unpick the stitches around the edge of the sleeves and the ones around the bottom of a cardigan or jumper. She'd put the stitches back on the needle and knit a few extra rows in order to prolong the life of a garment.

      The only problem I can see with extensions is that sometimes a child not only gets taller but fatter. Any ideas for extending a knitted garment sideways?

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  3. My aunt Matilda used to knit and drive at the same time. See my post about her and knitting here http://timeforreflections.blogspot.com/2011/09/memories-of-matilda.html

    One day she was knitting and driving down the highway when a police car drew up beside her and the policeman shouted through the open car window "PULL OVER".

    She said "It's a scarf actually ..." and continued driving.

    God bless.

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    1. Victor,

      I was thinking about your Aunt Matilda when I was writing this post. If she can drive and knit at the same time, I am sure she could also knit and write simultaneously. I will have to go and re-read your story. I seem to remember Aunt Matilda liked knitting in rainbow colours.

      Pullover? There are so many words for the same garment - jumper, jersey, sweater, woolly. And then the word jumper is extra confusing because I hear it means a type of dress in the US. You'd call them pinafore dresses (if you are knowledgeable about dresses.) We might call them overall dresses. Overalls? You'd call overalls dungarees. Coveralls? What are they? I think I'd better stop there... Too confusing!

      God bless!

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  4. I knit as well and never learned the English method - the first time I saw it I wondered what the heck it was ;-) I couldn't get your video to open, but I do it like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9XImtoQmZ8, wrapping the yarn around my index finger not my pinky, which is what she shows right at the beginning. Hang in there and maybe find a neighbor who does it the "right" way *g* and have them show you.Currently I'm working on two different socks - I finished two different pairs a couple of weeks ago.

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    1. Hi Beate,

      I think you are right: seeing someone actually doing Continental knitting would be much more helpful than watching a video. The only problem is I don't think this method is very widespread here. My sister Vicky is a Continental knitting convert though. Unfortunately, I don't see her more than once a year, but next time we visit, I shall ask for a demonstration.

      I shall look at your link. Maybe it's clearer than mine. I think I shall probably continue knitting G-R's cardigan the traditional way, but I shall start a sampler piece where I can practice the other method without worrying if I make a mess of things.

      Socks? Do you live somewhere cold? When I was a child, my grandmother knitted me long woollen socks. We lived in a place where there was no real winter and the one and only time I wore them, my legs were very uncomfortable and itchy with the heat! I guess acrylic yarns could be used to knit lighter weight socks.

      So nice of you to stop by and share your knitting experience with me, Beate.

      God bless!

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  5. No, I live in South TX where we have a rather short winter (haven't worn a coat this year), but socks are easy and fun with the great yarns available now ;-) They aren't as heavy as my Oma's socks, but still made out of mostly wool, and I make them pretty short - much faster that way ;-) Here are some samples:
    http://catholic-mommas.xanga.com/759679714/socks--/

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    1. Beate,

      I love your socks! Thank you for the link.

      No winter coat? That's a mild winter!

      God bless.

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    2. Thanks for visiting! I was so thrilled to have an actual comment, LOL! I realized that I miss jotting down moments in our lives, will have to try to do that again. Well, my coat is old and looks horrid, so when it's gotten down to the 30's for short periods of time, I just layer ;-) I made myself a Hagrid sized scarf a few years ago and that over a bulky sweater keeps the chill off nicely *g* But yes, winter has been mild this year.

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    3. Beate,

      Now I have found your blog and have registered to make comments, I shall have to visit frequently. I think I subscribed (if I pressed all the right buttons!) so I'll know when you publish new posts. I am looking forward to keeping up with you!

      I am thinking about coats. Have you ever knitted a coat? I've seen some wonderful patterns for full length cardigan/coats that look very warm.

      God bless!

      Delete
  6. I tried knitting last summer and didn't get very far. I tried English and Continental. I thought Continental might be easier because I can crochet. Nope. I think English ended up being easier, but I still gave up after about a month of attempts. I'll stick to crochet instead. Good luck with it Sue.

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    1. Pam,

      I love crochet too though I am better at knitting. I'd like to crochet an afghan for each of my children. I have a couple of books with gorgeous designs. Just need to get started... Do you crochet cardigans, jumpers etc?

      Perhaps when Olivia wants to learn to knit, you can learn with her.

      Thanks for your comment, Pam!

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  7. I had no idea there are different ways to knit!
    Although I didn't knit for a long time I think I knit 'continental'.

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    1. Hi Miu,

      So lovely to see you here on my blog again!

      I didn't realise there is more than one way to knit either. But I thought the traditional or English way was the only way. Everyone I knew knitted this way. Did your mother pass on the Continental method to you? I wonder how easy it is to learn this method as a child. I am certainly finding it difficult as an adult! But I am going to persevere and have another go.

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

      God bless.

      Delete

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