Sunday, November 09, 2008

"Can I Take Your Class Anyway?"; The Other Hand

I've been asked this question many times before, but this time it was obvious to me that there was a real sense of worry behind it.

I encountered a knitter at one of the shops where I teach who was interested in a class... We talked about it a bit, what I cover, how it works. And then she paused, lowered her voice a little, and said... "but I knit Continental, can I take your class anyway?"

My heart went out to her.

My answer was that of course she could take my class, and if anyone had told her that knitting Continental is somehow different from "English" knitting, then they were making a mountain out of a molehill.

(Follow the links above for more info, but the short answer is that English knitting is when the yarn is carried and wrapped around the needle with the right hand, and in Continental knitting, the yarn is carried and wrapped around the needle with the left hand.)

I wonder how many classes she's not taken, how many books and patterns she's put back on the shelf because she knits differently. It saddens me.

I've always thought the question odd, to be honest. In the grand scheme of knitting, it's such a minor difference, how you hold your yarn. As long as you're wrapping and putting the needle in the same way, it really doesn't matter a jot how you hold your yarn and needles and wrap.

I love watching a skilled Continental knitter go... V., who's attended a couple of classes of mine lately, knits like the wind. She's the fastest knitter I've ever seen work, and it's hypnotic to watch. Her tension is lovely and even and relaxed.

I knit English, and yes, it's ergonomically less efficient, and slower than it could be -- but it's the way I've always done and I just can't seem to program my fingers to work any other way. My theory is that how good you are at Continental is determined by a couple of factors -- if you learnt it first, but also (for right-handers) how capable you are with your left hand. I'm strongly right handed, very clumsy with my left. And I just can't make my left hand move the yarn in a controlled way to make even stitches if I attempt Continental. So I go back to my old way and enjoy it.

Now, combination knitting -- that's an interesting one. And that does absolutely change things...

1 comment:

craftingchaos said...

I have learned Continental first, being from Continental Europe ;-). I have tried English and do my own style of mixing, if I need too. I want just to correct you in one seemingly small, but actually quite important part. In Continental my left hand, which is clumsier than the right, does nothing, but to give a framework to put my yarn on. It doesn't do any active knitting. It just holds the yarn tight and upright so that the right hand can use its needle action to get it (after some 30 years of knitting my left hand can anticipate where the right one wants the yarn and wiggles around a little bit, but it doesn't have to).
For me the main difference is that in Continental knitting I do not have to put down the needle. Both the 2 needles and my yarn remain in my hands at around the same position always. In English the right hand has to do needle - yarn - needle- yarn - ... It is easier to use, if you do lots of color changes, where I normally actually use it, but if you do not change yarn often the Continental way has less action, since most of the time your hands are fixed in their general position.
And yes, mostly it doesn't matter, how you knit.