Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"You're doing it wrong"

As a knitting teacher, these are words I work very hard not to say.

And yet I hear stories every week about non-teachers who are more than happy to say them. They are most often meant to be kind and helpful, and are delivered with the best of intentions. But in many cases they are less than helpful.

Even if the speaker is correct that the knitter is indeed wrong, it's a pretty discouraging message to hear. But sometimes, wrong turns out to be very, very right.

While I playing Knit Guru at Shall We Knit this past weekend, I met a knitter. She approached me nervously, saying that she "knitted funny", and needed help getting sorted out.

She told me her story: she learned to knit when a girl, and happily knitted along, on and off over the years. And then a neighbour, a woman from the former Yugoslavia, ripped her knitting out of her hands and said those terrible words... "You're doing it wrong."

So our knitter learned to knit again from her neighbour.

She put her knitting down again for a number of years, and has recently restarted. She's been knitting with a group of friends who once again told our now very confused friend that she was doing it wrong.

She came to me anticipating that I would help her "get it right".

It gave me great pleasure to tell her that she was doing it right, and she needn't change a thing.

You see, there's more than one way to knit.

Most of us in North America and the UK knit - regardless of whether yarn is in left or right hand - knit a specific way: our stitches are oriented so that the right leg is at the front of the needle, and we work into the front loop. Easy.

But there's another way to do it - and it's generally accepted as being a faster and ergonomically more efficient way of doing things: Combination Knitting. It's also known as Eastern Uncrossed, and it's common in the far east of Europe (the former Soviet Territories) and the "near east" of the Middle East. I know a lovely Iranian knitter who works this way. And everyone who works this way is blindingly fast.

(image from Annie Modesitt's website -
she created it, she owns it)
In essence, you wrap your purls the "other" way, and therefore your knit stitches are seated the other way - right leg at the back of the needle. The angle to work the knit stitch is more convenient, and it goes without saying that the purl stitch is easier to do.

So my new friend left happy - and perhaps even a little smug - upon learning that she wasn't just doing it right, she was doing it better!

If you're interested in this, or suspect you might indeed be a 'combinationer', please visit the website I've linked to above - the author, Annie Modesitt, is the master of Combination Knitting.


May said...

This reminds me of when I met a friend (also a knitter) at a coffee shop to chat and knit. We sat on opposite sides of the table, pulled out our respective knitting projects and started to knit. We both stopped talking and stared at each other. We both had knitting needles and yarn but there was something funny about the knitting part. I was knitting English style while she was knitting Continental.

Unknown said...

It's interesting that my knit stitches are oriented the way shown in combination knitting even though I don't knit that way. Instead, I am an English style left-handed knitter (knitting needle and yarn held in left hand). I've tried learning continental style (yarn in right hand) and while I can knit that way without too much awkwardness, the stitches get reoriented so that the leading leg is on the other side of the needle, and it becomes more work to knit a stitch, and in my experience is less efficient.

Being a lefty, I've had to defend myself a lot against the "You are doing it WRONG", to which I've learned to reply that any method is "correct" as long as it yields the results that you want. (I freely admit that not every method is equally efficient, however.) That being said, I really don't know if I make ssp correctly.

Alexandra said...

Hurray !! I had to fight my knitting buddies over this issue once at knit night.
We had a new girl attending. She was from north africa and her grandmother taught her when she was a little girl. She hadn't knit in years and wanted to start knitting again. First thing she was told by our group was that she was doing it wrong : she wrapped all her stitches the other way round, with yarn in her left hand, so that they all had their left leg in front. When I stepped in, she was trying to learn the english way, with yarn in her right hand.
I hope she appreciated when I said her grandmother only did it differently and that she didn't have to learn it all from scratch again. She only needed to be aware of the difference when following european or american instructions.

Erin said...

Oh. My. Goodness. Thank you for this link! This is exactly how I learned to knit when I was eight (from my Yugoslavian grandmother) but realized a few years ago that "I was doing it wrong". I've been trying to force myself to "do it right" but it's just so much easier (and faster) for me to knit this way.

Unknown said...

This is such a help! I am a beginner continental knitter living in Moscow. I have gone to my babushki friends occasionally for help when I get stuck and my mind has just been boggled. This must be what they are doing. They are so stinking fast. Maybe this link will help bridge our language gap. Thanks!

Alexandra said...

I forgot to say... I love the turban !