Category Archives: knitting techniques

Continental vs. English knitting

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Another entry into the annals of “Knitting to Escape Reality.” Subtitled, “In which I contemplate turning my knitting universe upside down.”

Short version, since that’s all I’ve got this morning. [Child Two woke up in the night with stomach flu. Child One recovering. Child Three is just a handful. Child Four is sweet but also a baby. Mom is tired.] I’m thinking of switching knitting styles, or at least learning the other one. I want to see if the Continental style of knitting is faster than the way I knit, which is in the English style.

Are you asleep? Oh, sorry.

Anyway, after reading multitudes of knitting commentaries online and watching my trusty Youtube knitting tutorials during my overnight puke vigil, I’ve learned that everyone knits one or the other, experienced knitters use both depending upon their mood or project, and everyone does it a bit differently. Continental knitters “pick” the yarn, and hold the working yarn in their left hand, while English knitters “throw” the yarn while holding the working yarn in their right hand.

One thing I’ve deduced is that I don’t let go of my work completely as I “throw” the yarn around the right needle. I don’t think of myself as a slow knitter, but that would slow one down considerably. Many knitting instructors like to teach this English style to beginners, so that’s probably the reason I learned this way.

I’ll spare you the excruciating details. We all know how I could go on and on about this. But I will add some of the great knitting tutorial sites I’ve come across the last two years since I began knitting. (Well, not quite two years. Crazy!)

Since I’m researching another knitting technique in order to increase my knitting speed, I leave you with this video of the fastest knitter in the world. Hilarious!

Don’t fear the Double Pointed Needles!

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Howdy, howdy. It’s Tuesday, right? It’s sort of been a long weekend and Monday. Family pictures were a success–at least, I think they were. Everyone smiled and cooperated. So, yes, I suppose success. But getting everyone ready, clean, fed, napped, and together until the photographer arrived at our house was challenging. It was rill challenging, ain’t gonna lie. I needed a drink after it was all over. And the photographer even came to us–how do people travel with kids TO a photographer? People are so amazing.

Okay, I’m omitting the freakout I had for about 25 minutes on Saturday morning. I’d mentioned before that the baby was up during the night for awhile with a fever. Well, you can’t SEE fevers, so I wasn’t too terribly troubled. (Yes, yes. At the time all that mattered was How This Thing Was Going to Affect Family Pictures. Sad, I know.) But you CAN see a rash. And Simon woke up with a rash all over his face. Between Benadryl and the photographer’s assurances of the magical powers of Photoshop, my major fears were allayed. So. We shall see.

Do you want to hear about knitting? I don’t know who my audience is, really. I’m going to pretend you’re all me, or where I was, when I was starting out knitting. Okay.

DPNs. Do you know what those are? Double Pointed Needles. What the heck are those and why would any individual want to use them? Funny you should ask. It took me three or four tries of trying to cast on a little pair of legwarmers for Eliza onto the smallest circular needles I had before I realized it wasn’t going to work. Three or four tries. Looking back, I can cackle at my stupidity, but hey, how was I to know? The pattern I was following said to use circular needles, and to this day, I don’t know if the pattern was faulty or what, because I just don’t think there’s any possible way to knit legwarmers on circular needles unless they’re a neat pair of elephant legwarmers or something. Because they’re going to be too big.

Maybe I should back up. Basically, one would use dpns for when one is knitting in the round, and the circumference of the knit piece is small, like for a baby item, socks, or legwarmers. They usually come in sets of five needles, and you can knit off of either end, see?

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left: my Denise circular needles right: Stitchberry dpns

See the legwarmers started on the right? See the small circumference? Dpns. Can’t be done with circular needles.

So, I finally realized that I needed to bite the bullet and get some dpns, only I bought a set of metal ones from Walmart. Don’t do that, at least not when you’re first starting out. Since then, I got a set of dpns from Stitchberry that go all the way from the teeniest tiny size 0’s to size 13. They’re bamboo, which makes them really smooth and nice to hold. Highly recommend the Stitchberry dpns.

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While I’m talking about needles, if you’re looking to get a set of really good needles that aren’t dpns, you can’t beat a Denise set. David got me my set for Christmas two years ago. (Yeah, that’s right.) They’re great, And they don’t make that annoying clickety clack sound that annoys husbands during movies. So, another bonus!

I’m writing about dpns because I just cast on a pair of legwarmers for my friend’s daughter and it takes me back. Don’t be intimidated by them. They’re great! They take some time to get used to, but you’ll find that the types of things they allow you to knit makes up for the initial cumbersome aspect. The Knit Witch on YouTube has a bunch of great knitting tutorials, and I’m pretty sure she showed me how to use the dpns.

Today on the Farm: It’s a windy, cloudy, cold day. Harvest is at a standstill after yesterday’s 2.60″ of rain.  I suppose I should make some soup. And do some laundry. There’s allllways laundry.

Tell me about your first experience with dpns–I’d love to hear all about it!

Blocking your knit items. And cat hair. And stuff. *Updated

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I’ve been up early this morning to block my other completed boot cuff and to drink coffee in peace, but mostly to drink coffee in peace.

Blocking: It’s one of those knitting things that I resisted doing for as long as I could, until one day I realized I should grow up and be a big girl and just…block already! Kind of like knitting a gauge swatch, but that’s for another day.

For those who don’t know, blocking is one of the final things you do to a knit item that just makes it look more polished and even. For instance, if you’ve knit a bunch of squares to join together into an afghan, you’d want to block the squares so they’re even, symmetrical and I don’t know…square. (Me tired this morning. Words hard.)

So, there are many different methods of blocking, and everyone does their own little thing. I pin the item to shape on my ironing board, spritz it with water, and hold a steam iron over it and let it dry completely.

The type of yarn used is important to consider, too. For this project, and for most of my projects, I used acrylic yarn. And I just sent several knitters into paroxysms. Well, sorry. I think they make really good acrylic yarn these days. A lot of my stuff is for the babies, so I shy away from wool, since wool does a really funny thing when washed, did you know? Also, it’s scratchy, and many people are allergic to it. Also, I don’t want to devote our grocery bill to yarn, so acrylic it is.

One time, I was tantalized by this beautiful aqua/teal alpaca yarn from Hobby Lobby. And there was a sale, so…justified.

I spent a good hour working with this yarn on a really cool scarf, and listen–I abandoned the project halfway through because I couldn’t stand the alpaca hair that was just everywhere. It was everywhere. It was like we suddenly adopted a dozen Persian cats and they all slept in our bed and stuff. So. Acrylic. No errant fur to contend with. (Although there is a movement of people who spin cat hair into yarn and knit sweaters out of it. I’m even sure that some do this with fur from their deceased pets. I don’t know what to think of these people.)

What was I talking about? Oh, right! Blocking. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words (in my case, more like 10,000 words) so here is my blocked boot cuff on the left and the unblocked cuff on the right.

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left: blocked and polished right: looks like something my cat knit out of its own fur.

Seems like the left one will actually be wide enough to stay halfway in the boot. Which is probably important. Anyway, I should be able to join them and try them out later today. Such excitement you’ve never encountered, am I right?

Tomorrow we have family pictures. We haven’t had family pictures taken since two whole kids ago (whole kids, as opposed to half ones.) And THAT was for the church directory, which doesn’t really count. As I recall, Eliza was scornful of the photographer (two year old scorn is probably the most insulting form of scorn, too, isn’t it?) and it shows up in the picture, and for some reason I dressed Linus in corduroy. All that was wanting for his attire was a bow tie. David was all hunched over and I have too big of hair. So, I really have high hopes for tomorrow, and I’ve managed to keep the kids from wounding each other above the neck for the last two weeks.

I won’t go into how much thought has gone into what we’re all wearing. It’s quite sad, really. However, I will tell you that Eliza will be sporting a handknit item! (oooh!! ahhhh!) These little mustard colored legwarmers. With the vintage metal buttons I found in Grandma Shirley’s button jar. It’s the little things.

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an 80’s holdover that I LURVE.

I’ll report on the outcome of these pictures later. I’m just sure you’ll be in suspense until then, need I say “ha ha?”

Knitters: What’s your preferred method of blocking?

UPDATE:

I wanted to make sure to say that blocking acrylic that one is going to wear (vs. an afghan or something) is tricky. The boot cuffs I blocked fit me perfectly. However, blocking them made them lose about 50% of their stretch, SO–the silver lining is that I have a pair now and I can improve on my pattern for cousin Olivia’s.

Hey, we’re learning together.

Picture day! Baby was up in the night with a fever, so things are running to plan so far.