New skills


I know, that looks like a regular swatch. Garter stitch isn’t new; stockinette isn’t new; ribbing isn’t new. The thing is, though, that I usually knit English (with the yarn held in my right hand) and this little swatch was knit Continental (with the yarn held in my left hand). In my regular life I am not ambidextrous, but I strive for more in knitting, apparently.

I should note, however, that when you learn new things it is slow. This little piece of knitting is more than an hour of work, which feels kind of pathetic. But, I did it by knitting in an entirely new way, and because of that, I’m proud of it. I’m proud of how even my tension is (even though it’s looser than I’m used to), and I’m proud I didn’t make any big mistakes, and I’m especially proud that now, three days after the class, I can still make my hands remember how to do it.

I can’t take a picture of my own hands, so, uh, here’s another picture of the swatch. Sorry.

The obvious question, here, is probably why bother. After all, I am a (mostly) proficient knitter as it is, so why do I feel the need to change it up so drastically (and if you don’t think it’s drastic, just try it – one woman got so frustrated that she gave up after 15 minutes; when you’re used to being good at something, it is really hard to accept that garter stitch might be tricky)? Well, there are two big reasons, I guess (if you leave out simple curiosity): the first is that it’s good to teach your brain new things. It’s really easy to get yourself into routines, and sometimes a little shock to that system is healthy, whether it’s taking an entirely new route home from work or learning to knit with your other hand. The other reason (the really big reason, if we’re being honest) is that I want to be able to do two-handed colour work (that is, hold one colour in each hand when working Fair Isle). I haven’t tried it yet – my swatch and I are going to spend some more time together first – but L gave me a gorgeous book of Norwegian mitten patterns for my birthday and I want to try some out.

And, yes, another shot. In case all this swatching has made you wildly curious, the yarn is Cascade 220 Heathers in colourway 9450 – it’s sort of a soft green-grey.

I also recently bought Knitting with Two Colours by Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen, so I think I’ll try swatching some stranded colour work before I dive right into fancy mittens. I know swatches are boring to look at (even when they’re surprisingly exciting to make, at least in this case), but if my colour work ones turn out, maybe I’ll post them. I’m especially interested in experimenting with yarn dominance…

Have any of you tried switching your knitting style? Who knits Continental full-time? Tips?

10 thoughts on “New skills

  1. caityrosey

    I can handle the idea of using both hands for color knitting, but the idea of switching hands completely gives me a little panicky feeling 😉

  2. Jeanne Duperreault (@jaduperreault)

    A friend tried to teach me Continental style many many years ago and I found it very challenging! I wish now I had stuck with it because I think it’s a more efficient way of knitting and I also think it would be less hard on my wrist. I will observe your technique at Canlitknit. Maybe I’ll decide to try again.

  3. introvertedknitter

    Great job on the swatch, and good for you for trying something new. I want to learn English style sometime soon, I have been a continental knitter since I first cast on almost ten years ago. The only tip I can suggest in terms of getting a tighter stitch is to mess around with how you hold the yarn, I tend to loop it around my pinky and then on the underside of my ring and middle finer, finishing off by going over the top of my pointer finger, I have noticed that it helps to have a little resistance on the yarn (as it is looped around my pinky.) YMMV. Great color on the swatch and I love the Norwegian Mittens book, (added to my wishlist as we speak.)

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      It is a lovely book, although I suspect a big part of the reason it was selected specifically was because there’s a pattern for moose gloves in there that he would rather like to receive. Haha. I actually want to knit just about every pair in there, so I think there are a lot of gift mittens in my future.

  4. Cassy

    I wholeheartedly support your efforts! I knitted English for about three years, then switched to continental. I’m much faster at both knit and purl now, and it’s definitely wonderful to know both ways when you’re doing stranded knitting. Recently, I tried knitting backwards to avoid the purl side of stockinette. It’s definitely slow going when doing a new thing, but it’s fun to shock your system too.

    1. Angela Hickman Post author

      The notion that ribbing might become something other than annoying is something that adds huge appeal to continental.

      I’ve heard of knitting backwards to avoid purling, which seems like it would be really handy in flat colour work. Does it affect your gauge?

      1. Cassy

        I found that overall I got looser with continental. It’s hard to tell if the backward knitting affected gauge because I didn’t give it a fair shot for more than a row or two here and there in projects. I might be more motivated to put it to use in flat colorwork, but for now it’s just a novelty trick.

  5. Kristen

    Wow, I admire your adventurous/inquisitive knitting tendencies. I admit to having no desire to try such things. I seem only to be driven by a desire to “make stuff”. I have considered learning to knit Continental style just b/c it is said to be so much faster, and indeed, all of the well-known and fastest knitters do knit some variation of Continental/picking. Even still, my interest there is only in “makin’ stuff” faster so I can make more stuff! Ha ha!

  6. Pingback: Fair Isle is a good gift | Pans & Needles

  7. Pingback: What a difference a year makes | Pans & Needles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: