Picking vs. Throwing: Continental Knitting in my Jammies

Since teaching myself to knit I have been a thrower – formally known as English style knitting. This is the way that made the most sense to me when learning and I have been content to do so – until now. I really like to knit (or crochet) in bed. It is definitely not the most ergonomic way to knit, but I am too fidgety to sit and knit. Let’s face it, if I’m sitting in a chair I am pulling one of my spinning wheels up. Yup. I’d literally rather sit and spin. ;)

All this obsess – er- excessive spinning really puts tension on my right arm, around the elbow area. I’m finding my preferred way of knitting puts more strain on the right arm. Strain means I slow down, slowing down means the projects don’t work up as fast as I would like and then I lose interest. It was time to look at an alternate way to knit so that I could give the right arm a rest.

I’ve never really tried continental knitting (aka picking). I’ve seen videos of the technique but since I was comfortable with the English style I never saw a reason to really give it a go. But I am left handed (left dominant mostly with ambidextrous tendencies) and it seems that the speed knitters out there use this style. I also hear that pickers find their knitting works up looser. I do tend to have tight stitches as a thrower. Since I knit a lot with handspun bulky art yarns a looser stitch is definitely appealing.

Earlier this month I found myself laid up in bed feeling under the weather so since I wasn’t feeling well enough to sit up and spin, a little personal knitting workshop was in order. Off to YouTube I went to see different styles of Continental knitting. After trying different people’s styles below is what has worked well for me thus far. I was amazed that not long after I was continental knitting in my jammies. :)

beginning to wrap the yarn around my pinkie finger for tensioning

beginning to wrap the yarn around my pinkie finger for tensioning

In the videos I watched, many people liked to simply let their yarn hang between their fingers. I definitely prefer to have the yarn tensioned. The best technique was wrapping the working yarn around my pinkie twice then laying it across my fingers towards the index finger.

twice wrapped around pinkie

twice wrapped around pinkie

laying yarn across all 3 fingers toward the index finger

laying yarn across all 3 fingers toward the index finger

So once I found a comfortable way to hold the yarn in my left hand – which by the way – felt so awkward at first since I am so used to using my right hand – I found that my knitting for the first few rounds resembled crocheting with my index finger held up in the air. The problem being that my index finger would get tired really quickly, and I definitely could not get the rhythm for purling with my finger so far away. In another video, I found my answer: rest my index finger against the needle. It was all starting to make sense now.

holding my finger too high and too far away from my work

holding my finger too high and too far away from my work

this made it much easier

this made it much easier

tada!

tada!

The outcome is I really like Continental knitting. I started by knitting in the round with a bulky reclaimed yarn that already had stitches done in the English style. There was a definite difference in the tensioning of my stitches. I found with continental my stitches were looser and thus looked/felt much better with the bulky yarn. I also found my knitting worked up much faster with the picking method, although I’m not sure if it is because I am quick at it yet or simply because I don’t get fatigued as quickly and can sit for more rounds before stopping. I’ve also practiced ribbing since then and I do like the closer change up between the knit and purl stitch. I’m finding my ribbing maybe a little too loose for my liking, but I think that will change with practice. All and all, I am so stoked to have another way to knit, so when I get tired (or injured!) on one side I can switch it up and keep knitting. :)

Are you a picker or a thrower? Have any tips for me? Drop me a line, I’d love to heard from you!

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P.S. I didn’t keep a list of the videos I watched on YouTube, but if you search for “continental knitting”, “continental vs. english knitting” and even “speed knitting” you should get a good amount of examples to help you. Leilani Cleveland Deveau is a self-taught jewelry artist with over sixteen years of experience. 4 years ago she added the fiber arts (wool processing/dyeing/carding/spinning, knitting, crochet and felting) to her long list of creative interests. Leilani welcomes questions or comments from other crafters and handmade artists, as well as requests for custom, wholesale or consignment jewelry. Her home studio is located in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. You can contact her by email: leilani@bb3.com or stay informed by subscribing to her monthly newsletter (a draw for a giveaway each month!). See sign up button at right on main blog page.

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