In the summer I did a lot of thinking about the different ways we knitters actually knit, here. Now I have another, more personal issue related to this. How do we tension the working yarn, how do we hold it relatively securely, while still allowing it to run smoothly?
I’m asking this because my hand problems have reappeared but on my right hand, just for a change and a bit of fun (the sudden shrieks as the ring finger triggers are endlessly entertaining, heavy irony). I’m a bit closer to working out why I’m beset with these hand problems (it’s highly likely that they’re related to my neck problems, as recent well-tested US research indicates), but it’s meaning that I can’t knit. For the moment. Again. Boring.
Or at least I can’t knit as I used to knit – with my right needle in the palm of my hand, and the working yarn held almost along the needle, with my hand acting as a kind of shuttle. It’s what I’ve dubbed the ‘Irish Peasant’ style, but it’s quick and incredibly even – officially praised in The Principles of Knitting for just that characteristic – and I’ve been doing it for years. But I can’t do it now. So I’ve been asking friends, going through instruction books, experimenting to see if I can find an alternative way of holding yarn while I knit. I have no intention, in case you’re worried, of also adopting the slightly mad expression of this knitter from Wikipedia; she’s also ‘parlour knitting’ – holding her right needle above her thumb like a pen – and I’m not doing that either. But you can see that she’s got the yarn wrapped round her index finger.
It’s something, as I discovered when I started asking people, that you just don’t think about. You do what you do, and that’s it. The books are equally wild sometimes; Montse Stanley (one of the best of the ‘technique’ authors, if you can bear the seventies’ illustrations) even goes so far as to be noncommittal, just saying – essentially – that whatever works for you is fine. So here are some of the things I’ve been trying.
The first, and most simple, is the one Montse Stanley prefers. The yarn just falls out of my fingers, or at least it does if I don’t keep my fingers as tighly curled as I do when knitting as I normally would. Not the idea. The same applies to the second method too – hopeless; I still end up holding the yarn along the needle and squealing.
Back to the library. Sally Melville’s great book The Knit Stitch has some useful advice, so I took a look at that. She suggests wrapping the yarn round the index finger twice, which did seem to help in terms of control. A bit.
Then I asked a friend, the most elegant parlour knitter I know. She had to really think about it, but it turns out that she double-wraps the yarn about her pinkie and ring finger, and then catches it on her index finger as well. It’s not fast, but it works, looks good and produces nice even fabric.
It may be. Hm. Me? Well, I ended up knitting so tightly that I could barely move the yarn on the needle, and then cut off the circulation to my hand. Yes, it looks very refined – a world away from the Irish Peasant – but probably works best with parlour knitting. I also asked her why the yarn didn’t slip off her index finger – it was very near to the tip – and she laughed and said it was probably because her skin was so rough.
On the right is a method which you often find in basic knitting books, but again I kept losing my hold on the yarn. Maybe I wrapped it wrongly. Time for a little personal experimentation, then.
I came up with the hold on the left, with the yarn wrapped twice round my little finger, but It wasn’t comfortable. It was easier for me to manage than some of the others, and I did seem to have more control, but it really wasn’t comfortable at all – unless you like a numb pinkie – and I couldn’t keep it going for very long.
The most comfortable was to wrap the yarn round my little finger counter-clockwise (when seen from the front) but I kept losing it from the index finger. Cue more flapping and swearing, possibly helped by the red wine which had suddenly become very necessary.
Then another experiment happened. When I wrapped the yarn round my little finger, then my ring finger, took it under my middle finger and over my index finger – I could knit, and knit evenly if somewhat laboriously. For about half a short line.
But I couldn’t purl.
Another friend has suggested knitting with my right needle tethered under my arm or possibly in a knitting sheath. Yup, I gave it a go. It’s definitely more comfortable. The only disadvantage is that you can’t use circulars – and I’m doing a Knit, Swirl jacket with a cast on of over 500 stitches. Can’t fit those on a straight needle, no matter how long.
When I looked back at the original Way We Knit post, I found I’d written it because my original left-hand trigger finger appeared to be coming back. Well, it didn’t. I started doing the intensive physiotherapy for my neck and it went away over a period of about three weeks, lending considerable credibility to a link with the neck injury. Recently, my physiotherapist was giving me acupuncture for associated shoulder and arm problems – the tenseness wasn’t helping the nerve compression – and I got sloppy about the ******* exercises. I’m being good again, and I hope the magic works again.
Any more ideas? Apart from just being patient, that is?