Must knit faster!

Sometimes, I think that all of the yarns and patterns that are available are the knitter’s equivalent of a sweetie shop – the only good thing is that the don’t make your teeth fall out!  

I’ve been feeling little guilty this week as I’ve cast on another two projects before I’ve finished some other things that I’m working on – although to be fair, the ones that I showed you in this post back in October are now done except for the summer top and the sock yarn blanket which is a long-term project, so it’s not as if I have endless WIPs (works in progress).

Before I show you what I’m up to, I must say thank you for all the lovely comments about my Split Mittens pattern.  I’m hoping there are going to be lots of much warmer hands around!  I’ve seen one or two pairs in progress already and I’m really looking forward to seeing them in lots of colours and different types of yarns.

Here’s my latest pair, cast on in the Hayfield Chunky Tweed with Wool that I picked up at Black Sheep Wools this week.  I’m finding it quite amazing how quickly they knit up when you don’t keep stopping to take photographs!  The bulk of the first mitten was knitted last night whilst we watched Joanna Lumley‘s adventures on the Trans-Siberian railway which was fascinating yet easy watching – ideal for knitting along to!  (We watched a re-run of it on ITV, but it’s available as a DVD and some bits of it are on YouTube.)

I’ve reached the heel of my second cashmere sock – I’m really looking forward to putting these on my feet as they feel absolutely gorgeous whilst I’m knitting them.  Too nice to wear, perhaps – although I have made a resolution that I am going to knit the lovely yarns that I have in my stash, not just “keep them for best” or endlessly squish them.  Sometimes it takes a while to find the perfect pattern, but I am determined not to leave the yarns unknitted.  I think this is something that’s clicked in my mind whilst we’ve been clearing out my Dad’s house – there is so much stuff that he has kept because it may come in useful one day, and we look at it and say, “I don’t know what to do with that”.  I don’t want that to happen with my yarns, and it probably would as at the moment, neither of my girls are obsessively into knitting like me.  That seems like a waste, and I don’t like waste – and especially not waste of my sock yarn!

This is one of those yarns that I have no intention of wasting.  It’s Regia Design Line Arne & Carlos (shade 03653, Star Night colour) and I’ve been itching to cast it on ever since I bought it, but have made myself wait until I had finished other things first.  As you can see, I got fed up of waiting!  It’s cast on and is also up to the heel but on the first sock so I’ve still got a way to go before I can get these on my tootsies, but I’m really loving the colours and the way it knits up into the Fair Isle patterns.  I think it’s so clever how the yarn just does that without any help from me!  I’ve got a few patterned pairs lined up next, but I wanted this pair to be plain so that I could see the colours without them being broken up in any way.

You can see my good old Herdy mug in the picture too – I was given three new mugs for Christmas and they’re all very lovely, but I do like my Herdy mug!  (Ohhh, I’ve just looked at the website for the link and there’s now a Herdy mug in purple!  The world is a happy place J)

In the midst of this, I have been trying (again) to teach myself how to do Continental knitting. Depending on how you pick up your yarn and in particular create your purl stitch, this is also seems to be variously known as German knitting, Norwegian knitting, Russian knitting and East European knitting, but the point of it is that it’s meant to be super-fast once you get going.

My knitting technique is what’s known as English knitting, although I’m a “flicker” rather than a “thrower” which means that I don’t let go of my knitting to wind the yarn around the needle but instead flick it over.  It’s pretty quick as I’ve been doing it for a long time so the muscle memory is very strong, but I’m still in awe of the knitting speed of people who use the other methods.  In addition, you can do stranded knitting with yarns in both hands rather than having to pick up and put down the yarns each time.  It’s time that I got to grips with this technique!

The process seems quite easy and it’s based on switching the hand that you hold your yarn in – currently my right hand …

to my left hand.  Piece of cake – or so you’d think.  

I started off by thinking that I would just knit a pair of socks using this way of knitting and by the time I’d finished I’d be an expert, but forgot that by doing something different I was actually back to being a new knitter.  I couldn’t get my tension right and it seemed frustratingly slow.  I decided to go back to basics and practise right away from my socks until I felt I had enough control over what I was doing to attempt them again.  I found this article in December’s KnitNow magazine, and I’ve also been watching YouTube videos such as this one by Arne and Carlos (for them it’s called Norwegian knitting) and this one where the yarn is wrapped differently around the knitter’s fingers.  I guess in the end you have to find your own way to get your tension right and there’s no short cut for just getting in there and practising!

I also said that this year I was going to make more of an effort to take care of myself so I’ve been making an effort to turn my face to the sunshine whenever it’s peeped out of the clouds and enjoying a few moments of sunlit warmth on my skin.  I think the dog has wondered what I’m doing a few times when I’ve suddenly stopped walking, but I tell him that I’m being mindful and he has to wait.  He’s not always good at waiting so sometimes my mindful moments are cut short, but the thought is there!

I had to come out of the house the other day to see what was going on in the garden – there was a host of sparrows in the tree all busily shouting to each other and being generally very noisy.  I renamed them a ‘racket of sparrows’ instead!

I’ve been making a real effort to switch off at night before I go to bed – quite literally as the computer is turned off so that I’m not tempted to surf just before I go to sleep – and I’ve been reading instead.  This is the next book in the pile that I have to read and after I’d enjoyed the Astronaut’s Guide … , I was looking forward to starting this one.  I’ve not been disappointed.  In fact, it’s been making me laugh out loud and I’ve been doing that really annoying thing that I always get cross about when my husband does it, namely exclaiming “listen to this bit!” and then proceeding to read it out. “You’ll have to read this book after me,” he tells me when he’s reading a book he’s enjoying, and I point out that I won’t need to because I’ve already heard all the best bits. I don’t think my husband will need to read this book either.

Finally, if you’re at a loose end next Saturday (30 January) and over in my part of the world (north west England), then I’m going to be at The Makery by Unique Seal at 12 Ormskirk Road in Rainford, near St Helens for a drop in knit n natter and sock clinic.  You don’t have to be knitting socks to come along, as Catherine has all kinds of other crafts to see at her shop.  

I’m going to be at The Makery from 11am until 1pm so do drop in and say hello if you can! Catherine is asking people to let her know if you’re coming so that she can make sure there are enough chairs.  You can either contact her through her Facebook page or on 01744 884567.  There is a small charge of £2 per person.

I hope you’re enjoying your weekend, and if you’re caught up in the snow in the US, do stay safe and warm.

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22 Responses

  1. Angel Jem says:

    Inglenook farm is lovely, so I may well pop along and say hi!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Ooh, yes, that would be great! And thanks for the recommendation on the book as it was your blog I spotted on – it's fab! xx

  2. eclectichomelife says:

    I knit the Norweigan way and I'm ready g the how to live Danishly book too!!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Does that make you a super-speedy knitter then? Have you ever tried knitting the English way instead? I'm interested to know what you think! xx

  3. Mary J says:

    After nearly 50 years of 'flicking' I changed to yarn in left hand. I worked at it until I could get good tension doing eastern purl mostly, western purl if nescessary. I find it much quicker especially for St st socks. It's also easier on the wrists and fingers. Recently I have been knitting socks one at a time on a 9" circular needle, no stopping for magic loop or dpns, even faster. You can also do stranded knitting with two threads in left hand. Leaves right hand free for more thread, if you like a challenge! Happy knitting.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Oh there's hope for me yet then, Mary! I'll definitely keep at it – if nothing else it's a challenge and a new skill and it's always good to learn something new! xx

  4. Sharon - creativity and family says:

    I had a go at continental knitting on the rib of some socks but it was a big mistake, I just ended up in a right muddle, I may have to start with a dishcloth!! I shall be interested to look up your links.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I think starting off with rib is very ambitious; my small square is quite enough for now just to try to get my technique and speed sorted! xx

  5. Lilly's Mom says:

    Your new yarns look sumptuous! I was going to take a class to learn continental knitting but never got around to it. Maybe one day. Thank you for sharing some great books. Enjoy your weekend, Pat xx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Hope you have a lovely weekend too, Pat! There are so many videos online these days that you never need to leave home to take a class, so you could still learn one day if you wanted to! xx

  6. Unknown says:

    I also tried to learn the continental way of knitting but gave up. I knit pretty fast anyway and my tension was truly horrific with the continental way so I'm staying as I am. I also "flick" so I think I'm doing the same technique, just holding yarn the english way. Have been knitting like this for 40 odd years and am pretty fast so as my Nan always said, "If it aint broke, don't fix it!" Good luck…! xxx

    • Winwick Mum says:

      There certainly is an element of that, Laura – I'm wondering if I could ever knit as fast in a different method as I can with my usual flick. That's part of the interest though – it makes me feel like I'd be ambidextrous and I like the idea of that! 🙂 xx

  7. Rachelradiostar says:

    I am so useless at anything with my left hand as my right is so dominant I think it'd be a right knotty nightmare!!

  8. sustainablemum says:

    I hadn't realised how different this techniques were. It is hard to unlearn what comes as second nature isn't it. I think continental knitting might suit me better as I am left hand dominant. Might have to investigate……… all your projects, I don't think you can ever have too many!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      I'm trying to think of it as learning a new skill, not unlearning what I already know 🙂 I'd agree, you might find continental knitting really easy as that's your dominant hand. I just like to try new things! xx

  9. Amy at love made my home says:

    I think you are right, use your things – whatever they are – and enjoy them, don't just keep them! What sort of knitter am I? A terrible one! Something to work on though so that one day I can join you socking! xx

  10. Stacey @ bakercourt says:

    Such beautiful sock yarns – and an excellent resolution. I'm doing the same and giddily working through some of my extensive collection in order to destash before moving house. Partly because I don't want to accumulate anything else in this time of packing away, and partly because I don't want to see my husband's face when he finds all of the yarn I've put away for a rainy day! 🙂

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Ah yes, that moment of having to explain exactly HOW much you have … you definitely need to knit faster too! Good luck with the move! xx

  11. Leanne says:

    You've got me addicted to socks now too! Can you use your sock pattern for children's socks? My 6 year old niece would like some 🙂
    Thanks for your advice

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Yes, it's really easy to amend the size of this sock. If you look back at the stitch calculation on the tension tutorial, you'll see that all you need to do is measure your niece's foot and multiply that by the stitches per inch you get from your yarn. I'd expect it to be around 48-52 stitches. You'll need to alter the number of stitches for the heel flap (half the number of cast on stitches) and the first row of the heel turn but the pattern tells you how to do that and you can ask me if you get stuck 🙂 xx

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