Thursday, August 14, 2008

Handed-ness in Knitting: It Ain't Worth a Thing.

Since this is a topic that seems to come up over and over and over in KAL's I participate in, I thought I'd just blog and link instead of repeating myself. ;o)

Knitting isn't handed. It simply isn't.

You use both hands to knit, just as you do to drive. There are different actions for each hand as you drive (the turn signals are usually on the left, the gear shift on the right, etc.), but nobody talks about left-handed drivers or right-handed drivers, or left- and right-handed cars.

Mystique swirls maddeningly around lefties learning to knit, and thickens the further back you go in time. One lovely lefty lady at my old LYS, Rachel, was taught to knit standing in front of a mirror. Her instructor (a Righty) insisted it would be easier for her to learn that way. But it's really not necessary. If anything, Lefties have an edge in learning to knit, because as has been pointed out more than once: in Continental knitting the left had does more than the right. Elizabeth Zimmerman even called Continental Left-handed Knitting. Check out how I (a definite Lefty) knit:

There are only a few stitches in that clip, but watch my hands (not fingers) carefully, and see which hand does what.

More examples are here and here.

Learning to knit backward can be handy, as it makes button bands and other small pieces easier (turning every four stitches is crazy-making). But beyond eliminating the need to turn your work in such situations, it's borrowing trouble (as is mentioned at the bottom of the page here). Knitting backward under all circumstances means that you must read charts backward, reverse written directions, or have a mirror image of what is being knitted. But more than that, it creates a mental barrier that can grow all out of proportion. Whether in your own mind, or the mind of knitters you meet, habitually knitting backward places obstacles in your way that needn't be there.

Long rant short, do yourself a favor: learn to knit Continental in the conventional direction. It's fast, efficient, and despite requiring an initial investment in time and effort, will save you hours and hours and hours of frustration and work in the long run.

And learning an already-entrenched skill in reverse is excellent for your brain. ;o)


Shan said...

I have to agree, here.

Anonymous said...

I was at an oudoor knitting event one summer and one of the husbands that tagged along wanted to know what all this knitting was about since about 100 people were doing it at the same time. One of the ladies casted on for him and knitted stockinette stitch for a few rows. Then, she taught him to knit and watched him knit a few stitches. Then she left him alone! When she returned, he was back at the beginning of the row. He taught himself how to knit back to the beginning from the front side (didn't turn it over). We were all amazed!

Happy Knitting!

Miss 376 said...

Might even have a go at teaching my left handed son to knit now. Had never thought of it that way before

SusieH said...

Whoa - you knit EXACTLY the same way I do. Do you find your tension is a lot looser than some other knitters'?

Annalea said...

Much, much looser, SusieH. I usually have to go down at least two needle sizes to get even close. And that's so cool that we knit the same way! :o) I knit the way I do because I just took the way I managed my yarn in crochet, and adapted it to knitting. How did you come up with your technique?

Now I'm really curious to see a video of you knitting. ;o)

Polish Princess said...

Okay, I get the hint!!! One of these days, I promise...?