Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Knitting for Speed and Efficiency

Dear Shayne,

As I mentioned in my last post about all the yarn I bought at Sock Summit, I took a class with Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the hilarious and brilliant Yarn Harlot) called Knitting for Speed and Efficiency.

The irony of this is that I am now knitting far more slowly than I have since I first learned to knit. In class, I even forgot how to purl. Seriously. (Worth a good laugh with the Yarn Harlot, I must admit.)

I am working on a practice scarf right now -- in theory, I will master the small motor skills required to do this new style of knitting after a month or so of daily practice . It's hard to believe right now that that is true, but I am willing to try. Especially since I have remembered how to purl again.

This class was amazing. Stephanie was brilliant. The background information she provided on how this way of knitting used to be the standard way to knit and how it fell out of use was absolutely fascinating.

And look! This photo, taken by Tina Newton (Stephanie's co-genius in creating Sock Summit), was on the Blue Moon Fiber Arts blog this week. It was taken in the class I was in -- it's a photo of me and Stephanie! (That's my hair on the right of that photo. I feel all famous now.)

(Re-posted here with permission from Tina.)

The style of knitting is called "Lever Knitting" or "Irish Cottage Knitting" or, far less flatteringly, "Armpit Knitting" (when you knit on straight needles, you hold one of the needles in your armpit.)

We timed our knitting at the beginning of class and I knit about 25 stitches per minute. Stephanie knits 60-70 stitches per minute (wow!) and the fastest knitter in the world? Knits around 120 stitches per minute. Using. This. Technique.

Watch Stephanie doing her super-fast magic knitting:

Since I have a ton of yarn, knitting faster would certainly be useful. So I am going through this one month period of knitting slowly and keeping my eyes on the prize: faster knitting.

To that end, I bought this lovely yarn that I showed you yesterday:
Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted

And I began knitting on a scarf (this color of yarn is difficult to photograph -- the colors above are more accurate):
Lever knitting -- practice scarf 1

But I didn't like what that stitch was doing with that yarn, so I ripped it back and started again (it's for practice anyway, right?)
Lever knitting -- practice scarf 2

I am far happier with the second scarf and I am sloooowly becoming more comfortable with this style of knitting. It's hard to imagine a day when knitting this way will be faster than my usual knitting style, but I want it, Shayne. I reeeeallly want it.


PS -- If you want to watch a super fast knitting competition video, go here. Take note: most of the competitors are lever knitting. Of course. (As pointed out in class by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.)


Dawn said...

The two African ladies I work with knit like this and tried to teach me their technique one afternoon when it was slow on the unit. I am completely uncoordinated and hilarity ensued. ;-)

That yarn is gorgeous!

kelly said...

You may be uncoordinated to start, but try practicing every day for a month -- you'll get better, I promise.

Meanwhile, I realize that directions from my mouth are not quite as powerful as those from the Yarn Harlot. Stephanie suggested that I practice this for a month and I'm totally on it -- she's the Yarn Harlot!

(Also, I *am* getting better every day. Slooowly, but I am. And, dude, I forgot how to *purl* when I learned this technique.)

Shayne said...

Oh, that yarn!!!!! I am impressed by any knitting :)

j0zzzz said...

Stephanie makes it looks so easy! So easy, in fact, that I almost reached for my needles to try it out right away, but then I realized just how hard it would be in real life...