Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Knitting for Speed & Efficiency

My favorite class at Sock Summit was the Knitting for Speed and Efficiency class taught by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. It was three hours full of interesting information and practice time on lever knitting.

As a recovering perfectionist it was great to hear her speech about how long it takes to learn new habits. I taught my sister to knit last year and like all new knitters she got frustrated. But, as Stephanie pointed out, I didn't berate her, call her stupid, ask why she was wasting her time, or otherwise insult her intelligence. And, since we were learning a new way of knitting, we couldn't really, in good conscience do those things to ourselves. It was good to hear, and I've had to remind myself of it a few times. But, I'm determined to learn this way of knitting. I don't have as much knitting time as I have projects I want to work on, so I need all the extra knitting I can squeeze out of that time.

When my mom taught me to knit she taught me to throw. Throwing involves carrying the yarn in your right hand. It's straight forward and easy, but I got frustrated with how slow I was when I did ribbing or seed stitch.

So, I learned to pick which carries the yarn in your left hand and I am able to knit between 40-45 stitches a minute when I pick. Switching to picking also did wonders for my tension. I used to knit pretty tight, but when I started picking my knitting got looser and more consistent, though I'm not sure why.

Now, I'm learning to lever knit and that means changing the yarn back to my right hand. It also means that I'm back to knitting super tight. I have to carefully and forcefully slide my knitting down the needle. It's as though I'm afraid the yarn is the only thing holding the needle itself together. This is my third day trying to lever knit, and it's getting better.

I remember when my sister came back to my house with her practice swatch and showed me the moment when she finally loosened up. Her little 10 stitch row went from about 1.5 inches wide to about 3 inches in the space 1 or 2 rows. I'm hoping the same "a-ha!" moment will happen with me and my hands, but I'm not sure when it will. So, until then, I'm knitting dishcloths.

I've never knit dishcloths, but I figure it's one of the few projects that won't look totally ridiculous with one half almost twice the size of the other, when that moment hits. Sweaters would be disastrous, and mittens a bit goofy if that happened half way through.

In addition to teaching us lever knitting, she talked about how we could be more efficient knitters using the way we currently knit.

She gave us 4 tips:

#1 Get smarter. She pointed out that we should read the pattern. I completely get this. I totally understand why this is better than not reading the pattern and having to take out hard-earned knitting just to fix something that you really should have been able to read. Especially if you're an English teacher. But, this didn't stop me from making 2 big mistakes on Bobby's sweater, both of which I could have prevented if I had read.

First, I knit an entire row on the wrong size needles and had to take it out just to re-knit it on the right size needles. Second I knit almost the entire sleeve before realizing that just like in my adult sweaters I needed to be decreasing along the arm. So all of that (with its cut ends) was ripped out as well. And that one was late at night so it stung even more. Luckily, Bobby is small and so is his sweater.

#2 Get better. She had us look at our current knitting and identify ways we were duplicating work and being inefficient in our movements. I discovered that I don't have to re-tension the yarn every time I switched needles, which was quite a little epiphany for me. Unfortunately that epiphany is a bit wasted now, because I'm re-learning knitting altogether. But I'm hoping to keep this bit of advice tucked away so when I can lever knit without looking like a total goofball I can then re-evaluate how I'm doing.

#3 Knit more. This one is pretty clear. The more you knit the more you get knit and the faster you get at it. I knit pretty often, but need to do a better job of taking advantage of the time I have to knit. In the car is one example, and I'm working up the gumption to knit in other settings that are a bit more public. I'm just hoping that people will believe me when I say that I really am paying attention and listening even if I'm knitting.

#4 Fix your tension. Tension determines the size of your knitting and if your tension gets all goofy so does your knitting. I had my tension all sorted out with picking, but am back to square one with lever knitting.

She said that it takes 21 days to develop all of the micro-movements and small muscle memory to be competent at a new skill. I'm on day 3 and getting a little better. I'll keep you updated.

Luckily the next 3 weeks involves the start of school and so simple dishcloth knitting will be about all I'm up for anyway.


Anonymous said...

I have a book of dish cloth patterns if you would like to try some of them to spice up your collection.

Arctic Knitter said...

Glad to hear there's another kniting T-bird. Feel free to join the knitting flock - a great way to spend time during staff meetings! :0)