Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Historical Beginnings

It would appear that I'm a cottage knitter. You know, one of those old-English, working class, country folk who knitted practical items out of necessity rather than desire. Not that I knit out of necessity, you understand, although you could say that when someone really gets into knitting, the practice of it could be classed as a necessity! No, what I'm referring to is the way I hold my needles.

I've always been a bit embarrassed about the way I hold my knitting needles. You see, nothing's changed for me in that department since I was 8yrs old. I hold both needles in the palms of my hands in a rather inelegant fashion and expend a lot of energy letting go of the right one to wind the yarn around the tip to make the stitch. During my travels, I've become aware of several different ways of knitting that seem to be so much more refined...... and fast; the Continental style, started in Germany, the Peruvian techniques and even the pencil-holding style that is often taught as the English 'thrower' method of knitting.

Reading the first few chapters of Richard Rutt's excellent book, "A History of Hand Knitting", I've discovered that the English style that we know and love ( and which I don't do) was first introduced to Britain during the Victorian era when knitting moved from being a cottage craft to an artistic pastime performed by "ladies". In order to exhibit their hands to their best advantage, these women started to hold their right hand needle like a pencil. This was said to make the exercise of knitting appear more delicate and refined, allowing the little finger of the right hand to be crooked just like they did when drinking tea.

Although it's a bit of a blow to discover that my knitting technique is less than refined, I have been immensely comforted by the fact that it does in fact date from pre-Victorian times. Rather than being the method left over from starting my craft at the tender age of 8, I am truely excited to discover instead that I am a living relic (when it comes to my knitting style at least!) What was good enough for the Shetlanders for centuries is good enough for me.

I will henceforth hold my head high and my needles just the way I've always done!


Rudee said...

I'm always amazed when I watch other knitters. We're all different and all styles look impressive to me.

knittingqueen said...

I always feel bad for knitters when they come into the shop and tell me they've been told they knit wrong. I always tell them that, if their project turns out right, then the way they knit is just fine! I knit the English way and throw my yarn. I feel compelled to learn Continental, but then I may lose my ability to knit and read a book at the same time.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

ExpatKat said...
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Jane said...

Thanks KQ. That was what they told me in Norway too - it doesn't matter how you knit, just that you do.

Kimmie said...

How cool is that!?! I just love how we've learned these things from our grandmothers etc. My grandmother taught me "pick knitting" (continental). I will have to watch your style and see what you mean ....

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