Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Knitting Epiphany

Guess what, Internet?  I'm bi-craftual now!  After years and years of trying, I've finally figured out knitting!

There's a simple reason why it's taken me so long to catch onto knitting: I'm an idiot.

I am a left handed person.  I am well aware that when I crochet, I do it in the opposite direction of right handed people.  It never occurred to me while I was trying (literally for several years) to learn to knit that just maybe I would do that in the opposite direction, too.

So here's me, set up like a righty, trying desperately to make knitted swatches.  And to be fair, I could produce a swatch.  It took forever and was super awkward to do, but I could make a little knitted square.  It doesn't really help that when most people on the Internet referred to "left handed knitting," what they really meant was "right handed Continental style knitting," where the stitches are worked from the left needle to the right needle and the yarn is held in the left hand.  And here's me, a left handed person, failing desperately at "left handed knitting."  I could only produce stitches by throwing the yarn ("right handed knitting" or "English style").

I could never figure out what people liked so much about knitting.  It was agonizingly slow and awkward.  I'd get frustrated, put it down for a long time, and then see all these beautiful knitting patterns and be inspired to try again, and the cycle just started all over.  And then one day, a couple of months ago, it hit me like a freaking thunderbolt:  maybe left handed people work in the opposite direction when knitting, just like in crochet!

A quick Google search proved that I was right: lefties can work oppositely if it's more comfortable to them, and it's called "mirror knitting" (NOT "backwards knitting!!!").  So I found some Youtube videos that demonstrated mirror knitting, cast on a few stitches, and went to town

And it was so easy!  I produced garter and stockinette swatches in ten minutes that had taken me an hour in right handed knitting!  Continental knitting, which had mystified before, was completely natural and actually kind of felt like crochet.  I quickly completed my very first knitting project, (a hat that's only slightly ugly) and went on to try several small projects that let me sample basic increasing and decreasing, lace, cables, and double-knitting.  I've even completed a lace shrug for my sister that almost fits her!

So knitting wasn't nearly as hard as I had originally thought all those years.  I was just approaching it from the wrong direction.  What I discovered is that even though knitting is a two-handed activity, there is still one hand that does more fine manipulation than the other.  Right handed knitting is set up so that stitches-to-be-worked are held on the left needle and the right hand manipulates them onto the right needles.  Mirror knitting is just the opposite: the right hand/needle holds the stitches-to-be-worked and the left hand manipulates them onto the left needle.

If there are any lefties out there that have been trying (and struggling) to learn knitting in the right handed way, I definitely suggest trying mirror knitting.  In particular, check out this awesome website by Bill Souza called Yarn Crafts for Lefties.  He has an amazing of variety of free instructional videos for mirror knitting in both English and Continental styles.  I really couldn't have learned without him.  Also, if you aren't already a member of Ravelry, go ahead and join.  You won't regret it.

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