Thursday, January 14, 2010

Continental Divide

While I was in bed trying to beat a cold before it fully developed this Wednesday, I decided to learn Continental knitting. Just about since I started knitting, I've been told about how superior Continental knitting is to English. You will never reach your full potential until you learn to not have to pick up your yarn. Continental knitting is much faster; it's the EZ way. English knitters have no idea what they're doing or missing out on! (The last one was provided by a particularly dramatic friend over gchat).

Knowing what my goals are for the future, the first and a half statements really stuck out to me. So, I grabbed a set of clover needles and Wool-Ease Thick & Quick and got to reading and surfing. I found what seemed to be a very detailed video about Continental knitting and definitely had to agree that it looked pretty damn quick. But when I watched my own mirrored motions, I felt stiff and clunky. As I struggled to get the needle in, grab the yarn and come out triumphant with a new loop, I was reminded of just how much progress I had made over the past year. It's like learning to knit all over again, friend consoled. Well then, perhaps I do not want to learn it all over again. It took a lot of stitches to get at the somewhat level of comfort that I have now, and like many things in life, the details of how exactly you arrived are just a bit foggy at this point. And I'm not sure if I want to clear the air just yet.

But then again, nearly all my ventures into the fiber world have been with wooden needles held with conviction, if not exactly with complete understand. I didn't know how to knit originally, but managed to make a damn good garter stitch scarf. Knitting with four needles instead of two? Why not. Five? Just an extra one to stick into my beard. Cables? Those involve twisting things about. I always thought they were nice. Gimme. That's right, gimme those Continental stitches.

So, I kept researching. I read Domiknitrix's section on it, which while giving me a new option for where to wrap the yarn, seemed to miss what to do with the yarn that hung over forefinger and dangled. So I turned to Stitch 'n Bitch and found an option for how to hold the yarn. My stitches seemed to be becoming more even, but this was certainly not completely from my own doing. It must have been a combination of luck and getting so fed up with a row that I would finish it off with English and start again. Either way, come this morning, my swatches were not so tight that a pin would have trouble pushing through. I practiced a bit more on the train to work, and thought little of it.

When a trip to Lion Brand Yarn Studio just happened to come up in the middle of the day (we went for a co-worker, I swear!), I mentioned in passing that I was trying to teach myself Continental. Immediately, a worker at the store commiserated with me and asked me how my purls were coming along. "Oh, I haven't gotten even close to that yet. The knits are still giving me trouble". And thus began a 5-minute tutorial on what I should consider when doing Continental knitting. What a godsend! We agreed that: there is no clear 1-way-to-do-Continental vs 1-way-to-do-English. That I don't need to keep my pointer finger aimed at the far heavens. And we ended with one piece of advice: Chunky yarn is the worst thing to try and learn with. When I told her this, and she realized what I had been using, the pity with which she looked on to me could not be contained.

I came home after work, pulled out some Vanna's Choice I had left over from my Kindle Kover and got to work. After feeling a little comfortable, I figured I should time myself. In order to knit 26 stitches on size 7 needles (4.5mm) it took...
Continental      English
    1:53.7          1:25.3
Maybe I don't need to have any more tools in my arsenal. Maybe I'm just too Owen Burnett to ever be Preston Vogel.


  1. Aw, I'm glad I was able to help! Come back and see us anytime. Don't forget our Free Knitting Doctor is every Wednesday from 5:30 - 6:30.

    By the way, my name is Patty, I'm the Studio Director. Hang in there with Continental, you can do it. Just back AWAY from the Thick and Quick!

  2. Thanks for your all your help, Patty! I actually may have had a clicking moment finally. You telling me to switch weights was fantastic!

    And you'll be sure to see me at the store again. I had brought my supervisor to buy yarn for her second project (I just taught her last month) and I bring friends all the time.