Sunday, March 24, 2013

Speed Knitter

Towards the end of February to the beginning of this month I've managed to cast on and bind off 2 projects.  One project I almost knit up in a day, and the other flew off the needles before I had a chance to take proper WIP photos and blog about it.  If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you probably have already seen progress and even FO photos of them.  Because these 2 projects were completed within 2 weeks, I got a lot of comments, messages, and emails about how fast of a knitter I must be.  But I'll let you in on something: I am NOT a fast knitter.  Not by a long shot.  If anything, I am a slow knitter.  Especially compared to some of the ladies in my knitting groups.  But here's my secret: I am always knitting.  I kid you not.  That's how I get projects done so fast.  There is seriously not a moment when I'm not knitting.  Ok, that's a lie.  When I'm sewing or concentrating on project bag production then I'm not knitting.  But I'll save that for another post.

Now, don't go thinking that all I do all day is sit on my butt knitting the day away.  I wish that was my secret!  I know a few people who think that just because I'm a stay at home mom that that's what I get to do.  Wrong!  So, so very wrong!  Yes, I do get more opportunities to knit than knitters who work, but that doesn't mean I don't have a huge list of things to do.  After all, my house doesn't clean itself (I wish!), laundry doesn't miraculously appear in our dressers washed and folded all on its own (it really is amazing just how much laundry one man and a 4 year old can produce!), the Munchkin doesn't hitchhike to preschool or to see his ECD team, and most of all, my kid doesn't parent himself.  The latter being the biggest and most important job that takes up a huge part of my day.  No, I'm not glued to my child 24/7 like a helicopter parent or anything like that, but there is actual interaction with my child.  And a lot of it.  He is an only child and there's only so much alone time a 4 year old can handle for certain amounts of time, and to anyone who doesn't have kids, trying to find things for a preschooler to do and to keep them occupied isn't always an easy task.  Preschoolers have the attention span of a gnat.  No.  Scratch that.  I think a gnat has a longer attention span than my kiddo.  I know a fair amount of childless peeps who think that stay at home moms got it easy, as they can just shove the kid(s) in front of the telly and be able to sneak off to knit or sew or whatever for a few hours.  My kid goes bat-shit crazy from being over stimulated and under exercised, and in the end the epic tantrums that accompany too much TV just isn't worth it.

Anyhoo, back to the knitting.  So how am I always knitting and where do I find the time?  In every opportunity that I can find.  I knit while I wait for the computer to boot up (and if it's the laptop, then I've got a good 10 minutes to knit since that thing always has something wrong with it), I knit while talking on the phone, I knit while waiting for the Munchkin's bath to fill up.  I also knit at the playground, while waiting in line at the store or doctor's office (or anywhere that requires me to wait), I even have my knitting ready beside me in the truck just in case I get stuck in traffic or when a certain bridge has to be drawn so that boats can pass by.  The Munchkin has also been known to nap in the truck after a particularly busy day and rather than waking him up the second we get home, I'll let him nap for an extra 10 minutes in order to score 10 minutes of "me-time".  The Munchkin is also currently going through a phase where he refuses to wear socks and shoes, and sometimes pants, so while I wait for him to realize that he's not going anywhere out of the house until he puts on one or all of those things, I knit.  Of course, I also knit the second the Munchkin is down for the night.  Did I also mention that sometimes I stay up until 2, maybe 3am just to get a good chunk of knitting in?  Yes, I do.  I'm willing to sacrifice sleep sometimes in order to knit.  Oh, don't get me wrong, sometimes I do get to just lounge on the couch while the Munchkin plays games or reads on his kiddie tablet, or if it's a day where he's actually able to sit still long enough to watch one of his favourite movies, and I, of course, get to knit.

Want to know something else?  Shhhh...come closer.

I'm a thrower.  Yup.  I'm an English-style knitter.  Well, a version of.  I hold my working yarn in my right hand, but I don't drop the yarn every time I work a stitch and I don't make the huge movements that English-style knitting is associated with.  Does this surprise anyone?  I know a lot of knitters assume that if you are a fast knitter then you must knit continental, or that the fastest way to knit is to use the continental method.  I used to think that too, but not any more. I've always had a sneaking suspicion that it really didn't matter which method you used, as long as you were comfortable in knitting in that style and were keeping the movements at a minimum.  Yet I always had continental knitters up in my face telling me that no, continental is the only way to knit if you want to knit fast and efficiently.  Um, have you seen the Yarn Harlot knit?  Mind you, she's not an English style knitter, she's a lever style knitter (that's how my friend Becky knits!).  But still, that's not continental.  If you've never seen the Yarn Harlot knit, check out this video (using straights) or this video (using DPNs).  Seriously, she knits at lightning speed!  Now, I know what you're thinking - what about Miriam Tegels?  She's one of the world's fastest knitters (she can knit 118 stitches in one minute!) and she knits continental (the way Miriam knits is the way my friend Liisa knits!).  The other fastest knitter in the world is Hazel Tindall, and she knits English.  Aside from being the world's fastest knitters, another thing they have in common - their movements are extremely minimal.  Want to see?  There are several videos of Miriam Tegels knitting on the Knit Picks community website here and Hazel Tindall uploaded her own video here.

I should have also read this post by Ysolda Teague, as well as the follow up post before I taught myself how to knit continental.  Oh well.  It's always good to know how to knit in different ways just in case of injury, or if I ever get the urge to do fair isle or stranded colour work, I'll be more prepared and not so awkward at knitting with yarn held in both hands.

So now you know my secrets.  Anyone disappointed?  If you still think I'm a fast knitter, well, ok.  Some people have emailed me for tips on how to knit faster and at first I thought "well, knit a lot".  But after some more thinking about what it is that I do, I came up with a list of so-called "tips".

:: How to Knit Faster ::

♥ knit with needles that you are most comfortable with.  I truly believe that needles are an investment in your knitting.  That doesn't mean you should go out and buy the most expensive needles on the market, but maybe take note of what works and what doesn't work for you.  For instance, I mainly knit with finer yarns and gauges and so having the sharpest tips on my needles really help in picking up those tiny stitches.  I exclusively use circular needles and having to fight with stiff cords just isn't going to cut it, so the more pliable the cord, the better.

♥ knit with the slickest needles that you can handle.  Wooden and plastic needles are known to be "sticky" and tend to grip the yarn a little, which can slow knitting down.  While metal needles are generally smooth and lets yarn glide off quickly, therefore can speed up knitting.

♥ knit a lot of cables?  Learn to knit without a cable needle.  Trust me, knowing how to knit without the aid of a cable needle will save you a ton of time, especially when you need to knit a simple 2 or 4 stitch cable.

♥ concentrate on 1 project at a time.  I know, this coming from a self-confessed project hoar.  A monogamous knitter, I am not.  Yet even though I always have a ton of WIPs on the go, I always try to dedicate big chunks of time for the bigger knits (like garments).  A week or 2 of concentrated knitting on 1 project is enough to make a considerable dent.  If the project is small, like a hat or a cowl or even a shawl (but not of Nuvem proportions!),  I'll knit on it until it's finished as I know it'll take a day or 2 for the smaller items and a week or 2 for a shawl.

♥ optimize your knitting set-up - as in keep the yarn on the side that you hold the yarn and ensure that the yarn can move freely so that you don't have to stop often to untangle it from something.  Use a yarn bowl, Yarn Buddy, or any other form of a yarn holder to prevent your yarn from tangling, snagging, or rolling away from you.  If I'm trying to have a mini knit-a-thon then I usually place my yarn in front of me to the right, using the yarn from the outside in (even though it takes a mere 2-4 seconds to make the slight gesture of yanking the yarn from a center-pull cake, it made me lose my rhythm a little).  Basically do what works for you, but just remove the little things that can slow you down, like having to chase down your yarn or needing to unwrap a few rounds of yarn from a mill-wound ball.

remember to stretch every 20 minutes, and I'm not talking just your hands but your wrists, arms, neck, and back - they are all interconnected and are all in action when you knit.

♥ as awesome as it is to knit for 4 hours straight, remember to take breaks!  Especially if your hands and/or wrists start to hurt, tingle, or go numb.  It's never a good idea to keep knitting if any of that happens as you can cause more damage to your most precious knitterly tools, your hands, in the long run (re: carpal tunnel, which could mean no knitting for extended periods of time or no knitting at all!).  Listen to your body.  If your limbs hurt or start to tingle, usually it means you need to either take a break or reposition yourself as your body is obviously protesting the way you may be sitting, how you're holding your needles, or how the weight of your project is distributed.  Stretch and wait until the pain/tingling/numbness goes away before picking your needles up again.

♥ knit often and try to sneak in as much knitting as you can.  You might not think it's worth it to knit a few stitches while you wait for your photos to upload on the computer or while you wait for the washing machine to fill up, but those little knitterly moments can add up and was knitting time you didn't bank on before.  Not that obsessed with knitting?  Make it a point to knit for 10 minutes before heading to bed or when you wake up in the morning.  I love the rare times when I wake up before the Munchkin (I'm SO not a morning person!!) and can knit for a bit while I sip my coffee and enjoy the sunrise.  It's pure bliss!

♥ experiment when you can.  Try different and several techniques, and take notes of which ones you like.  Or invest in a good knitting reference book so that you can find out beforehand what certain elements look like before you knit several inches in a project just to realize that you don't like the way say, an increase looks.  

♥ practise, practise, practise!  This goes without saying that the more you knit, the more confident and comfortable you become with the craft.  Over time you'll be able to read your knitting without thinking, be able to make pattern changes without second guessing your choices, and you'll build up a personal arsenal of techniques and tips that will eventually speed things along (like using lifelines, slipping the first stitch of every round for a nicer edge, or using a needle 2 sizes smaller to pick up stitches to name a few)

♥ knit 3/4 length sleeves or shorter.  Not only does this save on yarn, but it'll also save you on time!

♥ knit garments that have a slimmer fit.  Baggy pullovers and cardigans mean a whack-load more stitches.  Unless you...

♥ knit with bulkier yarns.  I don't think I have to say it but bulkier yarns use larger needles which means less stitches but still resulting in a larger fabric, all of which equals to fast knits.

♥ knit baby and kids clothes.  Seriously.  If you want to feel accomplished and utterly fast, knit a baby sweater.  Being able to knit a cardigan within a few days is quite the knitter's high.  Nevermind that the scale of the garment is much smaller and you only needed to use a skein or 2 of yarn.

♥ knit accessories.  Not feeling the kids clothes but still want that high of finishing project after project?  Knit hats, cowls, and fingerless gloves.  Think about it, when it comes to crunch-time gift knitting, these are the things we turn to for quick knits, right?

Ok, so those last 5 "tips" weren't really tips per se, but they are thoughts that could help you churn out more knits.

I hope some of the things I listed can help some of you, if you aren't doing some of them already.  If you have any other tips that I haven't touched on, please, mention them in the comments.  I would love to know, and I'm sure others would to!

♥ Happy Speedy Knitting! ♥


  1. I'm a thrower also. Well, I hold my yarn in my right hand and use my index finger to kinda flick my yarn...I don't think that makes sense. But once I got the hang of that, I got much faster than actually dropping my yarn each time.

    and YES stretch those wrists/hands/arm etc... I have a pinched radial nerve from not doing that after a little marathon knitting. :( boo.

    Also... I think I found some Lace Garn (eek! - share my excitement, my hubs won't haha)

    1. I totally know what you mean Christina! :) I used to flick my yarn too, but had to change that because that way made me a beyond tight knitter. I'm still tying to figure out how to loosen my gauge a bit. So far I think I'm doing ok, as now I'm only going up 1 needle size for most projects! :p

      Oh no about the pinched nerve! This might sound stupid, but is this permanent? I'll confess that I used to keep knitting even though my hands would start to tingle, but then a cousin of mine who was studying sports massage therapy, gave me quite the "scolding". The thought of not being able to knit again scared me into stretching often and stopping if my limbs start to tingle!

      Yay for finding some Lace-Garn!!!! ♥ What colour did you find??

    2. I'm sure if this nerve thing is permanent. :/ I have a Dr. appointment next Monday to see what the deal is. I've been wearing a brace since Friday evening and quite frankly it SUCKS. I haven't knit anything since Thursday evening.

      Also, boo on the Lace-Garn because as I went to refresh the page and msg the person selling it, it said pending. Heartbreak. :( It was Petit Poisson Light... but it's my own fault I missed it. I hemmed and hawed all day long feeling guilty for wanting to buy it, I just had a talk with the hubs about saving money. He told me all day long to just order it and I missed it. So, the search continues lol.

    3. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you that you just need time to heal properly and that this isn't permanent!!! I know I would go crazy if I couldn't knit for that long. Especially since it's not really by choice. So good luck at your appointment! ♥

      Boo on the Lace! I hate that when that happens! I do that so often myself...see something, hem and haw over it, and then go back to it to discover it's gone. So sad. Hopefully this just means you'll find something better next! :)

  2. i loved this post! i thought myself to be a decently paced knitter... until i saw these movies. holy hannah that's fast! i mean, i had seen one of the movies before, but i must have forgotten. i'm not really trying to minimize my movements even more.... it's to be said though, i'm very close to wanting to place that order for *the* needles ;) xoxo

    1. Hahaha, aren't they nuts? I don't want to be Miriam Tegels fast (although, I wouldn't complain if I was!) but I wouldn't mind being Yarn Harlot fast. Maybe then I'd finally put a dent in my queue! :p

      I think I need to figure out a way to minimize my movements. I used to just flick, like I said in the comment above, but it made my gauge incredibly tight.

      Let me know when you order THE needles! :)

    2. oOOo will do! haha and i had meant to say that i am NOW really trying to minimize my movements.. (not NOT trying) lol... i think i seriously dreamt about it last night too... and i told les in the morning. he looked at me funny. yeah, yarn harlot fast would be good.... but i want to be fast on circs... i don't know that i want to knit on straights... hmmm

    3. Hahaha, I knew what you were trying to say Rebecca! ;) I could never knit on straights ever again. If I do, I would have to have a good reason for it!

  3. People always tell me I'm a fast knitter but I'm far from it. I'm just like you. I knit at every chance I get. It's the best way to get projects finished.

    1. I agree Kat! But sometimes I wonder if I get obsessive when it comes to finding more time to knit? ;)

  4. GREAT POST! It caught my eye because you've photographed my daughter's knitting needles - she loves the smiley faces :-)
    I overheard her saying the other day to her friend "my mum works at home... so she kinda doesn't do anything" Ha! From the mouths of babes - I sighed and thought to myself "one day, darling, one day you'll learn!"
    Come over to my page today for a fun project to do with your munchkin one afternoon!

    1. Thank you so much!! ♥ Haha, I love those little smiley face needles! They're my favourite and wish I could find more in different colours. Just because they make me smile when I see them!

      Ah, the things kids say... ;)

      Thanks for stopping by my blog, and I'll definitely let you know if I make my own muffin cake!!

    2. oOO i have those needles in yellow! so fun! well technically they're my son's but you know... ;)

  5. Awesome, thanks for this post! There's lots of good info here, and I'm not the least disappointed to find out your secrets. Actually, we're in a similar boat - I work from home (which people assume means about the same things as being a SAHM, it seems), and I am always trying to squeeze in a few rows while waiting for food to cook, fussy cats to eat, etc.

    Prolific throwers unite!

    1. Thanks Stefanie!! ♥ And I'm glad you're not disappointed in my secrets! ;)

      Yay for throwers!!!!!

  6. I'm learning how much speed being a monogamous knitter brings. Sweaters knit up SO MUCH FASTER when you concentrate on them, instead of flitting from project to project.

    1. I totally agree Wendy! I always try to go hardcore within the first week or 2 when I cast on a project, in hopes of getting as much knit up as possible (and while that "new project" feeling is still there), it's amazing how much faster stuff gets knit up when you go that route! I'm sure I'd be much faster at churning out projects if I was monogamous, but sadly, I don't think I could ever be a solo project at a time type of knitter. :p

  7. And... working backwards in my Google Reader, this was an amazing post to read next, as it made me realize I should try out some other styles that would maybe take some of the strain off my right hand and especially index finger.

    Damn is Yarn Harlot a fast knitter! I'd never seen her knit before, nor that style. Blindingly fast!


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