There are many people who find knitters and knitting so boring they cannot possibly imagine what thrills we have. I spent a lot of time knitting my kimono cardigan on our recent sailing trip, and it seemed a good time to analyze my technique and see what I might do if I wanted to knit faster!
I am a picker (meaning I knit by holding the working yarn in my left hand and making the right hand needle do the work of catching it to create the new loop). I am left handed but knit in the right handed direction since I’m pretty fast at it. I knit about 60 stitches per minute, which would be a poor showing for knitting speed competitions, but seems faster than most knitters I have spent time with..
To be fair, I should say that I have tried many ways of knitting and still use them all on occasion. I was taught to knit ‘throwing’ (the traditional English way which involves having the working yarn in your right hand and using your right hand to ‘throw’ the yarn around the left needle), and over the years I’ve tired both ‘picking’ and ‘throwing’ in the opposite direction (with the knitted work on the right needle moving to the left needle) just because I’m left handed and felt I should give it a whirl! It comes in handy when I don’t want to keep turning my work around, but I am still faster at right handed picking than other methods. Other methods will get mentioned later…maybe!
So, faster… knowing that efficiency of motion is a vital key to speed I have also made efforts to keep my knitting right at the tips of my needles, and now, for years now actually, I’ve managed no movement at all in my left hand…my right needle does a little flick to get that needle to pick up a loop from the yarn in my left hand. When I switch from knit to purl, involving moving that working yarn from the back of the needle to the front, I barely move my finger, making ribbing quite fast to work.
What else could I do to get faster?? I realized that while my knitting stays right at the tips of the needles, my right needle which gets inserted into the loop on the left needle was going into the loop a bit further than just the tip before catching the working yarn. Could this be minimized?? A little practice showed me it could! Since I was knitting my kimono cardi on brand new Signature needles (another thrill!) I could keep track of how much I was inserting that right needle by keeping the movement completely on the silver tips. Those silver tips sure come in handy for checking movement! Although I love my Addi Turbos and my wooden Knit Picks, and in general prefer circular needles to straight, these Signature needles gave me a visual marker to how little movement I needed to make with the right needle. Almost immediately I noticed that the tiniest change with the inserting needle made a noticeable difference in speed! In a couple of hours I was knitting faster than ever before!
What is fast now? I think I’m knitting in the range of 75 stitches per minute now, and it happened with only about an hour of practice. Pretty exciting for me! Here’s my plan for checking my accuracy. I tried knitting to my metronome, but I got so uptight I became completely clumsy! Since I have a natural memory for 60 beats per minute (try it, many people do!) I will listen to my metronome at other speeds until I feel that rhythm is well established in my head, then I will try knitting at that speed!
I have some piano works that I’ve played at certain speeds for so many years that they come naturally to me now (like Bach inventions that I had to practice ad nauseam to work up to speed). I will hum those pieces at speed and see if I can knit to them! 75 stitches per inch is pretty satisfying, but if I can get closer to 100 I’m going to go for it! I’ll let you know how I get on! Wish me luck!