Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Teaching is Learning: Holding the Yarn

Teaching a beginning class is a great way to rediscover the process that you went through when you were first learning a craft yourself. It forces you to analyze steps that have become automatic for you and to think about why you do things the way you do them.

For example, how do you tell a beginning knitter how to hold their yarn? Do you initially teach everyone to hold the yarn the same way that you do? What if a beginner has a different dominant hand than you do?

Originally, I learned to knit from a book that showed only the English method of wrapping stitches. I found it to be so slow-going that I just went back to crochet which I found to be faster. Then one day some years later I found a different book that showed continental knitting in which the yarn is held in the left hand as in crocheting. So I tried knitting again and this time I liked it.

The lesson in this is that sometimes a certain method will just not work for someone. So I try to encourage my students to experiment and to think about whether what they are doing is working or whether they might want to try a different approach.

Even within the categories of "English" and "Continental" knitting there are different ways of holding the yarn. Finding your best way is all about experimenting and the willingness to try different things. This experimenting can be augmented by viewing some of the great videos on YouTube that many knitters have posted. Following are two examples.

This first video from stell66 shows great technique for continental style knitting. Note how she holds the forefinger of her left hand very close to the needle. This allows her to knit smoothly with great speed. Watch and see:

And this second video shows both English and Continental styles:

You can learn new methods from watching You Tube videos or by just watching people who are learning to knit.

In my last knitting class, Jack showed me a way of holding the yarn in the left hand with the yarn coming from under the left index finger instead of over it. The method works well to tighten the tension when needed. Melanie, a left-handed knitter who was also holding her yarn in the left hand, needed to focus the primary movement of needles and the picking of yarn to be centered in her left hand and needle. The right needle needed to remain relatively stationary for her. Cynthia, a left-hander using the English method, developed a good regular rhythm throwing the yarn with her right hand.

There are so many ways of knitting and they are all right.

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