10 Jun 2010
Lorilee on why she knits continental
I start this out with a dose of honesty about why I am posting what follows. Jo has asked me to blog about my classes to be offered there in lovely Scotland in August; I’d like to focus on the Continental class today. I’ll also be teaching this at Stitches Midwest later in the same month (but that class has already filled).
Following is a little personal continental history, a bit about my attitude toward it, a bit about the silly controversy around which way is best, and some testimonials.
History: My mom taught me to knit as a kid. One year she knit fair isle yoke sweaters for many in the family, and she still knits a lot today. It did not stick with me until I relearned as an adult about eighteen years ago. At that time, my neighbor and knitting mentor Kim convinced me to learn continental, and I have never looked back. Only on rare occasions do I have a day that does not include knitting. I’m one of those people who takes their knitting to restaurants, appointments, school activities, and on every car ride no matter how short.
After I opened City Knitting in 2005, Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood, local writer for the Grand Rapids Press, and CraftSanity podcaster, came to videotape me knitting. It was her experiment to post a video for once, rather than just an audio interview. She did a great job filming and editing, and put it on youtube. The thing immediately took on a life of its own. Since November 0f 2006, it has accumulated 440,000 views, 490 thumbs up and 20 thumbs down, 275 comments. It is most popular with females 45-54, then with those 55-64 (interesting, I think, in showing that experienced knitters still like learning!), then with those 35-44. I get e-mail from all over the world, with a disproportionate number of those thanking me being men. I think men are less likely to go to a yarn shop to learn, preferring to “ask the internet”. Many of the comments I get are from long time knitters who want to kick themselves for not knowing this earlier. Here is that 10-minute video if you care to watch it.
My attitude: I love knitting- period. I love seeing various knitting styles learned by people from so many other people. Just in a roomful of knitters, so much community and interpersonal relationships take shape. I will never say my way of knitting is the best way of knitting, because the activity of knitting is so much more important than the mechanics of how any single person gets the job done. I will heartily say, however, that my way of knitting is the best way for me, and if you choose to give it a try, I’d love to help you.
The silly controversy: If you spend any time on the knitting forums of ravelry.com, you’ll notice in that discussions of English versus Continental styles often get heated. One person can rave about how they knit, and another can take it as an attack on how they knit. Then there’s the “I’m faster than you” bit, also silly. Personally, I knit faster than I used to when I threw, but there are throwers who are faster than me. So be it. No big deal. We are all allowed to be fond of our chosen style.
So why does there seem to be more of a demand for classes in Continental? When was the last time you saw a knitting convention offer a class called “Convert from Continental to English?” I think there are two reasons. The first is simply that most knitters in the US are English style knitters- there are more potential converts out there. So, when they see something different, they want to learn it, mostly because it appears faster. The second reason does have to do with speed. The truth is that most continental knitters notice they are speedier or have more efficient movements than their friends who throw, so there is no incentive to change. Don’t get mad at me for saying that; it’s a conclusion I’ve made after watching and knowing lots of knitters.
More history: So, after that video was up for a while, and comments began accumulating, I got curious. Why did that video help so many people? Why was I getting mail about people finally understanding continental even after taking many classes. After lots of observation, I learned about many variations just within Continental knitting. Generally, yarn is tensioned in the left hand, leaving the right hand to pick at the stitches. But much variation occurs in the way yarn is held in the left hand, and the position of the forefinger- up or down, and the location of the yarn. I also noticed I do a few things that are fundamentally different from the majority of continental knitters.
One is that I orient both my knits and purls conventionally (leading leg to the front). Another is that there is something I do in my right hand that helps me size my stitches, which helps keep knits and purls sized equally. Another is the open stance of my hands, which lets me see clearly what’s coming into queue, so I can prepare and proceed more quickly. These are not things apparent in the video, because at the time, I knew not enough to emphasize them. So, that’s why I love to teach it in person.
A student in a three-hour class can expect to learn knit stitch and purl stitch, ribbing, simple increases and decreases, be past the initial clumsiness, and be ready to spend just a couple weeks practicing to complete the conversion.
Testimonials: Over the years, people comments have warmed me on the inside. Even though they were posted in public forums, I feel a little sheepish sharing them collected here. But, since I was asked, I leave you with some comments form, young and old, male and female. -Many thanks, and I hope to see you in class!
Lorilee is extremely clear and patient and her pacing of the class was flawless.
Awesome Lorilee…. Thanks so much for posting these. I hope you have time to pretty much repeat all the videos on knittinghelp.com with this way of doing continental. You taught me how to knit. I practiced for about a week or so after watching your CraftSanity video and finally tried a project. It’s the scarf in my profile. I’ll post a pic of it here in the shared projects area. I’m pretty proud of my very first knitted attempt and I owe it all to your amazing teaching abilities. Bob
Total enlightenment, right? It never quite clicked in for me with the knittinghelp.com ones. Let’s see if we can get Lorilee over here so she knows we all think she’s a Continental genius!
Thanks, Lorilee! I’m on my third BSJ and your tips are very helpful. I also (coincidentally) stumbled across your continental tutorial on YouTube at midnight last night when I suddenly decided I needed to learn continental (!) and it is wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to post these.
Thanks, Lorilee! What a great video! I’ve watched other continental videos, but never really “got” it. “My” way of continental was fine…. But “yours” makes it flow a lot better. I was holding the yarn differently, too. But “your” way is better. Thanks, again!!!!
Great video, Lorilee! I think I’m sold on the continental method. It’s always bothered me to have to let go of the right needle anyway. I’m going to have to practice a little with the purling, but like you said in the video, it’s makes sense to someone who has crocheted. I’ve also read that Zimmerman really pushed it as a method as well, and that it particularly fell out of favor in the US around the 2nd world war because it had been referred to as the “German” method… don’t know how true that is, but I remember congress serving only “Freedom Fries” a few years ago.
This is ABSOLUTELY THE BEST demo for knitting I have been to, and I have looked at a lot. I was wanting to learn this type of knitting and had not found it.
Wonderful job of explaining.
beautiful video. I have watched alot of continental videos on Youtube, this one is very helpful, close ups, and very explanatory. Thank you very much. I watch this video often for reminders and help.
I have arthritis and this looks like just what I need to do. I am a VERY tight knitter, so the looseness will be hard to get used to…lol
Thank you so much for such a detailed video )
I’m only 42 & I have arthritis–as a “thrower” I had given up on knitting. After this vid (which is a FAV now) I know I can take my knitting back up again…what a blessing! You both are very good teachers! Thx Trish
as an English person who has “thrown” her yarn for 20 odd years, this is incredible! I can see how simpler it makes the process of the stitch, but I’m really struggling to get my tension right. Does that just come with practice? Or are there any tips you can give? Thanks.
I have struggled SO much with continential knitting because I started as a thrower. I watched this video for 3 days with some needles and scrap yarn….and alot of determination. I now am doing it both knit and purl without any problem at all. I am not incredibably fast YET, but it will happen. This is a great video for anyone wanting to do continential knitting. The teaching is undeniably the best on this techinique I have seen. Thanks so much for posting this video!!!
What a gifted teacher! Finally I get the continental purl stitch, which had always been my sticking point, so to speak. Thank you!
thank you so much for posting this! I’m an American knitter, but I’ve always wanted to continental knit. It just seems like a more economical way of knitting. But all the other videos I’ve seen have felt awkward because of the way the yarn was held. This method really cleared it up for me, and I’ve just spent the evening knitting this way. Already it’s feeling more natural and the knitting looks great. thank you so much!
I have been a knitter for 50 years, using the throwing method. After watching your video many, many times, I have mastered the continental method. I love it. Thanks for a great video.
A knitter am I now! -WOW! This crocheter thanks you gals loads for the clear instruction on continental knitting! I always shied away from knitting as that throw-over seemed like such a wasted amount of motion for each small stitch – Now, I’m knitting with ease and speed and can imagine the day when I’ll be as proficient with ‘kneedles’ as I am with the hook! = : ) Thanks bunches from a fellow Grand Rapidsian!
Goll darn it! I have been looking for an easy way to purl using the continental method. You clearly explained what I had been doing wrong and know I am purling! I am so excited. Once I practise a little more, I should be up to the same speed as my knit stitches. Thank you!
This is a top notch demonstration by a professional knitter! The demonstration is excellent and the explanation for each recommended step (how to hold the yarn, etc.) is clear. Other knitters are well-intentioned and their efforts are appreciated, but this instructor will help you get started knitting continental by clearly explaining the “why’s.” Thank you!
I’ve been trying and trying to knit continental and this video is the first one that goes into the details about what to do with all your fingers. Any site can tell you how the yarn goes, but unless you know what your fingers are supposed to do, you’re in the dark. Awesome video, for both knit AND purl!!
his was the first video i saw when i typed in “knitting” and was SO HELPFUL!! i immediately tried this method, and WOW.. does it work so good.. i cant believe i was doing it the other way, of course which was fine.. but this way was so much faster and nicer, and i didnt have “close calls” with dropping my stitches.. etc! i just learned how to knit a week ago
Not all continental methods are created equal. This one makes so much more sense than any of the others I’ve watched. I’m excited to try this as one who has been knitting for 15 years and can’t get any faster!
Excellent demonstration. I have been knitting 25 years and finally got my pearl stitches right. So much easier and faster. Thanks
This is a fantastic little demonstration of Continental knitting, and I’ve even take the class from a master knitter — Nancie Wiseman. I’ll be revisiting and re-viewing this often, to reinforce the lessn. Thanks so much! 5 stars!