Learning to knit faster

When I was in Denmark, studying with Julie Arkell, I was very taken with the cardigan she wore. She told me she’d knitted it herself, based on a pattern that my friend Torhild had knitted up. I’m not the only one who fell in love with it, and the pattern has been muched passed around. I got a copy, some wool, and have made a start.

Julie Arkell Cardigan-1

Julie Arkell Cardigan-2

Let me tell you here that I’m not much of a knitter. Despite intermittently knitting something biggish over the years, like a jumper or pair of leggings, I’ve never become very fast or confident. I have repeatedly asked fast knitters if they would share some tips to help me move to the next level, but was told there was no point since I knitted the ‘English way’ rather than the newer ‘European way’. But, I know others who knit the English way and whip up garments. Oh well…

Last year I made the effort to convert to the European way, thanks to a YouTube tutorial. I also taught myself how to knit backwards, so that I can have the right side of the work facing me the whole time, and simply switch the yarn from hand to hand as I knit back and forwards. I really like this way of working – to me that’s less cumbersome than having to turn the piece around with every row, and rearrange it in relation to the ball of yarn.

But I still didn’t become very quick. I had only knitted dolls’ clothes, though. Anyway, I’ve had a breakthrough while working on the cardigan. Just needing to knit a lot has given me the basic practise I needed to help improve my skills with the European way.

Then I noticed something: I was knitting to a certain rhythm. Needle in, pick up wool, pull it through, slip stitch off. Each part took up equal amounts of time. But the bit I was struggling with was aiming the needle right when I put it in. I kept missing, so had to do that part slowly. The rest of the stitch was easy. So I made a conscious effort to change my rhythm: take as much time as I need to put the needle in, then do the remaining steps super-fast in one move. Ah-ha! Magic!

It was kind of weird at first, but that rhythm is working for me now, and my stitches have sped up enormously. I’m also getting better at putting the needle in accurately.

My next challenge is to learn to knit without looking. I CAN, sort of, do it, but I have a tendancy to drop stitches. My cardigan is full of mistakes, thanks to my efforts at trying that. I haven’t got it in me to rip back all the time, so I’m just plowing on and trusting that it’ll be sweet even with its many imperfections.

Do you have any knitting tips to share? If you’re a fast knitter, is there a particular trick that helped you get there?

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