Thom Sinclair

modern knitwear for men, women, and everyone in between

Caveman Knitting

Personal AnecdotesThom SinclairComment

Despite a peripheral interest for most of my life, I didn't learn how to knit until I was in my mid-20's. As a boy, it just didn't seem like the kind of thing I "should" do, so I never really pursued it. But once I decided that knitting was not intrinsically a masculine or feminine act, I dived in with full force. I was still trepidatious, though, and didn't really know where to go to start.

Initially, I bought books and tried to teach myself that way. I'm a visual learner, though, so reading descriptions with the occasional still image wasn't doing it for me. I'd misunderstand directions, and without a base knowledge or someone to turn to and ask "is this right?" I was doing things wrong and not realizing it. It wasn't until I worked in the round for the first time did I realize I was wrapping the wrong leg of the loop on my knit stitches, essentially performing a twisted knit stitch on the right side. I looked at my work in the round versus my work knit flat, and noticed how different they looked. After deciding to look to online videos for help, I realized my mistakes and moved on. For anyone currently at this stage in learning to knit, I highly recommend Knitting Help for their visual aids.

I'm not sure about most people, but when it comes to knitting styles, I found learning English style (where the working yarn is held in the right hand and "thrown" around the needle) to be a bit easier to grasp, but once I got the hang of the basics, Continental (where the working yarn is held in the left hand, and the needle "picks up" the yarn) felt more natural. But even before I got to that point, my hands were just a mess of needles and fingers and yarn, a knitting style I've come to fondly refer to as "Caveman Knitting" - in part because I was figuring most things out for the very first time, but also because there was a lot of frustrated grunting and a fair amount of drool involved as I bent over the tangled mess in my hands.

caveman-knit.jpg

Sometimes I am surprised at how attached some knitters are to the style they use themselves. They cite reasons such as their grandmother taught them to knit English, so that's the "right" way to knit, others say that Continental is faster (which, in my experience, it is) and therefore is the "right" way to knit. As with most things in life, both arguments—disregarding specific reasonings—are correct. Knitting English is the right way to knit: for HER. Knitting Continental is the right way to knit: for HIM. Knitting is a deeply personal experience, and if it's even possible to compare the learning experiences of two people, it would be unfair to do so. When I face someone, my right is their left, because we're looking at each other from different perspectives. I can be as adamant as I want that the window is to the right, while the person across from me adamantly states that it's to the left, but the reality is that it's to MY right, and HIS left. 

Although there was some initial roughness, my style developed over the years and I consider myself an ambidextrous knitter, in that I am equally capable working in English or Continental, though I tend to prefer the latter for speed's sake, and mostly will knit English when working with multiple colors or on DPNs. Really, when it comes down to it, there is no "right" way to knit, just what works best for the person doing it. Sure, my early projects may have had unintentionally twisted stitches, and maybe my hands and body were positioned in such a way to make it look like I was tearing apart a recently hunted carcass instead of masterfully creating a garment, but to me, knitting is about the process as much as the result, not just on a project-by-project basis, but when it comes to the evolution of skill as well. No one can start out as a "perfect knitter" right out of the gate, mostly because such a thing doesn't really exist. Knitters are not just the ones that have their work featured in magazines and runways and shop windows, knitters are anyone who takes a pair of needles and yarn and dives in. I don't care if your scarves are lopsided or have dropped stitches or gaps, knitting is what you make of it, and anyone who makes the attempt is a knitter in my book.