Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Another class this morning, which is going swimmingly. The one student, R, that I just can't scare away, made a tiny cat-sized hat on double pointed needles with cables. It was her first knitting in the round, first time on DPNs, and first time doing decreases and cables. I told her I was pushing her, but she said she felt like it was the right thing - the things that make her sort of quiver I've pushed her into, and she's not afraid anymore. She's going to be one heck of a knitter.

I also had another woman, who wasn't catching on quite as quickly. I felt so bad for her, because she came into my class and said "I tried to take the crochet class on Saturday but the teacher said she couldn't teach me because I'm left handed."

Eyes Poppin

I was floored that someone would say that. I apologized for the crochet teacher (who I've never met) and said "well, knitting uses both hands equally, so first I'm going to teach you Right Handed knitting - which only means that the yarn is moving from the left hand to the right hand, not that the right hand is more active. If you have a harder time than usual with that, I'll sit so that you can mirror my actions and we'll teach you left handed knitting that way." It took two hours to get her to cast on, but by gum she did it. Several times, on her own. She'll be back and we'll go into knitting from there. And I don't think the left-handedness caused any problems, I think she's just one of those people who isn't really aware of what she's doing. I'd say "touch the needle to your thumb" and she'd touch her index finger. "Point the needle between these two strands," and she'd wrap the needle somewhere else. Very odd. But I stayed very patient (she kept saying "you're so sweet and patient" and I finally just said "I seriously doubt my husband would agree with you on that!") and by the end she was casting on slowly, and felt like she'd gotten it. She was very excited.

Some people teach knitting before they teach casting on - which I think is absolutely valid. But when I taught myself, I wanted to feel like I could do each step before I moved on to the next. I learned from a book (one of the books they sell at AC Moore, actually, and I still feel very warm and fuzzy towards it!) and I spent two weeks making myself cast on over and over until I could do it with my eyes closed. Then I learned the knit stitch.

One of the ideas I try to stress is that it's okay to rip out and start over. I make them pull the needle out of their stitches and then look, so they see that the stitches don't disolve unless you pull them. I think it's important to hit the scary mistakes - like dropping a stitch - early on, so they don't panic, and can learn to get past them. But they can't do that if they can't rip all the way back and start over. If all they know is knit, and they have to rip back from the beginning, they can't start over, and are likely to loose their interest before they can get the problem fixed. Or so is my theory. But since I also stress that there is no "wrong" there is only "not what I wanted" teaching them to knit first works too!

Thumbs Up

I did run into an interesting problem I'd love some knitterly imput on. R has really thrown herself into this, which is fantastic. She went to DIY (a network that I don't get at home, but it runs the show "Knitty Gritty") and printed out a million or so little stitch patterns, to try my suggestion of knitting dishcloths of stitch patterns. One of them got her stuck, and frankly, it got me stuck, too! It's this one. (that's a PDF file - if you don't want to open it, go to this page and scroll down until you see "tucks" and that's the pattern that got us confused)

What threw me off was that I don't recall having seen "Knit into stitch below" as anything but an increase method, and there are no decreases in this pattern. Can someone type me through this? I'm sure I'm just missing something simple...


Hours Spent Knitting: 7
Rows Completed (of 222): 10
Estimated Time of Completion: 317.14 hours


Blogger Carol said...

What this does is create a tuck stitch. Basically, you knit your row "regularly." On the return trip, you knit into the stitch BELOW the needle. When the stitch is completed and passed onto the right-hand needle, the yarn loop from row 2 has become a strand that is "tucked" into the stitch created in row 3.

Clear as mud?

2:39 PM  
Blogger Marti said...

Although I have never had any problems teaching a knitter, I have run across those who absolutely can not master picking, they develop into natural throwers. I also subscribe to teaching leftys the same as right handed because of using both hands equally. I did have a niece who couldn't grasp knitting that way, I ended up having to teach her to throw left handed. but she eventually figured it out!

3:16 PM  
Blogger um said...

hi, i'm a new reader of your blog! found you through the raok ring. this was such a helpful post for me! i have both a left-handed friend who wants to know how to knit, and a homeschoolers knitting group that i'm leading, and your "mirror" tip may just help me with my friend. most of the kids in my homeschoolers knitting group are new knitters, so i like your idea of teaching new knitters how to fix mistakes so they don't panic. that's awesome!

thanks for the free advice! :)

4:26 PM  
Blogger Lauren said...

Hey Amie--another class! Wow, you are so good :)
A cabled kitty hat on DPNs? This lady is better than me!

Sorry I can't help with the tuck thing... good luck figuring it out!

5:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Jessica at

Oh Amie, DON'T teach her "left-handed" knitting whatever you do. It can be done and is okay for a little while but eventually she will run up against a stitch or pattern whose directions will just not translate at all to "left-handed" knitting which is just really knitting and purling backwards. I am left-handed and taught myself how to knit and it went fine as long as I stuck with simple stuff. None of her stiches will follow the illustrations in most books and this will make life unessecarily difficult for her. I eventually (after several years mind you) had to break down and teach myself to knit right handed and I've never regretted it. Never. Remind her that knowing both ways can be useful but to forget any idea of "handedness" in knitting - it is just more trouble than it's worth and having to convert pattern directions all of the time is just a pain and doesn't always work.It's better that she learn the traditional way (pick or throw) or she might not persevere and just quit from the frustration. If she needs other help tell her she can email me anytime - I'd be glad to offer any suggestions I could. Good luck.

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there was a really pretty pillow in rowan 34 that i think uses that tuck stitch. here's a link to the picture:


9:47 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

Wow! it took forever for this comment box to open. But I'm generally patient and I really wanted to leave a comment. The tuck stitch is just a way of making a denser fabric. It's used a lot in fisherman rib patterns and brioche stitch. When you knit in the row below the stitch currently on the needle just drops off and you have a slight pucker that makes for a thicker spot.

I think we must have identical approaches to teaching knitting. I've never had a left handed knitter that couldn't learn to knit right handed. I just don't acknowledge that I'm teaching them to knit right handed. I really stress that it's a two handed activity like typing or playing the piano. I do teach the knit stitch before I teach the cast on, however. I think knowing the knit stitch helps with the long tail cast on that I usually teach. The thumb method, not the sling shot style. Since we're usually pressed for time I don't get much of a chance to show students how to correct mistakes, in the first lesson anyway. But I think I'll try to incorporate that more. At least let them see that the stitches don't go anywhere if you're careful.

11:52 AM  
Blogger erica said...

In my many three years of teaching, I have yet to have a left-hander who couldn't get the traditional right-handed knitting down. I have had a few people drop out of the classes usually because they got so frustrated with themselves. I have realized that there are a few people in this world that just can't get the hand-eye coordination down to knit. I was worried when I had a radiologist who had been through medical school who couldn't get the knit stitch. I'm always very patient with my students and don't let them know that I'm starting to lose my patience. I too have heard the "you're so patient" comment and always think, if they only knew me in my "real" life. :) There have been a few students that I thought would give up and were really struggling but they turned out to be the best knitters in the class, I think because they were so determined.

I'm so glad that your teaching and am enjoying reading about your trials as a fellow knitting instructor. Now if we could just make enough to make a living at it. :)


11:56 AM  

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