Thursday, October 03, 2013

I have heard from Jamieson & Smith that my order is on the way, the knitting belt and long steel pins -- so casting-on is currently in suspension and I press happily on with Milano. Here it is:

Nice, isn’t it? I think when I reach divide-for-armholes, I'll get the Relax pattern out and see if I want to edge it in that direction in any respect (sleeves, specifically). A bit late in the day, you may feel.

Scifiknitter left a comment recently – a few days in arrears, so some may have missed it – about the Yarn Harlot’s class in “Knitting for Speed and Efficiency”. Oh, that’s for me! I’ve google’d it – she pops up hither and yon teaching it, but there’s no sign of an on-line class. But she is mentioned in a Craftsy blog post, with a link to an amateur video on YouTube of her knitting in a style she calls Irish Cottage Knitting.

That’s where you tuck a long needle under your armpit to hold it rigid – much the same effect as a knitting belt. The video will be more use to me, I suspect, than any of the actual knitting-belt ones I have found so far.

The Shetland knitting-belt user, knitting around on dp’s, uses only three needles. Doreen mentioned that to us. FancyTiger and her friends had a demonstration from a different designer, not far from Doreen, who confirmed the point. (The link is to the FancyTiger blog post which discusses the matter, but the whole of her Shetland adventure is well worth reading.)

The point of the Shetland belt is not only that it holds the needle rigid while you’re knitting, but also that you can leave the whole thing suspended at your waist while you stir the soup or dig some potatoes or change a nappy. The fewer needles involved, the better.

Maybe my best approach would be to work the Milano that way for a while, to get used to the technique as it involves only one yarn, and then move on to Rams and Yowes and/or a Fair Isle Vest.

Meg Swansen’s vest will do fine as a starting point – she does vary the patterns all (or most) of the way up. The peerie patterns – the smaller ones separating the major ones – could be more interesting. That’s easily remedied. One of the knitters on the project page to which I have linked you appears to disdain the jumble of changing patterns, and has settled for alternating two of them.

The difficulty with designing Fair Isle, Sheila McGregor points out, is to get things to come out right at the shoulder. That thought brings me back to my long-held belief that knitters working in a tradition get to know the way it works, their gauge both stitch and row, and can introduce variations almost instinctively which the rest of us have to work out with graph paper and sums.


  1. The edge of the World, 1937 Michael Powell movie has some great knitting belt scenes. Also, it's a good movie. I love how your colors look in the Milano. Lots of Frenchwomen (older ones, anyway) knit with the needle under one arm like that. I am tring to get one of my students to bring her 90 year old mother to class to demonstrate.

  2. Hello Jean
    I knit with one needle under my arm, that is how I learned from my mother. It means that I can wrap the yarn around my fingers and throw (really just flicking my fingers) but without having to drop the needle with each stitch. Having now learned to do continental knitting for socks, I find that my knit stitch is marginally quicker in continental style and my purl is much quicker throwing style. It will be interesting to see how you experience the difference using the knitting belt.


    1. Anonymous5:37 PM

      i knit English parlour style, with the left needle under my arm, and the right one held as a pencil - my finger works like a lever - very fast, but my purling is looser than my knitting.
      it works for me, but i see that everybody has her/his own style of knitting, and it all works!

  3. Anonymous6:12 PM

    I agree completely with your last statement. Experienced traditional knitters must be able to hold entire designs and methods of accomplishment in their mental vision, in the way that good chessplayers can hold the outcomes of various strategies in their minds.
    -- stashdragon