Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Knitting belt

I struggled on. I am much encouraged by your comment, scifiknitter – and especially in the fact that you’ve stuck with the Stephanie Pearl-McPhee method since taking her class. Despite my announcement 48 hours ago that I wasn’t going to intellectualize this thing, I did just that yesterday.

Here are my sources: Pearl-McPhee and Hazel Tindall. The latter is a Shetland knitter who posted a little clip on her blog to demonstrate the use of a knitting belt. You wouldn’t suspect it from the link I’ve provided, but she is the fastest knitter in the world. I mean, literally. She wins competitions. She has slowed herself down considerably to demonstrate the belt.

The first thing one notices is that the two tension the yarn quite differently. In Tindall’s case, it goes directly from the current stitch over her right index finger and then disappears into the palm of her hand. The great thing about  a flesh-and-blood lesson from such a person is that you could ask her to open her hand and show you exactly where the yarn goes next.

(She’s taking part in Shetland Wool Week at this very moment. Too late now.)

And she keeps her right thumb on the rigid needle.

Whereas Pearl-McPhee tensions the yarn around the third and fourth fingers, as you say, scifiknitter. I think one could discover its exact course from the video link I’ve given. And she keeps her whole hand free of the needle, except for that pressure from the heel (if that's the word).

The essence of my problem is that my right hand wants to drop-and-throw – to move back and forth with each stitch from the tip of the needle to a place further down. And I’m never going to get up any speed if I can’t teach it to move less.

I tried for a while yesterday to do it Tindall’s way – to thread the yarn across my index finger as she does, and to keep my thumb on the needle so that the hand couldn’t get away, so to speak. I think for the moment, that may be the way forward. But it’s interesting that the two are so different.

When I cast all this aside and sink back with the Milano, I wrap the yarn around the middle finger of my right hand. So the Pearl-McPhee method ought to be easier?

I got the Relax pattern out yesterday. It and the Milano have virtually the same number of stitches, so I’m free to switch patterns in mid-stream.


Thank you for the equestrian observations. The position of a sword on the left thigh makes good sense as a reason for mounting a horse from the left. Right-handedness by itself won’t do – you have to put your left leg in the stirrup and use it to heave yourself up (unless your butler is handy to give you a boost). One is not often aware of it, but the left leg shares the left hand’s weakness.

I always mount a bicycle from the left, but I think that is because my teen-aged self fancied herself on horseback.


  1. When I visited Shetland about ten years ago I was suffering from very sore wrists when knitting. We visited the Heritage Centre on Unst where there was a spinning demonstration by a lady called Anne Inkster. Since there was no-one else there I asked if she would mind showing me (in slow motion) how she knitted. She favoured the Hazel Tindall method. It took a lot of getting used to but that is how I knit now and I have no problem with wrist strain. I tend to use circular needles more now rather than my knitting belt (I used circulars for my Rams and Yowes) but I still knit in a similar fashion, holding the right hand needle from on top and tensioning the yarn with the first finger on my right hand.
    I hope this makes sense, in my case perseverance was well worthwhile.

  2. KarenE10:21 AM

    Thanks for the link to Hazel Tindall's considerably slowed down video. I would guess that she's got the yarn caught between her palm and either/or/both ring and little fingers - just curl your hand lightly closed (no clenching of fist at all). It's quick to get in position and comfortable to maintain. That's the grip I was taught by Manchester-based relations 40+ years ago. Perseverance with a new technique is necessary - you've been training your body into a default knitting style for many years, and it will relax back to that given a chance.

  3. Ruth in Ontario, Canada2:05 PM

    What about the left-handed knights who presumably wore their swords on the other side? There must have been a few...

  4. Very interesting video on Hazel Tindall's method. I use a very similar method but tend to keep the stitches further from the points. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I have been enjoying your blog for a few months, but am not usually much of a commenter. Your descriptions of learning to use a knitting belt reminded me of one of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's pieces in one of her book, Free Range Knitter I think. It's called All knitters and it includes a lovely section on all the minutely different ways people manage needles and yarn. I don't know if it would help you in your current efforts, but I think you would enjoy it!

  6. That's fascinating. I actually hold my yarn and knit in a very similar style (but with far more r hand movement and I actually let go of the r needle completely during a stitch). Really enjoying the blog, read the entire archive and found it fascinating. One of these days I really must learn colorwork, but there's not much call for double-thick fabric here in GA.
    Also, yay for your mom being a MHC alumna! I'm one too (class of '04)