Wednesday, September 9, 2009


When I was 8, my grandmother taught me to knit. I wanted to learn to make socks, because she was always knitting socks. She taught me to knit Continental style, which is fast and easy. I could never understand why people do it the other way, wrapping the yarn around the needle each time and slowly pulling the wrapped yarn through the loop, which is sometimes called "throwing". I am impatient and prefer the quick pull-the-yarn-through with the needle method -- which is sometimes called "picking". I learned these two terms -- throwing and picking -- from Knitting Daily, an email about knitting I read this morning. The writer said picking yielded uneven stitches, but I think that's only because she just learned it.

As you can see from the socks and the red silk and cashmere scarf in the picture, my stitches are as even as can be. I have been using this method for about 62 years, so that may have something to do with it. I have the tension on the yarn down pat. I have also learned that the needles themselves determine the regularity of the stitches even more than the tension. If you push the new stitch on the needle just so, it will match its mates exactly. It took me a long time to learn that. In truth, my stitches used to be all over the place. When I was 8, my work looked like what they call Jazz Knitting, which has stitches of every size and holes deliberately worked in it. While I was expecting Judd (now 50), I made him an egg-yolk yellow polo shirt with a little collar and a gray crew-neck sweater. Those gray Shetland sweaters were the height of style in 1959.

I like the Continental method because it's faster and less awkward-looking to watch. I am not a patient person. I want the quick method, the shortcut, the simplest way. I also want the most aesthetically pleasing way. Of course, this is not always the best method in life. It can be disastrous. Making it look less awkward, pretending you are not struggling with your uneven stitches -- these things are not the best life plan at all. They work just fine for knitting, which requires no transparency and can be unraveled and reworked if the mess gets too bad. It's just not as easy to go back and pick up the dropped stitches in your life.

photo credit: MAJ


  1. I have tried the continental method while I learned using the traditional way which I prefer. I am sure I could get the hang of it but throwing is like matzah ball soup to me...comfortable and mindless.

  2. Picking is the same for me! Guess it's in the hands -- and having done it that way for so long.