Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How Do You Purl?

"There is no right way to knit; there is no wrong way to knit.  So if anybody kindly tells you that what you are doing is "wrong," don't take umbrage; they mean well.  Smile submissively, and listen, keeping your disagreement on an entirely mental level.  They may be right, in this particular case, and even if not, they may drop off pieces of information which will come in very handy if you file them away carefully in your brain for future reference."  ~Elizabeth Zimmerman

I was helping Cathy with her sock class.  Mostly she sent me the throw knitters.  I tried to teach them how to wind the yarn in and out of their fingers so their knitting speed might increase, maybe even double.   This went along very well until one knitter who was doing a rib stitch showed me her purling method.  I said to her that it was backwards and showed her my way.  Cathy was nearby and said, "No, Susan, Kathy is correct.  Yours is backwards."

You see, I am a self taught knitter.  Well really a self RE taught knitter as my mother did teach me when I was a preteen but then I went on to crochet instead for many years forgetting whatever I had been taught by my mother.  When I wanted to re learn knitting I taught myself from a book that had lots of pictures as I am a visual learner.  Which book, at this point, is better forgotten as I also learned to do my knit stitches as tbl's.  sigh

I practically gave up on lace knitting because I just could not make my work look close enough to the samples.  Then I signed up for a class given by Galena K. thinking I would give lace one more try by being taught by an expert.  On the first evening Galena was looking over my shoulder and told me I was doing the yarn overs backwards.  Huh!  Once I started doing them correctly the lace holes miraculously appeared where they should be and my work started looking reasonable.   She taught me to do a yarn forward which will force the knitter to move the yarn OVER the needle to knit the next stitch just like a yo is supposed to be done.

  Sheesh.  It was ALL backwards.

So once I got over my mental disagreement and succumbed to the fact that even my purls were learned backwards, I looked at my ribbing and noticed it had crooked stitches. 

  Why did I think that was OK for all these years? Was I so blind?  I thanked Cathy and contemplated this whole backwards knitting thing on the drive home.

During the Knitting Olympics I began following this knitting blog as her husband was an Olympic insider so we she posted a lot of neat photos of the Bobsled (Did you notice that the Canadians called it Bobsleigh?) races .  One of her knitting designs, Leafy Hat, uses a great deal of purling. That hat became my teaching tool and muscle memory gym.   Purling still feels awkward and definitely less easy than the way I was doing it before but my ribbing is now straight so that's a plus. I hope I don't develop Elizabeth Zimmerman's aversion to it.


Karen said...

I have always been a thrower, but am trying to teach myself picking, as my knitting needs to speed up a bit, plus it looks more efficient. When knitting in the round, as in socks, I've gotten so that the knitting goes quite well, and having that ability really helps with stranded knitting. I still cannot purl, though. I've read up on it, watched youtube vids, all to no avail. My problem might be that when I knit my left index finger is really close to the stitches, not held up and away. It's all quite frustrating to have to switch back just so I can make a ribbing on my socks. Glad you have it figured out, though - maybe there's hope for me yet.

sawhitney said...

When I first learned to knit about 20 years ago, I was a thrower. When I picked it back up a few years ago, I decided I wanted to knit Continental because I'd heard it was faster--you know, so many projects, so little time. So, I've never gone back to throwing. On purling, however, I've grown comfortable switching back and forth between actually moving the yarn to the front or leaving it in the back (knit) position for a Norwegian purl. I find that on things like seed stitch where I'm doing knit, purl, knit, purl, not having to move the yarn so much saves my sanity. There are many good videos of Norwegian purling on Youtube.

I enjoy your blog!

Michelle said...

Thanks for the story Susan! That's priceless. And the quote from Ms Zimmerman is wonderful.
Love the new colorway btw.
If I ever have disposable income, I'll be buying things from you again.