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Ria + June | Episode #3 Knitting Methods, Part I

Greetings, and welcome to winter! Those of us in North America are pretty excited about finally getting to pile on the knits, but I know my friends at Zealana HQ are happy to be shedding theirs. I’m also excited to say we’re finally getting to some actual knitting in the Principles of Knitting journey!

As you may remember from my last post, I’m working slightly out of order and splicing in (knitting pun INTENDED) information on knitting materials, which is found at the end of the book. Episode #3 marks the start of Part One: Learning and Methods, and I quickly realized that I needed to tackle this in very small chunks, the first being methods where the yarn is held on the RIGHT.

Before we get into that, June points out that all methods produce the same stitches and same fabric, but differ in how yarn and needles are held; these things determine how the yarn is wrapped and what movements are used to form the stitches. Geography may have provided original terms but in so cases they’re inaccurate or interchangeable and might be misnomers. That’s just one of the reasons June prefers to describe exact actions rather than using common terms.

She offers us a bit of encouragement, reminding us that while learning is easy, change is hard, especially when underused muscles are involved. She suggests making a swatch then throwing it away, or using novelty yarns that hide mistakes. Personally, I knit a whole sweater in the round and forced my hands to use the new method exclusively, even though it felt terribly awkward at the beginning.

You can watch the video above to hear and see all of this information, but here is a review:

Tensioning the Yarn: personal to each knitter, must be done smoothly and automatically, must be balanced, even and consistent; certain things an be fixed with blocking but it’s best to try to start with good tension; in the UK ‘gauge’ is called ‘tension’; this makes more sense to me, because a knitter’s tension determines stitch size.

Right-Hand Method: often used when teaching brand new knitters, June calls it the “Cinderella” of methods as it is a bit clumsy and much maligned. Yarn is held and tensioned with the pinching fingers; it’s well suited to beginners as they don’t have the frustration of wrapping and tensioning the yarn supply, but because of this it is not very fast.   

Right-Finger Method: with this method, the yarn is wrapped around fingers in such a way that it feeds continuously from the yarn supply; this increases speed and evens out tension.

Knitting Belt or Sheath Method: these are all supported needle methods, highly ergonomic and efficient; developed in 19th century Great Britain/Shetland Isles, the supported needle acts as a fulcrum and the other a shuttle; also known as cottage style, lever style, Irish. It’s mobile! Difficult to find the belts, known as makkins, and the needles, which are long and double-pointed.

Parlor Method or Pencil Method: developed by Victorian women for aesthetic reasons;  belts were too utilitarian and under the arm not refined so they held it like a tea cup; it is inefficient and can cause great strain on thumb.

Join me next time when it’s back to yarn talk!

CR

 

Ria + June | Episode #2 Wool

Hi everyone! I’m diving into Principles of Knitting, but straying just a bit from June’s recommendation to work from cover to cover in order. I had fiber on the brain after getting back from the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, so I thought I’d skip ahead to Part 7 Materials, Chapter 27 Fibers (page 539). I quickly realized that WOOL deserved its very own posts, so I’ll be tackling non-wool fibers another day.

Knitters who knit with wool already know that wool is an amazing fiber. In just a few pages, June illuminates WHY. I’d like to stress that this project isn’t intended to replace her book–I’ll only be touching on the highlights, and facts I found especially interesting.

It’s clear that June favors natural fibers, and so do I, but she allows for synthetics when they make sense. It’s interesting to note that technology hasn’t been able to replicate what nature does so well in wool. People avoid working with wool for a lot of reasons, but June manages to counter all of them with sound logic.

Cost is an issue, but she echos Cat Bordhi is urging people to save up for the best materials they can afford–your knitting deserves this, and your purchases encourage future textile production.

Allergies are another roadblock, but June points our that animal fibers are made up of keratin, the same protein that comprises human hair and nails. Its a contentious issue to be sure, but even people suffering from wool irritation tend to fall silent in the face of soft, smooth Merino (the type of wool used in every Zealana yarn).

One of the most interesting facts I read was that Queen Elizabeth I won Merino sheep from the Spanish Armada, which in turn fueled the British wool industry and the expanding empire. That means Zealana wool may have royal lineage!

Another fun fact: fleeces are shorn in one piece and they average about 10 pounds. I was curious and did the math. That equals about 90 50 gram balls of yarn, or about 8-10 adult sweaters. It’s an inexact science of course, as some of the weight will be lost in the scouring process that removes “barnyard,” dander, grasses, seeds, lanolin and whatever else the sheep happens to be hiding in its coat.

Watch the video to learn even more about wool, and to see a bit of footage from my trip to Rhinebeck!

More soon,

CR

Ria + June | Episode #1 Introduction

This first edition of Ria+June contains an overview and a bit of background on my attempt to work my way through The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons-Hiatt. I was inspired by writer Julie Powell’s attempt to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French CookingI’ve always felt that June’s wonderful book could benefit from the same treatment*. It’s an intimidating volume, full of information and the thought of a formal, long-term commitment feels right. Selfishly, I also know I’ll emerge a better knitter…

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