Hi everyone! Time for another installment of Ria + June. The first post about knitting methods covered in Principles of Knitting discussed all the right hand holds for knitting and purling. You can find that video and blog post here. In this episode I share the left hand holds, along with some interesting variations and thoughts on left-handed, combined and bidirectional knitting. By the way, I’m knitting with one of my favorite shades of Zealana Heron, H12 Honey.
You might think, “I already know how to knit and purl, why should I read any of this?!” Well, I agree with June’s thinking that it is always worthwhile to look at alternate methods, for a few reasons. You can potentially increase your speed or reduce risk of injury, and you can become much faster at two-handed stranded knitting.
In the video above I mentioned stitch mount, which refers to how a stitch is mounted on the knitting needle. It’s a very subtle thing but it makes a huge difference with how your finished fabric looks and how you work certain stitches. I recommend this fantastic blog post for a closer understanding of stitch orientation, or mount.
I also mentioned that the reigning queen of combination knitting is Annie Modesitt. Her book Confessions of a Knitting Heretic is considered canon for knitters who are always being told they don’t knit the “right” way.
Hiya! I’m diving back into my trusty copy of the Principles of Knitting to learn more about fibers. For the most part I’ll be reading this book cover to cover, but I’m skipping ahead to part 7 this week to learn about the materials that make knitting possible. Yarn obsessed? YES.
We’ve already heard what June has to say about wool, but there is much more to the fiber world than the fluffy stuff found on sheep backs. Chapter 27 has loads of facts about wool, the most commonly used fiber and specialty wools like mohair, cashmere, quivit and our favorite, possum. A lot of these fibers fall into the luxury category for their fineness (rated by microns, with lower numbers indicating finer fibers) and for their relative scarcity. Cashmere goats, for instance, only produce a few ounces of down per year. Some animals, like vicuña and guanaco from Peru, are only shorn every third year, making their fleeces even more precious than cashmere!
Bison fiber is on the rise and while it resembles sheep’s wool in many ways, it’s an ideal candidate for those with lanolin allergies, as it has none. The most fascinating section was the one on silk. June explains the terminology that often goes along with silk, words like ‘mulberry’, ‘tussah’ and ‘raw’; she even explains the cause of the distinctive odor of raw silk (you’ll have to read to find out).
Lastly, June covers fur fibers like Angora and possum. While the brushtail possum found in Zealana yarns do fall into this category, it’s a free-range fur, not raised for the express purpose of yarn production. Zealana yarns use brushtail possum fiber in an effort to correct an ecological imbalance. The resulting yarns are as soft as cashmere and because of the hollow core of the fiber, they’re warm and lightweight. June states that it’s usually blended with merino wool, which is absolutely true, but Zealana has expanded on that even further with unique blends like Kiwi and Kauri, which include organic cotton and silk, respectively.
These high-performance yarns prove that blending fibers is a way to coax the best from each, and to even out the inconsistencies or flaws in every fiber. A bit like a yarn cocktail, the sum is often greater than its already great parts.
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.
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. It‘s 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!
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 Cooking. I’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…
Greetings! Cirilia here, writing from Seattle where we’re sadly admitting to ourselves that summer is officially winding to a close. As I pack up my picnic supplies and recycle empty bottles of sunscreen, I am cheered by the trappings of what I have always considered to be the true new year–back to school!
While most of you may be beyond school age, I think we can all agree that knitting is a craft that benefits from an academic approach. The more I delve into knitting, the more I find to study. I truly think it’s a hobby that can last a lifetime, and no other book captures this sentiment quite like June Hemmons Hiatt’s Principles of Knitting.
I first encountered the original version of this hefty volume in a library in Western Massachusetts. Many libraries treat the 700+ page behemoth as a reference book, but this particular library allowed it to be checked out, which I did. Often. Once I learned that the out of print tome was considered a collector’s item, I treasured my access to it even more.
Knitters everywhere were thrilled to see the book republished in 2012, fully revised. I snapped up a copy, and then something odd happened. I shelved it away, happy and secure in the knowledge that I could consult this knitting encyclopedia whenever I needed to. Months and many projects slipped by and I kept doings in my usual way. My knitting skills, while serviceable, were stale.
Then, I remembered June. June Hemmons Hiatt, the sparking wit behind the most comprehensive book on knitting ever written. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a Vogue Knitting Live event, and her humor and encouraging teaching style stayed with me. I pulled the book from my shelf and thought, I should knit my way through this.
It’s an idea inspired by blogger and author Julie Powell’s journey through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. When I asked June if anyone had attempted this, she shared Lara Neel’s tweets, notes compiled during a very speedy read-through of the book June casually calls POK.
I plan to work cover to cover and to share my impressions and explorations as I progress. I’ll be using Zealana possum yarns and posting to our Instagram and Facebook accounts. I’ll also be uploading vlogs on YouTube. While I am a professional knitter, I think you’ll find that I am by no means an expert! I have much to learn, and I’m so eager to share it with all of you.
Happy “new” year!
P.S. Ria is my nickname, the one I use at coffee shops. It still manages to trip people up–I’ve picked up cups that read ‘Bria’, ‘Ree’ and ‘Ra’ (no, I’m not the Egyptian sun god…). You don’t even want to know what happens when I use my real name! I hope this title serves as a catchy, fitting homage to the ladies who inspired it.