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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thumb Flick Knitting

I'm a tri-lingual knitter! I can knit English (right hand holds the working yarn), German (left hand holds working yarn) and now Portuguese (yarn worn around neck and stitches are made with a flick of the left thumb).

Granny T taught me English style knitting as a child. She wanted me to knit a million little squares to sew into a doll blanket. I never got past one blue square and one pink square. It was so hard (Do I go right to left or vice versa? How come I have more/less stitches than last time? My needles fell out - again!) yet so boring (Let's undo that row, dear, you made some mistakes....) that my knitting hobby lasted only as long as my grandmother's visit. 

I picked it up again when I was 20. I started a scarf for my then boyfriend but the knitting curse befell me. Before I was finished, he was my boyfriend no more. The next two gentlemen in the boyfriend lineup thought they should get it, or better yet, have one made especially for them. The thought of having to knit 3 fine wool scarves was enough to make me throw away my needles. 

<Cue the sound of a ticking clock> Thirty-five years went by. I found out I was going to be a grandmother.... In my joy, I decided to knit a baby blanket. My friend, B.A.D. (I get such a kick out of her initials - irony at its best), showed me how to knit English style and then for fun, she taught me to knit in the German/Continental style. 

I loved the Continental style. Even though my stitch tension wasn't as even as when I knitted English style, making the knit stitch was fast and easy. The purl stitch, however, was a different story. It was awkward and slow. I gravitated to things featuring the garter stitch or knit in the round.

Two years later, realizing I had to get over my stumbling block, I decided to make a sweater requiring the purl stitch. 

With the oodles of practice, I did get faster, and "picking" the stitch was less awkward. But my stitch tension fluctuated like the temperature on a maritime spring day.

I'm a huge fan of Sally Melville's how-to series, The Knitting Experience.  In her second book, The Purl Stitch, she outlines how to purl with the yarn around the neck, taught to her as Portuguese knitting. Intriguing. 

I ran across another reference to knitting with the yarn around the neck in Maggie Righetti's book, Knitting in Plain English, only she called it Arabic knitting. (Like all styles of knitting, naming it from a geographic location is awkward because more than one nation uses it.) 

Thoroughly intrigued and more than a little frustrated with my purl stitch, I googled "Portuguese style knitting".

Isn't the internet a marvelous thing! From several YouTube videos, I was able to get the gist of it. The working yarn goes around the neck, and stitches are made with the left thumb. I tried it. It was love at first flick. 

Helpful as they were, the YouTube videos weren't quite enough; I need more information. Then I realized one presenter, Andrea Wong, had made some commercial dvds on Portuguese style knitting. Fortunately, the local public library owned them, so I swooped in and picked them up. 

Wow! Oh wow! Thumb flicking knitting is fab-u-lous!

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