Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Knitting Sticks or Sheaths

The title refers to an old knitting implement used to anchor one end of the right knitting needle in the traditional method of knitting in Europe and Great Briton. In this method the stitches were formed using the left needle, and the yarn was controlled with the right hand. The right hand also pushed stitches down the right needle. The power of this method is it allows the stress of knitting to be transferred to the large muscles of the upper arm and shoulders. This method allowed the hand knitting very tight fabrics rather rapidly for extended periods of time without stressing and damaging the wrists.

While many of our older knitters were trained to tuck the end of their right needle under their right arm, this tends to inhibit upper arm and shoulder movement thereby defeating the most valuable aspect of the traditional knitting method.

Both English knitting and Continental knitting can be performed so that most of the stress is transferred to the large muscles of the upper arms and shoulders. However, with circular needles the tendency is to use smaller movements generated in the hands and forearms. When people knit tightly on circular needles, they are frequently placing unsustainable stresses on their wrists. And, when knitting fine stitches, the use of hand and forearm muscles instead of the larger and more powerful muscles is even more pronounced. Unless you are really watching your knitting form, knitting a fine gansey on circular needles is an invitation to wrist surgery. Compare that to the knitters using the traditional knitting method that knit 6 or 8 ganseys a year, for year after year.

While I fully understand the problem, I have not gotten very far up the knitting stick learning curve. I made a couple of knitting sticks (and of course all the required DPN), and I am learning to use them. It is hard.

One knitting stick is made from olive wood. It was cut green, whittled into an elongated “S” that could be tucked under apron strings (authentic), allowed to dry, sanded smooth, and holes to fit # 1 needles bored into each end of the “S”. With 7 ½ inch needles it should be good for socks, but so far it has only been used for pattern swatches.

The other knitting stick is patterned after an old Peruvian design, sort of like an antelope jumping with the hole for the knitting needle where the head would be. It fits in the bottom of my knitting chair and is for the 18” gansey needles. Again, so far it has only been used for needle testing and gauge/pattern swatches.

This finishes an overview of what I had to learn that was not in the books about Ganseys. Soon, I will cast on to knit a traditional gansey on 5 long needles.

1 comment:

marie said...

aaron, i have 3 books on knitting guernseys but none show how to knit with the stick. Do you have a tutorial on this with pics?