Sunday, January 17, 2016

How fast?

I getting asked, "How fast can you knit?"

Knit what kind of yarn?  What grist of  yarn?  On what size needles? In what pattern?  At what tension?

It is obvious that both the grist and the construction of a yarn affect how fast it can be knit.

The design, absolute size of  the needles, and the size of the needle relative to the grist of the yarn affect the rate of knitting.

The stitch being knit is critically important to how fast one can knit.  For example, stockinette knit flat is much slower than stockinette knit in the round.

People that want to be speed knitters practice with the yarns and needle types and sizes acceptable in the standard knitting contests.  I practice with the yarns and needles that produce the fabrics that I like rather than what is acceptable under knitting contest rules.

So, a while back I was in a knitting group, knitting along on US1 needles with a knitting sheath  at a good pace.  I had gotten there early and had been knitting for a couple of hours. A lady sat down next to me, and began to knit using US6 needles and  the newly popular Irish Cottage technique. Everyone mentioned on how fast she was knitting, but said nothing about how fast I knit, despite the fact that I was knitting 8 stitches for every 5 stitches she knit. Anyway, she knit for ~3/4 of an hour, put her knitting aside, sat and chatted with the group as a couple of us continued to knit.

Since then, I have doubled my knitting speed, while she still knits with the same technique at about the same speed.  Thus, I now knit at about 16 stitches for every 5 stitches she knits, but if you ask the most of the members of that knitting group, she knits much faster than I do.

But then, I use smaller needles, I use flat ended needles, I use gansey yarn, and I knit stockinette in the round. It is not a level contest.  If I was knitting woolen yarn, flat, with big needles, I would knit slower.

When she knits a sweater, it has about 25 stitches per square inch.  When I knit a sweater for wearing around town, it has about 88 stitches per square inch, so we knit at about the same number of square inches per hour, but with a knitting sheath my knitting is almost effortless, and I can do it all day, while she is lucky to do it for an hour.  The point is that knitting fine does not mean that an object must take longer, because fine stitches can be knit faster because the motions can be smaller.

In the days when I knit with Addi Turbos, I looked at the old stories of  knitters knitting at 200 stitches per minute,  the knitting of Hazel Tindall and Miriam Tegel, and considered the stories implausible.  Today, I consider 200 stitches per minute a reasonable pace for certain kinds of knitting. It is not a pace that can be sustained for very long, but for bursts of stockinette, it is feasible.  


John said...

Good Morning Aaron,

I have been knitting for over 20 years and spinning for over 10 years as two of my favorite activities. In observing patterns for the last two decades, it seems that most knitting patterns are decorative rather than functional. Or, especially in the case of sweaters "for men", patterns are often designed for the pleasure in knitting rather than the pleasure or utility in wearing. I also find that the sweaters I make are not terribly durable, lasting a few years of easy wear before getting thin at the elbows, etc. I enjoy hiking, camping, and being outdoors, and I would like to design a few sweaters that are functional and a durable substitute for some of the high tech outdoor wear sold sporting goods stores.

I decided I needed to research several things before I could proceed. One of the places I thought to begin was real fisherman's sweaters, which were durable work wear created to withstand the elements. This search quickly brought me to your blog. I am blown away.

I've learned most of what I know from library books and experimentation, but I have always considered myself a competent knitter. I have never even heard of most of the things you do and tools you use. I am truly impressed, and also very excited about having another aspect of knitting to explore.

I would like to start learning the technique of knitting you do, the specialized tools, or thorough consideration you give to the fiber. I'll be making my way through your many posts, but my question is this: Would you be willing to make a post about what books or references you have found most helpful in your own work and perhaps advice on where to obtain some of the tools you use? I think you create many of your own tools, but are they available elsewhere?

I am happy to have found your blog. Thank you for your work here.


Aaron said...

Welcome John.
Good points, all!
Will write that up.