Is There A Right Way? Posted on 10 Aug 14:38 , 1 comment

Several times, recently, I have encountered people who knit the way I do. For many years, I would not knit in public, because I always seemed to elicit comments such as: WHAT are you doing? That’s a weird way to knit. Where did you ever learn THAT? Don’t you get crossed stitches? Good grief, that’s not right. So I just stopped sharing my knitting.

When I started my shop and doing handspun for others, I figured that I really need to test drive my yarns to make sure that they actually worked well, had a nice hand, the colors looked good, etc. A couple of years ago, my sister-in-law, Bea, made samples with me and was puzzled by my knitting. In the meantime, I bought some ‘How-to” discs with the intention of knitting the RIGHT WAY. It was such a struggle to relearn something that I had been doing one way for nearly 60 years, to say nothing of the fact that it just seemed SOOO inefficient and purling was so much harder. It was discouraging. Sigh.

During the next visit from Bea and family, she mentioned that she thought that I was knitting in Eastern European or Russian style, that is, through the back of the loop on the knit stitch. There’s a NAME for this? I started investigating and sure enough, that is exactly what I was doing! I was so excited, I had a legitimate form of knitting! No more hiding what I was doing.

I learned to knit from my Latvian grandmother. Born in a small village on the border with Russia in 1884, she grew up as an illiterate shepherdess. She may not have been able to sign her name, but could that lady KNIT!. You might have seen Latvian mitten patterns, (check this out if you haven’t: well, she had hundreds of pattern motifs stocked in her head. Never did I see her knit from a piece of paper or pattern, whether it was mittens, hats, socks or sweaters. She was 70 when I was born and  died in her mid-nineties, knitting until her last days. I had plenty of time to learn from her.

What about those immigrant women whom I had met, one in a knit shop and the other in a class. Those who had learned to knit in the same way that I had, from their mothers or grandmothers? I asked if they had any trouble with translating any of the lace stitch patterns. Oh no, they each said to me. They didn’t have any trouble at all because they had relearned to knit “the RIGHT way.” I was saddened by this. There is such a strong prejudice against alternative styles of knitting that people reject their own heritage. Hey, I’m guilty too. I was learning the “right way” until Bea gave me legitimacy through her research.

Why would we trust strangers who have written books or blogs more than the instruction from our most near and dear? Why would we give up a method that is easier on the hands and is a faster method of knitting?  Yes, I know that there is much lip service given to “Anyway you knit is just fine.” That’s OK in theory, but in practice, if you knit differently, you can easily be intimidated by raised eyebrows,  incredulous comments or just subtle inferences that you are somehow doing something wrong. We could all stand to be a bit more sensitive to this in our fibery lives and in our regular lives as well.

By the way….here’s the knit and purl stitch in Eastern European or Russian technique of knitting:

Russian Knit Stitch (through back)

Russian Knit Stitch (through front)