Why I changed my knitting habits after a couple of decades

Why I changed my knitting habits after a couple of decades

This is a story about how a rug produced a lacy pattern…

2 ways of knitting basic stitches

  • Is there a strict rule about knit and purl stitches?
  • How come some knitters insert the working needle from left to right, while others do it from right to left? Which way is correct?

Knit stitch in 2 ways

I learned how to do knit stitches from my mum’s craft books many years before the Internet. It was hard since I’d learned to crochet before knitting. As my knitting needles didn’t have hooks, you can imagine how difficult it was for me to pull yarn with a smooth, pointed end of a needle. However, the effort paid off. From the above mentioned books I learned to grab yarn by inserting the needle from left to right. Yet, many years later, I discovered that a my friend Vanya was doing the knit stitch by inserting the needle from right to left, which is the common Russian way of knitting as well. This was very unusual for me, but I was intrigued to see her purl stitches. They too were completely differently worked than mine. Unlike me, Vanya learned how to knit from her grandma, and that way is a common style in Serbia too.

The photos below show both ways of working the knit stitch. None of them is a better or more correct way of knitting, it’s just a matter of habit; or, this is how your grandma was taught to knit by her grandma. And that’s all there is to it. However, your knit stitches will depend on the way of doing the purl stitches

Knit stitch - from left to right
Knit stitch - from right to left

Purl stitch in 2 ways

As I said before, the purl stitch can be worked in two ways as well. One of them means that the yarn is wrapped around the needle from above down, while the other method is from below up. I learned to knit by using the second method, and I knitted that way for more than 20 years. In the pictures below you can see these 2 ways of purling stitches.

The first image shows wrapping the yarn from below. This is a much harder way of working since the knitter has to use their finger(s) to pull the yarn through the loop.

The next picture represents the method which means you grab the yarn from above, and this way it’s a lot easier, since it is a more natural movement of bringing the yarn through the previous stitch loop.

Purl stitch Needle below yarn
Purl stitch - Needle over yarn

How the change began

Some time ago my acquaintance Catherine asked me to re-do a cardigan which her grandmother had knitted. I started decoding the lacy pattern from her finished garment, and I struggled for days to get the right number of stitches, loops, rows… As I was going nowhere, and everything I tried didn’t match the original, not to mention the Internet, which gave me no help in finding this exact pattern, I began thinking about my way of doing the purl stitches. What if the other knitter did her stitches the other way?

How to kick the habit

Since many people, including myself, find it very difficult to get rid of their old habits, this pattern had to be simmered in my mind for quite some time. The “rehab” from the “wrong purling”, and the transition to the “right stitches”, i.e. the simpler ones, started with contemplation of that change. In the middle of that mind process I remembered a long bought bulky yarn that was lying around, waiting to become a rug, bedspread or something like that. I also recalled my last use of this kind of yarn, T-Shirt yarn to be precise, which gave me some kind of “mucous cyst” at the root of my left middle finger, and which was supposed to be surgically removed if there hadn’t been for the whole Corona pandemic. I realized that I had been using this exact finger when I did my purl stitches. So, in the end, I was determined to try knitting the other way, like my friend Vanja. I took the bulky yarn, needles no. 8, and… voila! It wasn’t difficult at all! In fact, not only was it not hard to switch to a different method of knitting, but it also became clear that with such thick yarn I wouldn’t have been able to do the purl stitches the old way at all. My hand and fingers would definitely have got tired much more quickly and would have been very painful.

I did it!

After a few rows of knitting with bulk yarn, I went back to the lacy pattern. I knitted and purled using the new method, and managed to create the pattern as I wanted. The purl stitches, which are on the wrong side, looked like the original piece on the right side. Of course, for the knit stitches you also need to adjust your mind, but that was a less demanding part of the job.

So, thank you bulky yarn and mucous cyst! Thank you Katarina for asking me to try your lacy pattern! Thank you Vanja for showing me your knitting style!

The Final Word

Psychologists say it’s useful to get out of your comfort zone sometimes, and change your habits for the better. I believe that making progress, and also maintaining and improving our brain functions, very much depends on changing the way of doing manual labour from time to time. In many hobbies and jobs that require using both hands, it is very useful to try out new methods of work, use the less dominant hand, and, therefore, as experts say, activate the opposite brain hemisphere. By doing so, we broaden our horizons, allow ourselves to look at problems and challenges from different angles than we usually do. In that way, we often make our jobs easier, enhance the quality of work, save precious time and energy.

A beautiful rug emerged from this very big change for me. But not only that – there is also a sense of refreshed living space and my own thoughts. But the most important of all is the feeling of courage for new projects and skills.

How to cast on, Knit & Purl Stitches in 2 ways

And how do YOU knit and purl? Tell us about your experiences and how you deal with knitting challenges in the comments.

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