Look Ma! Two hands!!!

I've reached a pinnacle point in my knitting career...I've learned to knit fair isle with one color in each hand!!! For some of you this may seem like celebrating boiling water, but for me it's an accomplishment! As many of you know I'm completely self taught, and I learned how to knit in the English style with the working yarn in my right hand from an old booklet. Sometimes the method is called British or throwing. I'm VERY right hand dominate! I'm not ambidextrous in any sense of the word. Being able to play piano is nothing short of a miracle, but I often use only chord progressions with my left hand so I don't have to compete with the rhythm of the right hand. I've tried writing many times with my left hand (just in case I lost the other in some freak tragic accident--don't say you've never thought about it) and I honestly think it would look better if I tried to write with my feet. I've tried playing guitar several times and I look like I'm having a petit mal seizure!

Needless to say, every time I've tried to give continental knitting a go it always ended up with frustration and disappointment.  I've had no real reason to knit in the continental style with my yarn feeding from my left hand.  People argue it's faster, but I've seen English knitters knit just as fast especially if they use the Irish cottage technique (as the yarn harlot). Besides, I'm not in a race when I knit.  I do it for the process, the meditative qualities and to prevent myself from going postal.  Continental knitting should have been a natural transition for me from being a crocheter for over 10 years, but it wasn't.  Some knitters also argue that it's better to ward off carpal tunnel syndrome, but actually the opposite is true. Making larger movements involving not just wrists and fingers, but whole arm movements will stay off CTS longer than repetitive smaller movements.

Let me clarify. I have absolutely nothing against continental knitting, and I think being able to knit in a multitude of ways can be very beneficial; something else you can add to your knitting bag of tricks. However, I tend to get a little miffed at continental knitters who look down their noses at us English knitters.  I definitely subscribe to the "Knitting police don't exist" philosophy. A very good reason for learning continental, however, was discovered with my initiation into fair isle. I love fair isle knits. They are so beautiful! The first time I saw "Henry VIII" by Alice Starmore I nearly cried it was so handsome. The problem arose when trying to knit with two yarns being handled by my right hand.  With the way I knit (which is a little non-conventional with the yarn wrapped around my right middle finger) it was nearly impossible to do, so I had to resort to the "drop and pick up method." It was not only tedious and inefficient, but just plain tiring.

One day as I was perusing Ravelry I came upon the "Hansa Mittens" by Tuulia Salmela.  I was compelled to grab some yarn from my stash and knit those mittens no matter how long it was going to take!  After knitting the hemmed border and the Latvian braid (my new favorite border) I said to myself, "Mill, why don't you give two handed fair isle one more try?  What's to lose besides all of your self confidence and a finger?"  So I wrapped the CC around the fingers in my left hand and the MC around the fingers in the right, took a deep breathe and EUREKA!!!  I was going at it two fisted (oh, you know what I mean)!  It was a miracle!  The more I kept going, the more I sort of got into a rhythm.  By the end of my first mitten, it almost felt...dare i say...natural.  I present to you the fruit of my loins labor...

Ain't she a beaut!  I lurve her!  Now I just need to finish her mate.  The obvious modification I made was to make it a fingerless mitten.  It never really gets cold enough in New Orleans to warrant full mittens, and making them fingerless allows me to wear them and knit at the same time.  I used Knit Picks stroll kettle dyed in soot and gloss sock yarn in dolphin.  I knit the cuff/border with US0 Clover, takumi velvet bamboo dpn's and used US1 DPN's for the body.  

When I knit fair isle, I prefer not to go beyond 2-3 stitches when I'm carrying the unused yarn without weaving.  For mittens it's very practical so you don't get fingers caught in the floats, but it's also a personal preference. You can either twist or weave the carried yarn.  I like weaving.  It's pretty and once you get the hang of it, it's quick and simple.  Different knitter's will give you different numbers of stitches allowable between floats before "catching" them with the active yarn.  Common sense will be your guide.  I would tell you I don't give a damn what the backside of my knitting looks like, but it would be a lie. However, I would NEVER turn up the edge of anyone's sweater to check the wrong side of their knitting. Not only do I think it's horribly rude, but I'm honestly not concerned about what your wrong side looks like--only mine; however, if you want to show me I'd be glad to oblige with jovial ooooh's and ahhhhh's at your tidy backside (no pun intended)!  I'll be happy to show you mine even if you don't want to show me yours...

A note about knitted facings...I've become very fond of hemmed facings and implore their use in quite a bit of my knitting projects these days.  This particular pattern even called for it, so this is knitted as written except for I used the cc on the facing before switching to the black.  I don't knit my facings in place as I come to them.  I prefer they flop about curled up and will stitch them into place after I'm done. You may be wondering why I do it that way.  Well, a couple of reasons.  First, I don't like that little speed bump looking ridge you get on the right side when you knit the facing in place.  Second, no matter how contrasting your facing is in respect to the MC yarn, you will never see the contrasting hem color peering through on the right side which will sometimes happen when you knit it as you go. Lastly, on larger circumferences when you knit the cast on edge of the facing together with the main yarn to tack it down, the whole hem will tend to flip outward a bit and sometimes completely upside down which bugs the heck out of me!  I will usually cast on 10% less stitches than my pattern calls for (if it doesn't include that tip for you) and will knit the facing with a knitting needle 1-2 sizes smaller.  I will increase back up to the written stitch count at some point after the turn.  That point will be dependent on the project.  For the mitten my increase round occurred after the purl ridge turning row in the MC (black).  I will typically use a long tail CO to start the facing leaving a long tail for sewing.  When i'm ready to tack the CO edge down, I'll use a sharp darning needle and catch the outtermost stitch on the CO row and pierce one stitch on a wrong side row of the main body.  The TechKnitter has an excellent tutorial on this technique and this is what it looks like...

See! Nice and tidy. To make the mitt fingerless, I stopped at a logical row of the pattern before the decreases would have begun for the top of the mitt, and worked the same as the beginning cuff in reverse ending with the CC yarn for the facing.  So now I just have to knit the other mitten. You know, one of these days I'm going to start up some type of knitting internet exchange for mittens and socks. You could pair up with a partner and each pick a sock or mitten pattern you'd like to make.  You would knit one sock or mitten and your partner would knit the other and then switch to complete the pairs. You would still have to knit two mittens or socks, but they would be a different yarn and/or pattern so you wouldn't get bored, thereby alleviating the dreadful second sock syndrome (sss).  BRILLIANT! 

Next time I will be sharing with you a beautiful pair of socks I knit for mommy dearest from Cookie A. Now, for God's sake, go and knit something!!!


  1. Ok, much better. The font is not gigantic anymore!!!

    The mittens look awesome. Wanna try Henry 8 again? I have the kit and we can do a 2-along.... :)

  2. Love your new look and the mittens. Great job. :)

  3. Those are fantastic! Where do I send my size?


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