Four techniques to try to improve knitting speed

I was recently knitting in front of my dad when he remarked, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone knit that fast before. Holy crap.” I had to laugh because while I know I’m a fairly fast knitter, I also know that I don’t hold a candle to some of the true speed knitters out there. I was curious as to just how fast I actually do knit so I did a little short time test the other day and I figured out that with knit and purl averaged out and all the time it takes to turn rows and everything, I knit plain stockinette stitch at around 65 stitches per minute. Fast, but a quick internet search reassured me that there are many women out there knitting at 80+ stitches per minute. I then found myself on this page talking about Lever Knitting, something I hadn’t really seen in action before. I’ve heard of flick knitting before for throwers, and have even used it a little here and there (though I’m so fumbly with it that I usually get frustrated after about 2 rows and switch back to the trusty ol’ continental I’m used to.) I was inspired to try out this Lever Knitting (aka Irish Cottage knitting aka peruvian knitting aka just another method of English Knitting) and I was pretty excited about it for a number of reasons–not the least of which was the fact that it is supposedly a very ergonomic way to knit.

When I knit, and when I crochet, I pretty much hold my yarn, my hook, and my needles all the same way with both hands.

At the time of this writing, I’ve knit and crocheted about 26 baby sweaters since late this summer. In this process there have been plenty of times when my hands have gotten a little tired (to say the least). While I get a little bit of tension in my shoulder and, when crocheting, my right wrist, the biggest problem I have is in my thumb. This is because my thumb is always holding the needle and hook the same way.

[holding crochet] [fast knitting can take it]

I have tried messing around with holding the needle and hook with different hand grips, but I can never quite get over how awkward it feels, so I generally just work through the pain. (I don’t want you to think I’m doing serious, permanent damage here, it’s really not that bad of pain, it’s just noticeable fatigue. I do take breaks and stretch and everything else too.)

But, with this whole lever knitting thing, I don’t even have to hold the right needle if I’m knitting flat, and the way you hold the needle for shorter needles is totally different–you don’t even use your thumb. And, unlike with flick knitting, I was really getting the hang of lever knitting very quickly. I’m super stoked to try this out on a few projects and have an alternate method of knitting so I can change things up while hopefully maintaining speed–I got a lot of knitting to do, I can’t be slowing down too much. I’ll probably never stop continental knitting, but I like the idea of having a variety of methods to go to.

I was so excited about it that I wanted to post a round up of lever knitting videos but then I got it in my mind that it would be done to do a whole post about different ways of knitting faster and make my own videos. So here you go. Four techniques for knitting faster: Continental knitting, Lever Knitting, Flick Knitting, and Knitting Faster by Taking it Slow. If you are looking to improve your knitting speed, you can try out each of these different ways of knitting and see which ones you’re the most comfortable with: that is probably going to be the one you’re going to have the most luck gaining speed with.

Whenever you’re trying out a new way of knitting it’s going to be awkward and slow at first. Keep practicing and stick with it, you’ll definitely get faster over time.

These videos are not intended for anyone who is looking to learn to knit, they’re more for if you already know how to knit but are interested in trying out some new techniques to knit faster. I don’t go into much detail about basic stitch formation, I just try to show you generally how you hold your yarn and work knit and purl stitches for each method. You might find that you prefer to tension your yarn differently than I do or hold your needles a little differently–I strongly encourage you to experiment and find what works for you.

Side note: My dogs were really excited to get to cameo in these videos. I apologize if they’re a little distracting (: I also did little intros and outros for each one in case people found them elsewhere on the internet, so don’t mind the plugs. You’re already here and you rock for being so!

1. Continental Knitting

This is how I knit, and it is well known that continental knitting can be very fast knitting–especially in comparison to traditional English knitting. I learned to knit continental early on as a knitter–I did originally learn to knit with throwing but since I taught myself I tried both methods. I don’t exactly remember why I stuck with continental, though I doubt speed actually had anything to do with it because I’m sure I was very slow when I first started out. When I teach people to knit I generally teach them this way because I think even though there are ways at getting faster with English knitting (ie all of the ways below) I think it’s easier to get faster with Continental knitting from the get go.

2. Lever Knitting

This is the one I’m so excited about. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is the big name in lever knitting (She also refers to it as Irish Cottage Knitting) and there are a few videos out there of her doing it without holding it in her armpit. I believe she teaches workshops on this, and she is an incredibly speedy knitter. I think this method is probably the way to get the fastest at knitting, and I can see why. I’ve barely even knit anything with it and I’m already definitely better at it than I ever was with flick knitting.

3. Flick Knitting

Though I talk trash about it (“I’m no good at this” is totally talking trash, right?), I have seen some videos of some amazingly quick knitters who flick knit. If you can get the hang of it (which you can!) you can get really quick at this. Flick knitting isn’t altogether very different from lever knitting, I think the biggest difference is how you hold the needle and in some instances how you hold the yarn.

4. Knitting Faster by Taking it Slow (ie Just Knit More)

Okay, okay, so this really isn’t a technique, method, or way of knitting faster at all. But I want to make a point anyway: Knitting fast is fun and all, but it’s not the key to knitting success. The key is to knit a lot. In this video I knit very slow, but I try to make a point: Knitting is about enjoyment, and you’ll get a lot more out of knitting frequently then you will out of just knitting fast. I’m not the only person to ever talk about this, Eunny Jang mentioned it in her blog before, I’ve seen it discussed on many a forum, and I’m almost positive I’ve heard some podcasters talk about it before (though I can’t remember specifically when and where.) It’s still a good point.