Stranding is hard: a quick, cranky knitting post

As part of my “learn something new every month” New Year’s resolution, I’ve been trying to teach myself to be more adept at stranded knitting. (For those of you who don’t knit, stranded knitting is when you work with two colors of yarn at once, alternating small groups of stitches in each color, and you carry the non-working yarn across the back of the piece.) I have a couple of lovely new books of Fair Isle patterns for visual inspiration, and yesterday I practiced for a while on a test swatch.

This, more or less, is what was running through my head:

  • I HATE DOUBLE-POINTED NEEDLES. They’re so horribly fiddly. Should’ve just made a much bigger swatch so I could work on circulars. [drops DPN for the 20th time; sotto voce swearing ensues]
  • I cannot, to save my life, hold one yarn in each hand, the way that’s supposed to be easiest. Just. Can’t. Do it. I never taught myself to knit Continental-style, with the yarn thrown over the left hand.
  • But if I keep just picking up one yarn at a time and holding it with my right hand like I’m used to, the two yarns get hopelessly tangled in no time at all. [more sotto voce swearing]
  • OK. Trying the two-hands-at-once method again. I feel like a toddler learning to walk, or something. Am I really that much of a klutz?
  • Dropped the needle AGAIN. [more sotto voce swearing]
  • My method of yarn wrapping is generally inefficient and weird. I should work on that. I bet this would be a lot easier if I were better at holding the yarn in the first place.
  • I’ve been at this for what feels like hours, and this is all I’ve managed to do? Augh.

Attempting Fair Isle knitting (daily photo, 2/12/12)

So, clearly, I have a long way to go. But I keep seeing the most amazing stranded patterns for sheep-themed blankets and Old English socks and all kinds of incredible mittens (mittens with octopuses and koi and beetles on them! astronomical mittens! Cthulhu mittens!), and my desire to be able to make them is greater than my annoyance at my own ham-fistedness. At least I hope so.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more swatching to do. And probably a lot more swearing.

4 Responses to “Stranding is hard: a quick, cranky knitting post”

  1. Rana says:

    If it’s any comfort, I never learned how to hold the strands with two hands either. What I do is hold the yarn entirely in my right hand (also the hand that wraps the stitches; the left is pretty passive through the whole maneuver). I separate the strands slightly so that one color I hold between index finger and thumb when I wrap, one between middle finger and thumb. I put one ball to my right (the one for the index finger) and one to the left (for the middle finger) to minimize the tangling.

    As for the needles? Get wood ones. They’re less slippery, and thus less frustrating! 🙂

  2. It’s so interesting to see what different knitters do and don’t like. I taught myself to knit Continental-style just because I was curious how it worked (turns out I like it), and am thrilled to see a purpose in knowing both! Not that doing both at the same time would be a snap to pick up or anything, but still. (The downside of continental is that I’ve been doing patterns with a lot of plain old knitting, which means my right hand never changes position, and after a knitting session of at least 6 hours on Saturday I have a lovely numb spot on my right middle finger. Oops.) You’re not a klutz, though – I found it immensely frustrating to try to learn Continental on the fly while trying actually to accomplish something with the knitting. I hadn’t had to purl very much until I recently cast on for a sweater, and trying to purl properly and follow the pattern and so on was really annoying! I realized when I taught myself to knit Continental I just practiced a bunch with scrap yarn until I had it pretty well down, so paused and did that for a while with the purl stitch.

    I also quite like DPN, but only because I learned to knit in the round on them (only because the kit I bought came with them). I just started using circulars in the last couple of months, and have to admit they are more convenient (DPNs do love to slide right out of wee swatches!). Rana’s comment about wood/metal is funny to me because I like metal precisely because the yarn slides along it so easily, and I find wood quite “sticky.” But mostly that tells you I haven’t been knitting stuff where sliding easily isn’t much detriment (i.e. not that complicated). Also, I think I knit tightly rather than loosely, so sticky isn’t that helpful.

    Your hard-won results look great, though! Even in the back, your yarn looks nicely managed. And those patterns are all so lovely!

  3. Nina Pratt says:

    I feel your pain. At least you can throw the yarn with one hand. I can’t do that at all and get very toddler-ish when I try to.

    Assume you’ve checked out the several excellent youtube videos? There’s one where this woman is KNITTING BACKWARDS and stranding.

    Try putting your head under a pillow and moaning. Very therapeutic, even if it doesn’t help with the stranding.

    Stranding. As in whales on beach?

  4. Amanda says:

    It certainly makes me feel like a stranded whale on the beach, that’s for sure!

    I think the root of most of my problems is the fact that instead of carrying the yarn over the index finger and keeping it wrapped around the little finger like you’re supposed to, I always wind up wrapping it several times tightly around my index finger and letting it dangle. (Probably that’s why I’m a tight knitter, too.) I never figured out how to get it to lie over multiple fingers without just falling off my hand. So I have a hard time carrying it on my left hand, but I’d also have a hard time carrying two yarns on my right hand. I think I have to re-learn how I handle the yarn in the first place, which is kind of a daunting prospect.

    Anyway, thanks for the encouragement, all!