***07/21/13: I updated this post here.***
One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is downsizing my possessions. I have many things I never use, for instance, a yarn stash and knitting books from back when I used to knit. Shoulder surgery reduced my moderate knitting speed to a crawl. It’s not that I can’t knit anymore – it’s that I have trouble maintaining interest when it takes me so long to complete a project. I decided I had to make my peace with knitting by either increasing my speed or giving away my yarn stash and books. I began by looking for a way to increase my speed and discovered lever knitting.
In lever knitting, the right needle is held in a fixed position and only the left needle is moved instead of the standard moving two needles approach. The idea is to make the knitting more machine-like and therefore quicker. Keeping a needle in a fixed position is accomplished several different ways. Some knitters use long, straight needles and hold one end under their arm. Shetland knitters use a knitting pouch and capless needles which are put in the holes of the pouch. In pre-industrial England, knitters used knitting sheaths. Knitting sheaths were wooden and had a hole to put the end of the needle in. They were stuck through a belt or apron to fix them at the knitter’s side. Knitting sheaths allowed one-handed knitting.
If you do an Internet search you will find many beautiful examples of knitting sheaths. Young men often carved them as a gift for their betrothed. I wanted to try a knitting sheath but wished to make one as simply as possible. I realized all it required was a hole in a block of wood, so I drilled a hole in a piece of scrap wood. Not handsome like the carved examples I found but functional! I’m posting this picture of my plain sheath to demonstrate that even if your sweetie does not have the carving skills of a pre-industrial male, he can still make you a knitting sheath. Or, if he can’t operate a drill, perhaps you can make it yourself. I tried to drill a hole the size of the needle’s cap, but the drill bit was slightly larger so I stick a piece of fabric in the hole so the needle will be held firmly.
After knitting just a couple of rows, I was able to increase the speed of my knit stitch by 54% and the speed of my purl stitch by 33%. Presumably as I practice, my speed will increase even more. A fast knitter might not increase her speed by as much as I did but might find trying the sheath worthwhile given the minimal investment. Another benefit of lever knitting is that the reduced motion saves wear and tear on a knitter’s shoulders.
Have I made my peace with knitting? I’m not sure! I’ll have to see if I knit often enough and quickly enough to finish any projects. Fair warning, Stash: you’re not safe yet!