Big Snafu

My Adventures in Awkwardness

Rudimentary Knitting Sheath


A rudimentary knitting sheath allows one-handed knitting leaving the other hand free to take terrible pictures.

***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!

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2 thoughts on “Rudimentary Knitting Sheath

  1. Wait… so the sheath holds the needle? I’ve never heard of this! Nifty.

    • Yep, the sheath holds the needle allowing one handed knitting if you hold the yarn in your left hand (Continental style.) If you throw with your right hand (English style), you must still use two hands but can use a much smaller, more efficient motion for your throw.

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