Friday, May 11, 2007

Left-Handed Knitter?

While I was browsing through some of my knitting books the other night, I stumbled upon this little gem...

... which I really have to take issue with, and couldn't let pass without comment.

As someone who doesn't knit 'the right handed way', it's my experience that there are very few patterns that need any alteration at all to the instructions as written, mostly due to the symmetrical nature of the human body, and just about any object you are likely to want to knit. For the most part, I just follow the instructions exactly as they are written, or read any charts provided as if I was going to knit it 'the right handed way', and everything works just fine -- after all, does it really matter if I start knitting each row at the left-hand edge instead of the right-hand edge, or that the piece I knit from the pattern instructions is the right front instead of the left front, as long as I'm aware of this and attach it to the correct side when I sew the item together, and remember to put any buttonholes on the appropriate side for the sex of the recipient? In general, the only time I bother with altering the pattern instructions in any way is if there is a motif in the design which really needs to be worked so it faces a specific direction -- an alphabetic character, for example. I actually quite like that some of the things I knit are mirror images of what everyone else is knitting as it gives them a bit more individuality, even though you'd have to be very familiar with the original pattern to appreciate that individuality -- I look on it as the knitter's equivalent of an in-joke. ;) In any case, I have serious doubts that there are patterns that will be impossible to knit, simply because you are knitting your rows in the opposite direction.

I also take issue with the idea that the problem for left-handers is all to do with controlling the yarn, and that simply choosing to work using the Continental method will solve that problem. My experience is that no matter whether you choose to knit using the English or the Continental method of holding the yarn, it will be the right hand that is actually doing most of the work if you knit 'the right handed way', which, when all is said and done, is why right-handers knit in that direction in the first place. It is only by switching things around so that you're working in the opposite direction that the left hand becomes the dominant working hand when knitting, which for me feels a lot less awkward and far more natural than knitting 'the right handed way', and was well worth the extra effort it has taken me to learn to knit that way.

The one thing I do agree with is that a knitter who does decide not to knit 'the right handed way' will inevitably have to face the fact that how to knit instruction books are almost invariably written and illustrated from the point of view of right-handed knitters -- 'Knitting Through the Looking Glass' is actually a bit of a dig at the large number of knitting instruction books where the only concession to left-handers is a note telling us to view the illustrations provided through a mirror -- and that most of the knitters they will meet will knit 'the right handed way', so any instructions received from these sources will need to be switched around. In my own case, I was lucky enough to have a left-handed aunt who helped me get started by showing me how to work the knit stitch when I was having difficulties learning how to knit 'the right handed way', which gave me both a starting point and an understanding of what would need to be switched around when learning something new from a right-hander or from instructions intended for a right-handed person. Thank you, Auntie Lois! :) Without your help I'm sure I would have given up on knitting long before I worked out that simply switching the direction around would make everything far less awkward for me.



At 9:18 am, September 15, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also am a very much left-handed knitter so I was pleased to read your note. I feel exactly the same way. I do find that sometimes my brain gets a little tired from "thinking" right-handed on some things. I tried making a sock and just gave up but I still would like to make one. Thanks again.

Nancy Ricker


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