I decided to dedicate one whole post to yarn tension in Eastern knitting but, before I say anything about the ways of tensioning yarn, I would like to say a few words about knitting styles and try to make a distinction between two terms that are often confused: knitting styles and knitting methods.
1) Eastern Uncrossed knitting (introduced in my first post), like Western Uncrossed and Combination or Combined knitting (sometimes also called "Russian knitting") is a stand alone knitting method and, by all means- it is a METHOD.
By "method" we mean a set of rules that need to be respected since in each of the above mentioned methods, fabric is created in a specific manner.
It is very important to stress, though, that all knitting methods create the same type of fabric. Still, depending on the method we use, we approach knitting differently. In their book "Knitting in the Old Way" (great book!), Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and Deborah Robson actually refer to methods as "the approaches to knitting" and I quite like that term.
There are three main factors that determine a knitting method:
- stitch mount (or the orientation of the stitch),
- the way we approach the stitch with our working needle and
- the direction in which the yarn is wrapped around the needle,
The difference between knitting methods is the most important difference in knitting as patterns written for one method often need to be adjusted for another one. Otherwise, they won't "work".
In addition (and although switching between methods is very easy and can be done any time during knitting) it is not possible to switch to working in another method without re-setting or re-mounting the stitches (i.e. you cannot take a piece started by a Western knitter and simply continue knitting the Eastern way- you would end up making twisted stitches).
Everything else- the way you hold or tension your working yarn, the hand in which you hold it etc. - is a matter of style and entirely optional.
2) Besides the names underlined in the first paragraph, we often see terms like: Continental, English, Portuguese/Bosnian etc. These are just STYLES and can be applied to absolutely any knitting method.
Knitting styles are determined by various factors like the distribution of knitting tools/materials in our hands, the technique of tensioning yarn or motions we use to create stitches. As you can imagine, there are many variations: you can hold the yarn in your left hand or in your right hand. You can hold the yarn in your left hand and wrap it around the needle with that same hand or you can pick it up with your right-hand needle. And so on.
But, one thing is sure - the way that the yarn is tensioned is the crucial element of each knitting style.
It is important to say that
- knitting styles do not affect the appearance or the structure of the fabric,
- knitting styles do not interfere with knitting methods
- all method/style combinations are possible.
Before making purling, we can hold the yarn either in the back or in the front of the work. At first glance, this (apparently) huge difference may give the impression of two completely different knitting methods.
But, regardless of whether we bring the yarn to the front at the very beginning or immediately before purling, in styles, it will eventually be brought in front of the working needle (maybe not in front of work but in front of the needle definitely).
Briefly, we can do it this way or the other but, as long as the stitch mount, the side of the stitch into which we knit and the direction of yarn are not disturbed- we are talking about one knitting method.
So, as you can see, although a style is the most 'visible' element of knitting, the differences between styles are minor and neglectable in terms of achieving the desired result.
And, now, having said all this, I still have to conclude that this classification often causes a lot of confusion. Which is not all that strange, after all, knitting is not quantum physics! We invent different terms for better understanding but we also get all tangled up in them on regular basis. That is why it is always better to knit than to talk! :)
The main cause of confusion is hiding in the fact that methods and styles are occasionally confused and you will often hear people saying that they "knit Continental ". This isn't generally a huge problem but it can be annoying for knitters who need to adjust patterns for their own method. Continental is a style, not a method, and it doesn't answer their main question- Can I knit this without changing the pattern?
So, when you find a pattern you want to knit- make sure you know what method it is intended for (it is especially important in lace knitting! Cables, for instance, often need no interventions. Or almost none! ).
If the info says that the pattern is written for Continental or English knitters - ask again! :) All the chances are that it is actually a pattern for Western knitters but- ask again!
All the names (both for methods and styles) that we now commonly use are imported from English speaking, Western countries and, since Western (uncrossed) knitting is the predominant (or "default") method in most West European and New World countries, as frustrating as it can be for knitters who practise other methods, it is expected that some differences will, occasionally, be neglected and that styles and methods will, every now and then, be thrown into the same basket.
So, can we simply call styles in different methods differently too? We could- if we had the names for them. Be we haven't got any! :) Don't ask why- I don't know! But, I could think of at least a zillion potential reasons for that. Namely, unlike in the New World where a single language is spoken across the whole continent, in Europe, there are sometimes more than 10 languages in a region smaller than a single US state. :) Different cultures do not communicate as easily and intensely as a single one and, obviously, finding a universally acceptable name for a style in (an almost marginal) hobby is usually a mission impossible.
A few names that have popped out in the past and become "accepted" are mainly just adjectives derived from the names of regions in which a certain style is mainly practised. But, even in these cases, the names are generally recognised only by knitters who live outside that region or country :).
Portuguese people will probably simply tell you that they - knit. It is us from other countries who say that that their style Portuguese.
So, for now, we're 'stuck' with the globally accepted, English names and terms.
Is it OK, then, to say that you're an Eastern uncrossed Continental style knitter?
If it describes your knitting style and helps you explain it to another knitter better then it is, by all means OK! :)
Now, having demystified this, let's move onto the practical part!
Bosnian or Balkan (aka Portuguese) style knitting
This style is commonly called Portuguese knitting by Western knitters but it also exists on the Balkan peninsula and is, under the name Bosnian knitting, even sometimes mentioned in western literature.
Since it is the only style with a proper name among Eastern knitters that I can think of (and usually associated with Eastern method knitters), I will call it Bosnian.
There are no real differences between the two styles except, maybe, one- Bosnian style knitters do not use pins or holders that you can often see in Portuguese knitting.
The specific thing about this knitting style is that the yarn is tensioned around the neck (which is a great source of inspiration for dark humour jokes among husbands and mother-in-laws of women who practise this style :D ).
Luckily, Donna Druchunas, who's article about Bosnian knitting style was published this autumn in Knitty magazine (the link will take you to the article), has saved me from having to undertake the dangerous mission of wrapping my self in yarn and posing for photos to show you what this style actually looks like (and my friend Sunny from having to witness all that- she is a volunteering photographer, after all, not a National Geographic corespondent.)
So, as you can see in the picture, the yarn is simply hanged over the neck and controlled with fingers in front of the work.
This is what it looks like from knitter's perspective!
|This photo looks scary- I like it!|
|The yarn is controlled with fingers|
Sounds crazy? The system is actually quite simple- whenever possible, knitting is done in circle and the knitter is always facing the inner side of the tube (or the WS side). Sleeves, hats, mittens, sweaters, socks...all tubes! Easy! Well, most of the time, anyway. I don't know if it has anything to do with how the purl stitch is made in Eastern uncrossed but, personally, I prefer purling over knitting as well and often make sleeves that way too. I also purl all garter rows.
But, what remains a mystery is- how an intarsia pattern can be knit from the wrong side of the work?!
It has to be possible, of course- complicated stranded colourwork is actually the most recognisable type of project in the region where this style has been practiced for centuries (socks from the article are a great example).
But, it is quite amazing! Nordic knitters have invented steeks to avoid purling with multiple colours. At the same time, deep in the south of the same continent, colourful socks are purled from the beginning to the end.
Yarn tensioned over the index finger (aka Continental style)
I believe that this style doesn't really require much explanations - it is probably the most common style among knitters of all methods.
|Continental Eastern Uncrossed knitting|
In Continental style, the yarn is tensioned over the index finger and usually simply "scooped" with the right-hand (working) needle which allows the left hand to rest on the other needle most of the time.
On the RS, the system is pretty much the same as in Western knitting only the needle is inserted into the stitch from a different angle and the yarn is wrapped in the opposite direction.
|Eastern Uncrossed Continental knit stitch- yarn wrapped clockwise|
You can see this style in motion HERE.
When it comes to purling, there are two main sub-styles.
The first version is, again, almost the same as in Western Continental.
The yarn is brought to the front and is then picked up with the working needle and pulled through the old stitch.
|Eastern Uncrossed Continental purl stitch 1|
You can see this style in motion (both knits and purls) in THIS video. (Disregard the title- it says Combination but what is shown in it is really 100% Eastern Uncrossed knitting).
The second way of making a purl stitch in this style often looks quite odd to knitters who are used to the standard Continental purling but is, actually, the very same thing only achieved in a slightly different manner.
In this version, the yarn is always held in the back of the work.
Before purling, the yarn is in a "sandwich" between the needles; behind the left-hand needle and in front of the working needle.
The needle is inserted into the stitch from the back (and under the yarn).
With a tiny motion of the right hand, the stitch is 'opened' (the 3rd photo above) and the yarn is brought in front of the needle, scooped and pulled through the old stitch (shown bellow).
Again, this stitch is exactly the same as all other Eastern uncrossed purl stitches- the yarn may be in the back but, right before purling, it is brought in front of the needle and wrapped around it in the proper direction. The stitch mount also remains intact.
Here's a VIDEO.
Yarn wrapped around the index finger
I think that the majority of knitters who use this style on regular basis were originally crocheters as this is the most common way of tensioning yarn in crochet.
The yarn tensioned this way is somewhat inflexible and requires constant adjustment and finger movement.
Just like in the previous (Continental) style, the working yarn is usually simply scooped with the right hand needle and pulled through the old stitch.
The system is not much different on the WS either and both versions of the purl stitch mentioned under Continental style an be applied to this style as well.
Left-carry Throwers, "Yarn in a basket", Tension Without Tension, The Old School Style...
I'm sure that all of you have seen at least one picture like this one so far. Of course, knitters don't usually sit on a tree branch :) (I only picked this graphic because I really liked it :D ) but the ball is almost always on the ground and, many times, in a basket. The purpose of a basket is quite obvious; it prevents the ball from rolling away and catching dirt. But, why is the ball on the ground?
In many books about the history of knitting I have read that, traditionally, one of the most important factors in knitting is- gravity! A ball placed on the ground can "feel" the knitter's need for more yarn. In addition, its position allows the gravity to take active part in knitting and to unwind the ball when necessary, releasing some extra yarn for the knitter.
In my opinion, this style just might have a lot to do with the story about the knitter called Gravity.
But, in order for this principle to work, there should be no blockages between the ball and the knitter's hands- the yarn should be allowed to move freely. In reality, this is done by holding yarn between index and middle finger of our left hand.
Since, in this style, the yarn is too loose to be picked up with working needle, when making a new stitch, we need to wrap it around the needle using the tips of the thumb and the adjacent finger (index or middle finger) which makes this style a rare example of knitting in which both hands are equally engaged.
|Wrapping yarn around the needle on RS|
|Wrapping yarn around the needle on WS|
I have mentioned quite a few names in the title of this section but but I have to say that they are all provisional. The truth is- western terminology still hasn't come up with a good name for this style which makes me very proud as this is my style. (I like being a UKO -Unidentified Knitting Object).
Using "English throwing" as an analogy, we could say that knitters who practice this style are simply Left-carry Throwers.
Videos of this style in motion can be seen in my first post about Eastern Uncrossed knitting.
Right-carry throwers (aka English style)
Given that English style is quite popular among Western knitters, I thought it deserved to be mentioned here but I have to say that I don't recall ever seeing an Eastern Uncrossed English style knitter. It appears that knitting with yarn in the right hand, just like knitting backwards, is mainly reserved for left-handed knitters.
That, of course, is not to say that Eastern Uncrossed knitting denies this style as it neither encourages or discourages knitters to hold their yarn in a specific manner but, generally speaking, English style or right-carry throwing is definitely not as popular in the East as it is in the West.
In my next post about Eastern Uncrossed knitting I'll be talking about yarn overs and twisted stitches. Stay tuned!