Lisa’s List: 5 Tips for Faster Knitting + Why You Shouldn’t Care
Have you ever given yourself a knitting deadline? Perhaps it was for a gift—I have to finish this hat by Elaine’s party Friday night. Or you had to finish the “hard” part of a project before a trip, so you could cruise through the mindless section while traveling. Or, perhaps, you were being paid by a publisher to make a project for a magazine, or you were publishing your own pattern and had to finish the sample in time for a scheduled photoshoot.
When you’re knitting to a deadline, a little bit of the pleasure goes out the window. And speed becomes critically important. Some years ago, I wrote a book about knitting and had to make 10 sweaters in 6 months. The manuscript deadline was right there in the contract I signed—knowingly signed—and I was committed to finishing in time.
I did not love every manic minute of deadline knitting on those sweaters, no. But I loved the project overall, and I scheduled myself for hours of knitting every weekend. I’ve always been a swift knitter, but during that project I mastered some special techniques that sped up my progress.
Whether you have a knitting deadline looming or are just looking to speed up a bit, here are my faster knitting pointers—regardless of your knitting style (English, Continental, yadda yadda).
5 Tips for Faster Knitting
1. Avoid distraction. Before you sit down, hide your phone, get a long playlist queued up, or put on a movie. You do NOT want to be reaching for a device, even a remote control, while you knit. During a speed knitting session, your needles should not stop moving. Tell the hubs/kids/roommates not to talk to you during this time. Give the dog a large bone.
2. Use the right tools. For me, this means pointy metal circular needles. I like circulars because I can’t drop one needle; because I never lose one of a pair; and because they’re flexible and can hold a lot of stitches in a comfortable way. Addi Turbo Rockets are a great choice if you like metal circs. They have extra-pointy tips, which make for easy stitch insertion. Insertion is key to quick knitting, because every time you fumble with a duller needle to find the opening to the next stitch, you’re losing time and rhythm. And the stitches slide easily on metal, so your next stitch is quick to jump to the needle tip.
3. Pick the right chair. There is one position that I knit fastest in—cross-legged with lots of room to either side for my flying elbows, and slightly tilted to the left so my right arm can make quick, unfettered circles (I am an English-style thrower). A narrow chair with arms doesn’t work well, nor does a shallow seat that can’t fit my whole bottom while cross-legged. Experiment and see what position works best for you, then find a chair that accommodates that position.
4. Learn to knit without looking. If you’re watching TV or referring to a pattern, you want to be able to make stitches while looking away from your needles. This takes practice, and for most people is easiest to master while working knit stitches in stockinette. Keep a stockinette-in-the-round WIP in your bag and practice this technique while running errands, in meetings at work, at the movies, etc. At Interweave, a lot of people knit during meetings. I only do this if I have a simple stockinette piece on hand, so I can look up and visually pay attention to people and presentations in meetings, while continuing to knit. It’s a very handy skill to have!
5. Do not knit while you are tired, compromised by too much wine, or in the company of really funny people. Save the social knitting for a project that doesn’t have a deadline! You are more likely to miss a decrease, knit too far, or make some other mistake while tired, tipsy, or talking. Deadline knitting is for sad, lonely, isolated people with big chairs, untouched booze, and not enough time. Every mistake and every frogged row puts you further from your goal, so save the fun for later. When you have a FO.
An alternative title for this list would be: “5 reasons you don’t want to be a professional knitter.” Deadline knitting isn’t like other knitting; there’s a lot of pressure, frustration, tendonitis, and missed fun times doing other things. I strongly advocate that you knit for the love of it, as much as possible. Don’t give yourself too many deadlines. Unless you’re designing for Interweave, in which case—you better make your deadlines!
These days, I mostly only knit for the love of it. But you know what’s interesting? The same needles I used for fast knitting are the needles that I enjoy most in general. I like the Turbo Rockets because, when I’m distracted, tipsy, and talking to my besties while knitting, I can look away from my work and still successfully find that next stitch, thanks to the pointy tips.
I love working with metal needles, since I work with a lot of toothy wool. Wool tends to catch on wood and bamboo, and even some plastics, but on metal, wool glides like a dream. This means I’m not constantly tugging on my work to make the stitches progress along the needle.
I worked with the folks at Skacel to develop the exclusive addi Turbo Rockets fixed circular set a few years ago, and it continues to be my go-to needle set for everyday projects, deadline-driven or not. I never have to look for a missing tip—common for me with interchangeable sets—and the 32” length is great for everything from shawls to sweaters in-the-round, or anything worked flat in pieces.
Get your Turbo Rocket set today and try out some of my speed-knitting tips. Or better yet, make a date with your besties, grab some wine, and knit for the love of it. These needles will only increase your love!
Be a Rocket Star,
Featured Image: We are betting these ladies were swift knitters under any circumstances, but remember that going at your own pace often holds its own rewards. Photo by ©Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images.