One of the things I do when I am knitting, just to keep it interesting, is force myself to learn new things. After all, they say that the best way to defend yourself against some of the nastier old age problems is to keep physically and mentally active, and what better way to keep mentally active then to be constantly challenging oneself to learn new things.
For example, I continually have had difficulty knitting without resting the left needle against something, which isn’t so big a deal except that it lets me be lazy and not have to hold onto the left needle as well as I’d otherwise need to, plus it makes knitting when standing up nearly impossible. So lately I’ve been working on learning how to hold the needles away from my body, so I can hold them higher up (it certainly makes knitting in the car on the way down to the in-laws less prone to give me a neck ache from having to look down so far (and before you all have hissy fits, my husband was driving because when I am behind the wheel and the car is not in park, yarn and needles stay safely tucked in my purse)).
Another example – I think it’d be a good idea for me to get better at knitting without having to pay so much attention to what I’m doing, so lately I’ve been taking advantage of any opportunity to force myself to look up, and focus only on feeling the stitches instead of seeing them. It came in quite handy on Halloween, as a matter of fact, when we turned off all the lights because we’d run out of candy, but I was able to keep on knitting. So far I can only do it in stockinette, but I figure the rest is only a matter of practice and time, and really, it only takes a little more concentration than before.
And that leads us to the latest thing I’ve realized I need to learn when it comes to knitting. One of the things I’ve continually had a problem with during the entire two or so years I’ve been knitting is that I have uneven tension between my knit stitches and my purl stitches. It’s not usually a huge problem, but in some cases it’s obvious (like when doing a lot of cabling, because that all takes place on a purl background, and the uneven tension is *far* more obvious on the purl side than on the knit side), and as much as I concentrate on it I haven’t been able to figure out to fix it. That is, until I stumbled across a reference that suggested that maybe, just maybe, the problem wasn’t in how tightly or loosely I was doing the stitches. Maybe the problem was in how I was doing the purls in the first place.
You see, I’ve always wrapped the yarn under the needle when purling. It’s the natural movement for the yarn, and it goes so quickly that it never occurred to me that it might not be the ‘right’ way (and I use the term ‘right’ loosely because I’ve been told I also hold my yarn weird in my left hand, but it works for me so I figure that ‘right’ really has more to do with what works best for the individual knitter as opposed to trying to match something in a book). But the other day I sat down and decided to give the other method a try, wrapping my purl stitches over the needle instead of under. And what do you know? Perfect stitch tension, row after row. Hmm. Two years of trying over and over to puzzle through why I could never seem to get the tension thing figured out, and all it took was a change in how I move the yarn.
Sigh. The ‘under’ method is twice as fast as the ‘over’ method, although as I continue to force myself to wrap the yarn the awkward ‘over’ way, it’s getting more smooth, so I am holding out optimism that I will eventually regain my former speed. But still, I do have to laugh a little about this. And I also have to wonder how many other things I’m going to figure out along the way.