For my birthday, my husband purchased me a copy of June Hemmons Hiatt’s The Principles of Knitting. Let me put a disclaimer on this post. I love this book and have enjoying reading it. For the price, I have to love this book and I really really do. I have flipped through the pages and enjoy Hiatt’s matter-of-fact information and techniques. She is no Elizabeth Zimmerman or Barbara Walker but the book is an excellent reference for the overly curious knitter.
But I have a beef with Ms. Hiatt!!! She acts as if Continental knitting is a backwards, unflattering, and the illogical way to knit. She says on pages 5 and 6 “there are some problems in bringing the yarn through the stitch, which make this a problematic method of knitting , although widely used.” She cited the following pros and cons with this method – 1) the way the yarn is wrapped around the finger causes problems with “precise tension”; and 2) that “many specialty stitches are a problem” because the yarn is picked instead of thrown. She does admit that this method of knitting is good for stranded colorwork.
She states that the best way for a left handed person to knit is using the mirror knitting method. Now that is a backwards way of knitting – literally!!! She states “there is no real necessity for the left-handed person to learn a special way to knit – after all, one knits with two hands. I first learned to knit English and did everything the opposite and when I started knitting more complex patterns, things really got interesting and not in a good way. In mirror knitting you have to think all the time. Now what is the fun in that. Knitting is supposed to be relaxing. I love when I get a pattern in my fingers and can zone out.
After about 2 years of knitting backwards, I discovered Elizabeth Zimmerman and taught myself to knit Continental. My tension is better. I knit faster. And I purl faster. I think this a typical case of a right handed person not understanding why left handed person can’t do it the right handed way. Well, Ms. Hiatt, I think all knitters – which ever hand is dominant – should learn to knit whichever way was comfortable to them. I know English style knitters and Continental knitters and I don’t think that any of us hold the needles the same way or hold their yarn the same way but we all knit and purl and the final result is the same. So I say knitter’s choice.
I love Principles of Knitting. I don't have a copy but I borrowed one for a while – lucky you. I think it's great that she doesn't take anything for granted and goes back to basics and really works out for herself what's what. But she is not perfect – I have just been reading her advice on doing buttonholes and it is SO complicated! And yesterday I saw soneone knitting continental fashion for the first time, and it was so blindingly fast that I shall have to investigate further.