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Although I don't knit every day, I'd say my knitting level is intermediate to advanced. The results that I get are good, but I feel I can improve my knitting speed. (And that 'just practice more' won't help.)

So, what techniques are used by people who can knit very fast?
I'd like to find out if there is something I can do as well, to improve my knitting speed.

I'm knitting continental style (and am right handed).

8

I have a couple suggestions. If you knit in the French Method, try the German Method. If you knit in the German Method, try the French Method. Try a peg loom knitting. Or even machine knit. Else Weave & Sew, an entirely new topic.

Knitting with the yarn in the hand opposite the working needle (i.e. the left hand if the knitter is right-handed) is commonly referred to as Continental knitting, German knitting, European knitting, or left-hand knitting. The term 'left-hand knitting', however, is discouraged by left-handed knitters because it leads to misunderstandings. Unlike English knitting, the tip of the working needle is used to hook the yarn and bring it forward; the motion is thus sometimes known as picking. Continental knitting can be done at a greater rate than English knitting, as the stitches are formed closer to the needle points and the yarn has a shorter travel...

English knitting, also known as right-hand knitting or throwing, is a style of Western knitting where the yarn to be knit into the fabric is carried in the right hand. This style is prevalent throughout the English-speaking world, though it is by no means universal.

Other Western knitting styles include continental knitting (also known as "left-hand knitting") and combined knitting. Despite the names, choice of knitting style has little to do with the handedness of the knitter; plenty of left-handed individuals use the English style, and plenty of right-handed knitters use Continental. Various non-Western styles also exist, many of which are substantially similar to these, but which twist each stitch, making for a subtly different-looking fabric... but this can also be called French Knitting...

  • Could you try and expand on your points? as is this is more a comment on the question than a useful answer. – bowlturner May 2 '16 at 2:09
  • @bowlturner, more specific definitions added, but depending on your geographical location, the Name may be different. Here in Iowa, We have German and French. Not "English" ... – Joel Huebner May 2 '16 at 2:43
  • Only here to serve :) – Joel Huebner May 2 '16 at 2:48
  • Thank you! I'm knitting continental style (and am right handed), I'll give the English/French style a try. It probably needs more than a single row to find out if it actually is faster for me. – Ji Ugug May 2 '16 at 17:29
  • It will take a couple of weeks or even months to get faster in the other method, but being able to do both is worth the effort in my view. – Willeke Dec 12 '17 at 18:55
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One piece of advice I've seen consistently in articles and videos on this subject is to make whatever knitting technique you use highly efficient. You want to make your movements as small as possible.

The other thing you'll want to do is try to use pair the yarn fiber/type you're using with a needle material that will allow you to knit with relative ease. If you pair a slippery yarn with a smooth knitting needle, it will be harder to keep the stitches from sliding away from you. You'll likely have to grip your work harder to keep it in place and that will slow you down. On the other hand, if you pair a rough yarn with a rough knitting needle, it can be hard to move the stitches at all. Extra effort to move the knitting along the needle will also slow you down.

  • Thanks, this looks like finetuning my current technique, instead of trying something completely new. So this is probably the more effective solution in the short term. – Ji Ugug May 4 '16 at 16:32
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It's very true, as BSMP says, that using small movements is helpful. Here are some additional ideas:

  • Make sure your fingers and hands don't have unnecessary tension. To achieve this, it can be helpful to ensure you are in a warm enough room that your hands aren't cold. If your left index finger is stretched out straight in order to achieve the tension you need, your hand will not be sufficiently relaxed. You can slow down the flow of the yarn with your fourth and fifth fingers (left hand); thus, you don't need to wrap like crazy or straighten your left index finger (all of which would slow you down).

  • Along the same vein as the previous point: aim to keep the flow of the yarn constant through the fingers of the left hand. And aim to keep the flow of the yarn out of the ball constant. More will be explained about how to accomplish these things.

  • Don't do a lot of wrapping of the yarn around the fingers -- you want to control the tension (flow) of the yarn in other ways, so that little or no time is wasted with re-wrapping.

  • Draw the yarn from the center of the ball, not the outside. In other words, don't waste time chasing the ball around the room, untangling a skein, or dusting dirt or hair off your yarn. Consider storing the yarn ball in an old sock -- especially when you're getting towards the end and the ball isn't holding together as well any more. The sock can help the loose ball hold together until you've knitted to the very end of the ball.

  • Some yarn is sold in nicely wound balls that lend themselves to neat pulling from the middle, but many yarns are not. If your yarn is not in an ideal ball, then make one. This does not take very long once you're used to it, and it is well worth it to wind a nice pullable ball. The keys to winding a comfortable to pull, stable ball that will sit where you put it:

    • Don't wind it too tight.

    • Start with a small figure eight and then start wrapping (leaving the tail hanging out so you can pull from the middle). Progress counter-clockwise. The top and bottom will not be exactly the same -- you want the bottom to be more flat than the top, so the ball will sit stably on the floor or whatever surface you put it on.

    • Alternate between a wrapping phase (a couple of full trips around the ball) and a plain cylindrical winding phase (where you just go around the middle of the ball again and again, making the ball fatter). After some of the cylindrical winding, gradually ease into the top-to-bottom wrapping again.

    • In your cylindrical winding phases, try to avoid covering the absolute north pole, because otherwise, the yarn you're pulling out will be tight and you'll have to tug.

    • When you're done making the ball, tuck the final yarn end under something to keep the ball neat.

    • If you are rewinding yarn from a large skein, don't try to get all of it into one ball. You should be aiming for medium-sized balls, not giant balls.

    • Here is a succinct youtube video showing a leftie preparing a center-pull ball of yarn, using an extra tool, a cardboard tube, such as from a roll of toilet paper. It can be done without the cardboard tube but I think the video helps get my idea across.

  • Joel wrote that "Continental knitting can be done at a greater rate than English knitting, as the stitches are formed closer to the needle points and the yarn has a shorter travel." I started out as a continental knitter and for many years believed that English knitting couldn't achieve the same speed as continental, but then I went to a knitting club and saw someone knitting at least as fast as me, but English. The key is exactly what Joel said about forming the stitches close to the points of the needle. When you are knitting English, as you might want to do for example in two-color knitting, you will be able to zip along by working small and close and relaxed -- the same advice as for continental.

  • Knit in the round whenever possible. Consider using Elizabeth Zimmerman's machine reinforce and cut straight down the front when you want to make a cardigan, rather than knitting back and forth. (See her book Knitting Without Tears.)

  • Avoid set-in sleeves and choose designs that involve raglan or saddle sleeves instead.

  • Design your article from measurements rather than slavishly following a pattern pamphlet that requires you to constantly check the print directions.

  • Use knit-in yarn or string markers liberally so that you can eyeball the spacing of your increase or decrease rows (for example when making sleeves). These short pieces of yarn can easily be removed when you're done.

  • Initially, stick to the knit stitch while you are building up your speed. Later, you can bring in the purl stitch again, and fancy patterns. To stick to the knit stitch, either knit around and around, to achieve stockinette; or knit each row, back and forth, in garter stitch.

  • Find the type of needle that works well for you. Me, I like teflon and bamboo but you just need to try things out.

  • When you're knitting in the round, don't use too short or long a circular needle, as you can lose time bunching things up or stretching things out, as you go around.

  • Don't use straight, single-pointed needles. You will progress quicker, be more comfortable, and avoid poking your neighbor on your next airplane flight, if you use a circular knitting needle, even when you are knitting back and forth.

  • When knitting with a set of double-pointed needles, don't work in such a way that the needles are constantly slipping out of the stitches and falling on the floor, because getting the stitches back on the needle will slow you down. Consider using five needles instead of four, to avoid those looser stitches at the beginning and end of the needle. If your yarn is very slippery, you'll need sticky needles and you'll need the stitches to hug the needles a bit tighter than normal, to prevent the needles from falling out.

  • Double-check the measurements of your output frequently, and examine the knitted fabric for dropped or defective stitches. No matter how fast you knit, ripping out will definitely slow you down. Carry a sketch of the finished measurements with you in your knitting bag, along with a tape measure and small ruler.

  • Use the narrowness of the point of the needle to your advantage. The diameter is smaller there, so if you are working almost at the tip, you'll be able to make smaller movements.

  • This is probably the most important tip of all: train yourself to knit without looking. My mother told me that my aunt could knit in the dark at the movie theater. When I heard this, I challenged myself to learn to do that. Through this process my ergonomicness improved and my speed increased substantially.

  • WOW! This is excellent, detailed but easy-to-understand advice. Thank you for sharing your experience and expertise. I'm saving this. – user1798 Dec 22 '17 at 17:39
  • @abbie - Thanks. The part I'm most worried about is how to wind a ball that can be pulled from the inside. Do you think a video is necessary? – aparente001 Dec 22 '17 at 17:58
  • A video is always a helpful tool, especially for beginners or visual learners. You may not have to create one, there may be one on youtube already that demonstrates your technique. Thanks again for the great resource! – user1798 Dec 22 '17 at 18:11
  • @abbie - Okay, I selected a succinct video and added a link. Thanks. – aparente001 Dec 22 '17 at 18:20
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Do you have a local yarn store you can go to? Most of the stores by me have "drop-in" sessions of classes at a reasonable cost, and you could ask for the teacher to watch you knit for a few minutes and then give you suggestions to improve your technique, or ways to change your technique to improve your speed. My local yarn store owner is well versed in multiple ways of knitting and can explain what works best for knitting fast and why. I'm sure any local yarn store owner could help you out too!

  • 1
    This is useful information however does not really answer the question and would function better as a comment. The OP, and not necessarily other users, might not have access to those resources. Do you have any personal experience and techniques you have used that you gained in such a way? – Matt May 5 '16 at 2:43
  • IMO @Miranda Graves' answer is quite helpful - having an expert knitter assess your knitting efficiency first hand, and provide specific intervention suggestions, is superior to just seeing words on a page, knitting is not like Ikea assembly. Of course, if the OP doesn't have access to an expert, then reading what people suggest without them knowing how/she currently knits (I'm not talking about French, German, or English, I mean things like yarn tension and economy of movement), then it's a shot in the dark. – user1798 Dec 8 '17 at 5:04

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