Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Further thoughts on lever knitting

More and more proper lever knitters are coming out of the woodwork!  Sarah who enlightened me to my method of knitting is a prodigious knitter, and very speedy, to this end it was assumed that she must be a continental knitter!  When she disclosed that she was a lever knitter immediately she was linked to the Yarn Harlot as if she (Sarah) must have learnt from her.......  No I always knitted this way was her response - the debate continues :)

But the assumption rekindled my interest into the history of knitting and variety of stitches available today and the complexity of  knitting terminology.

One of my favourite knitting books is Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby, not just for the lovely designs, but for the potted history of knitting and the early design books or knitting manuals.  One thing I find most fascinating is the lack of abbreviations, this comes from Miss Lambert's My Knitting a book published in 1843 and it included an explanation of the terms used in knitting and I can't resist listing them here:

To cast on.—The first interlacement of the cotton on the needle.
To cast off.—To knit two stitches, and to pass the first over the second, and so on to the last stitch, which is to be secured by drawing the thread through.
To cast over.—To bring the cotton forward round the needle.
To narrow.—To lessen, by knitting two stitches together.
To seam.—To knit a stitch with the cotton before the needle.
To widen.—To increase by making a stitch bringing the cotton round the needle, and knitting the same when it occurs.
A turn.—Two rows in the same stitch, backwards and forwards.
To turn.—To change the stitch.
To turn over.—To bring the wool forward over the needle.
A row.—The stitches from one end of the needle to the other.
A round.—A row, when the stitches are on two, three, or more needles.
A plain row.—That composed of simple knitting.
To pearl a row.—To knit with the cotton before the needle.
To rib.—To work alternate rows of plain and pearl knitting.
To bring the thread forward.—To bring the cotton forward so as to make an open stitch.
A loop stitch.—Made by bringing the cotton before the needle, which, in knitting the succeeding stitch, will again take its own place.
To slip or pass a stitch.—To change it from one needle to the other without knitting it.
To fasten on.—The best way to fasten on is to place the two ends contrariwise, and knit a few stitches with both together. For knitting, with silk, or fine cotton, a weaver's knot will be found the best.
To take under.—To pass the cotton from one needle to the other, without changing its position.
Pearl, seam, and rib-stitch—All signify the same.

Very different from the detailed abbreviations and charts from today's patterns.  Miss Lambert's receipts which were not exactly precise and must have assumed some experience in the knitting department.

For Example these are the first two rows for Scotch Lace design suitable for a shawl:

Cast on seven stitches for each pattern.  First row—knit two; knit two together; bring the thread forward, knit one; bring the thread forward, knit two together.—Repeat. Second row—plain knitting.

Not exactly Row 1. k2,k2tog,yo,k1,yo,k2tog.  Row. 2. Purl

I particularly like 'to narrow' which is achieved by knitting two stitches together.  Not for Miss Lambert the right and left leaning decreases that form a major part of lace knitting today.

That brings to me another reason for lever knitting - left leaning decrease is so much easier with this method and the English throwing method than with the Continental style where the yarn is in the left hand. 

I had never heard of SSK until I downloaded some American patterns on Ravelry, so I course I had to Google the abbreviation to discover what in the world was a SSK - well of course it is a left leaning decrease which involves slipping two stitches individually and then knitting them together either through the front or the back according to which YouTube video you watched.  Complicated or what? A lever knitter does the whole stitch in one smooth action - well I do!  I put the right needle in through the first stitch and then out through the back of the second and knit them together - voil√† one left leaning decrease - well guess what the Yarn Harlot invented this method - really??

I was taught that way by my Grandmother and Great Aunt over sixty years ago - think that the Brits invented that one Stephanie! 

A little PS - Set up everything yesterday to film this technique and guess what every blinking camera in the house had a flat battery and the spares were flat too - so demo to come at a later date (-_-;)


  1. Another brilliant post! Yet again I agree with you! I had come across SSK in patterns and wondered what the hell it was.... surely it's only knit 2 tog. through the back loop? You don't have to do all this silly passing stitches backwards and forwards.....just knit them together in one go! Hang on a mo' don't get me started on another rant!!

  2. Thank you! I just couldn't believe what I reading about the SSK! Think we need a UK Lever Knitting Group on Ravelry........

  3. Going to collect some Border Leicester fleece from a lady who sold you some fleece at Masham! Small world isn't it! She wants to know if you have any photos of projects you done with it?

  4. You will love her Border Leicester fleeces! I have one ordered for this year too! Will email her - was supposed to writing up my washing technique for the Breed pages....

  5. Had a great day with Ellie! I bought 3 fleeces home and 2 have been washed already! Really wish I could have bought some of her lambs back too! Happy 25th wedding anniversary!

  6. Thank you. Knew you would love her fleeces!


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