The sum total (but not really)

Published on Monday February 15th, 2010


This is everything I accomplished at Madrona. Not a lot to show for myself, is it? On the spindle is a small quantity of really softly spun Cormo and CVM 2-ply, and on that loooooong straight needle is about 20 ridges of garter stitch in really yummy Jacob/alpaca DK from Toots LeBlanc.

But I can now tell you what cop is (the yarn you’ve made that’s wound around the spindle), I can use the drop spindle standing up (a really good idea, as I’ll explain later), I can do a thigh twist to start the spindle (standing on one leg, even), I can kick start it when it’s near the floor, I can fix thick spots in the yarn and do a better join when I need to “edit” a thin spot, I can keep twist out of my draft zone by back-twisting with my right hand just a little bit, and I can ply out of my bra.

Yes, you read that right.

Turns out a good way to ply two or more strands is to wind them together onto a crumpled ball of paper, pop the resulting ball down your cleavage, and wield the drop spindle pulling the strands from between your buttons. If nothing else, this is certainly more eye-catching than my old method using the chopstick apertures in my two rice bowls.

And I’m darn proud of my 40 rows of garter stitch, because I achieved them by lever knitting. That means the technique for knitting that relies on one needle being fixed under your arm, in a belt or sheath, or wherever you can comfortably plant it and then bringing the knitting to the fixed needle tip rather than fishing after it. I’ve read about it — this is how the Shetland knitters made their beautiful jumpers on long, long double-pointed needles before circulars were invented — and now I know (in theory, at least) how to do it. It feels just as clumsy as whatever knitting method you use felt when you first tried it. Stephanie assured us we would all suck, and she was perfectly right. This tiny girl is clearly beating me around the block:


This photo is from the Shetland Museum Archives and is proof I will always reach for in the future if I need to argue that small children are capable of intellectual focus and remarkable dexterity… and of not poking their eyes out with tools. This tot’s grasping a set of needles that are longer than her legs, and she’s already knit half a sweater with them. Awesome.

Anyway, Stephanie challenged us to practice lever knitting just a little each day for 30 days. And since I can’t back down from a challenge, I vowed I’d lever knit a baby sweater in that time. Hence my 20+ ridges. Which I’m going to add to right now while I watch the men’s downhill. Next time I’ll tell you about my final Madrona class, Knitting Happily Ever After.

14 Comments to “The sum total (but not really)”

  1. Kristen Comment Says:

    I love that picture! Your garter looks squishable and lovely, and the spun yarn looks great. I’m somewhat bewildered by the bra method, but may have to look that up. I think I’ll stick with one ply till I’m better at this, though!

  2. Connie Comment Says:

    Always learn a little something from your posts. Lever knitting has always intrigued, and the Shetland Museum Archives have long been an inspiration. I’m not a spinner, so don’t have a visual on the bra method either…??

  3. Elin Comment Says:

    Wow, this is really impressive and also very interesting to read..!
    I kind of wish that you had included a video-tutorial to visually explain the winding of the yarn in the bra ;-)..
    I have never ever seen lever-knitting in RL, but from the videos I´ve seen on You Tube, it is looks very complicated yet easy (they are going so fast!).

  4. Denise Comment Says:

    What do you mean you don’t have alot to show for yourself? Are you kidding? After that description of what you learned both spinning and knitting I’m stunned!! I can’t wait to hear about your last class. The lever knitting sounds very interesting. May have to give that a go. SHP sells the belts….just a thought.

  5. Sandy Comment Says:

    I was too late to sign up for the classes, but I did drive up and wander through the sale on Friday. Did my bit for the economy! It was lovely to see all the knitters — everywhere! I felt like “my people”! Whenever I KIP I am usually alone — the sole rebel. To see everybody there trailing yarn and holding needles, it was a sight to be sure.

    Next year I am going to suck up my courage and take a class. And plan ahead.

    Your yarn looks lovely. I, too, am bewildered by the bra method of plying. I’m fearful of what I’ll find if I google that!

  6. Susan Comment Says:

    One of these days, I’ll conquer lever knitting. My hat is off to you.

  7. thea Comment Says:

    Sounds like a pretty amazing class – I don’t think I could handle the lever technique as well as that kid either, but am impressed that you’re about to try the baby sweater! Will check back and see how it goes (and make sure you have not poked yourself silly before you’re done) — tks for your comment in my world! Thea

  8. Debby Comment Says:

    What a sweet photograph!

    You accomplished so much at Madrona — am looking forward to seeing your sweater and hearing more about your adventures!

  9. Sherilan Comment Says:

    I’m intrigued by the name lever knitting. A friend taught me to knit with one needle under my arm a loooong time ago and I found that I could knit quite fast that way, once I learned. The gage is somewhat looser though than when I knit circular. Hope you enjoy it and are soon zipping along.

  10. emily Comment Says:

    That photo is unbelievable. She can’t be more than 3 years old! I’ll never accept a family or friends excuse that knitting is too hard to learn, ever again 🙂

  11. britt Comment Says:

    hilarious. love the bit about the cleavage. who knew??

  12. mamie Comment Says:

    lever knitting sounds intriguing. and cool. i love that we sit int he same camp about children’s intelligence and capacity. i have ‘taught’ the boys about knitting and sewing and cooking since day 1. they know how to handle real needles without hurting themselves and that is important to me…that they understand the tool and the use. they cannot execute quite yet but someday they will.

  13. SoKnitpicky Comment Says:

    Wow! How exciting to try new things like that. I’m hoping I’ll get to go back to Madrona next year.

  14. minnie Comment Says:

    i’ve done lever knitting for years, lol. i’m rather short (5’3″) and sometimes when i’m working with 14″ straights, it’s easier to stick the button in my hip crease, and just knit away, lol.