Thursday, January 18, 2007

Each One, Teach One, Part Two

If you missed the first part of the saga, it's here.

In Which We Grapple with Continental Purl

As you might expect of one who has cut people open, rearranged their insides, and stitched them up again (without killing them), Willibald has steady nerves and nimble fingers. Teaching him the long-tail cast on and the knit stitch was as easy as Britney Spears just before last call.

I got him started on a garter stitch scarf in alternating blocks of gray and gray. After pulling back his work twice he sped forth, jumping right over the color change without a hitch. His first block or so showed the variations in tension that we all deal with at the beginning, leading him to insist the scarf was not a scarf, but an "irregular polygon." But he persevered, and when the scarf had reached about half its length we began to discuss his next move.

Slippers were briefly considered, but he liked the idea of knitting a hat to go with the scarf. And so I pulled out the old reliable London Beanie. It has stripes to give it a bit of interest, and the tight, short fit means it moves quickly.

"All we need to do," I said, "is teach you to purl. That way you can do the ribbing at the bottom."

"Is it difficult?" he asked.

"A little fidgety at first," I said. "But with some practice it becomes second nature."

So we sat down cozily with two cups of green tea and soft music, and picked up our needles. Half an hour later, Willibald was eyeing me with the sort of beady-eyed hatred normally reserved for ex-boyfriends who sleep with your sister. (Or brother.)

"I don't like purling," hissed Willibald through clenched teeth.

"I can see that," I said. "But you just need to keep trying, and it will click for you. I promise."

"Do I have to purl?" he said.

"Well, strictly speaking, no. But it'll keep you from doing a lot of cool things if you can't."

"This doesn't work," he said. "There has to be a better way."

"Well, it's been done like this for at least a couple of centuries, so it has been proven to work. But if you can figure out an alternative, please make sure you let me know."

"Don't take that tone with me."

"You need to relax."

"I am relaxed."

"Dude, you just bent a steel needle in half."

"I have extremely muscular fingers."

"I think we're done for tonight."

What will happen next? Will Willibald ever learn to purl? Will Franklin strangle him with a 24" Addi Turbo and bury him under a pile of stashed Rowan? And what about Naomi?

A Little More About the New Wheel

Nothing magnifies joy like sharing it with others, and so I was delighted at the response to the new arrival in our house. There were a couple of questions, so let's take a minute and answer them.

Szarka asked whether the crank hole (giggle) in the drive shaft (giggle) was elongated from wear and whether this interfered with operation as it does on her wheel. I took a look, and the hole is as it was made - no distortion. It operates perfectly, although before I could get the drive wheel to rotate consistently in one direction I did have to treadle quite a bit to get a feel for how much force and frequency (giggle giggle) to use.

Ted asked if the wheel is tiny, and suggested that it might be designed for flax. Sharp eye, Ted, just as I'd expect. The wheel is quite small (though not miniature) which I like because when I sit at it I look like a basketball player. It also has a distaff, and the flyer hooks are placed so as to encourage spinning Z—or it is S? Whichever is the opposite of the usual direction for wool. The orifice, though, is no smaller than the orifice on my Ashford. (Heh heh. Big orifice.)

Heather asked for a closer shot of the inlay (yes, it's inlay) on the bench. Here you are.

Wheel Inlay

Odd, isn't it? The top bit is obviously a shield. There's more inlay around the rim (giggle, snort) of the table. If anybody reading this has similar marks on their wheel, needless to say I'd love to hear from you.

There were questions about, and suggestions for, names. I don't know that I'll name it. I used to be a namer of inanimate objects. My computer in college was called Fanny. But when your sock yarn starts to talk to you and impinge on the hospitality of friends, it sort of kills the thrill.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rather off topic, but I see no "email Franklin" link. I thought of you when I saw today's Ozy and Millie:
http://www.ozyandmillie.org/comics/om20070118.gif

BTW, congrats on your green sock revolution! My dad had a bumper sticker in his office with the slogan "Why Be Normal?" on it, and I've always thought it was a wonderful thing to ask. Why indeed? If there's a good reason, well then normal is good. But without a good reason, normal becomes a stifling rulebook.

Poppins

Anonymous said...

I side with Willibald! I never used to hate purling, until I became good enough at knitting to realize that my wierdness with tension is always from the purling rows. I've begun to knit backwards when a whole row of purling is called for I despise it so much.

One of these days I will try combined knitting and see how that pans out for me.

I'll be sure to let you know when I find a better, more humane way!

Chris said...

I knit continental and hate "regular" continental purling. Norwegian Purling might make more sense to him - knittinghelp.com has a good video. Scoop/"lazy"/combined purling doesn't work so well for ribbing in the round, since you don't get the chance to untwist your purls by knitting through the back loop.

Nancy J said...

GUess you could confuse him with Meg's knitting back backwards...

Sarah said...

Are you sure it's a shield? It looks a bit chalice-y to me. With... umm... eyes. Just because.

Or maybe I need a drink?

David said...

May we please rise above this juvenile sniggering at perceived double entendres?

(giggle) I said rise...

Anonymous said...

I thought the inlay looked like a surprised person - wide eyed and open mouthed - "Holy Crap! You can get THIS from roving??" or "you call THIS spinning?"

Carol said...

Me, I think it's better to have a large bobbin than a big orifice.

Szarka said...

Thanks for responding to my question - I'm learning much more about my wheel from the descriptions of yours!

First, I solved my function problem by removing the overthought and definitely overrated leather thong (giggle here) and replacing it with a string. Bingo! Wheel works. I knew it was too much friction. (Giggle again.)

I still wonder about the elongated driveshaft hole. (Stop that.) I may play around with something tighter - it may ease the frequency and pressure pedalling issues. (Don't go too far, now.)

My wheel is also quite small, and it had flax on it at purchase, so what I have is possibly/probably a flax wheel. I read in Rita Buchanan's 'A Weaver's Garden' that many homesteads produced flax for their own use, so I imagine that there are quite a few flax wheels still in existence. As I live in FL, this is very good news. Also, it does still spin wool, as proven in the last couple of nights (thanks to your string idea) so I'm very grateful. I will try to find out more when I bring it to the Spin-In in Destin next week.

Keep describing all the seemingly insignificant bits, we in the peanut gallery may find them particularly helpful.

ted said...

Most surgeons have excellent spacial perception and visualization skills, so I bet Willie could handle combined knitting, even as he's a novice knitter. It helps lots of knitters (both yarn-in-right-hand-throwers and yarn-in-left-hand pickers) with matters concerning purling. Well worth looking into.

JoVE said...

Have you shown Willibald both continental and English? I knit English but I taught a friend who had a Swiss grandmother once (who had taught him when he was small and he'd forgotten) so I showed him continental (I can only do this at really show teaching pace) and he picked it right up and went with it.

Someone asked my daughter if she'd like to see the continental way to knit the other day and she told her she'd tried it and didn't like it. (I had no idea, but raising kids is often like that. At least it was continental knitting. I'm trying not to think about what it might be when she is 16.)

Maybe some of us just find one way easier than others. Worth a try, anyway.

Also, I've heard that ribbing is more frustrating for a new knitter because you change between the two frequently. Having to knit a whole row of purl stitches (e.g. doing a bit of stockingnette flat) might be a better introduction.

Ryan said...

Need I say I vote for "Floki?" (Hey, it was YOUR idea.)

Marie said...

I'm going to be giggling and snorting all day today, thinking about you and rims and orifices and all... (giggle giggle)

Anonymous said...

He really sounds like a candidate for Norwegian purl. I'm still absorbing it into my repertoire and I wish I'd discovered it sooner, when my learning curve was a little shorter. As well as knitting.help, Bagatell has good photos of it at http://tinyurl.com/yetyof along with a nice account of how she learnt it.

MrsJ said...

The continental purl problem. It makes me really, truly want to know why anybody would choose to knit continental. I suppose it could be faster on the knit side, but then you have to tear your hair out all the way back. Why, people, why?

Anonymous said...

Well, I've never had any particular problems purling continental, but to do so I actually hold the yarn between thumb and index finger. This may not be the "right" way, but it's always worked for me - well enough that I don't see a huge need to change.

Anonymous said...

I originally learned to knit "English-style" and knit that way for many years, then taught myself Continental out of a book. (It looked like it was faster and easier than English - and it IS!)
The Continental purl is light-years easier and faster than throwing: Left index fingertip moves toward me an inch - bringing the yarn to the front between the needles, then down an inch - to wrap the yarn over the needle, then up an inch as the stitch is released, then away from me an inch to put the yarn back into position to knit. Minimal effort for ribbing. And for a straight purl row, the finger just goes up & down.
I'm glad I know both ways as it makes two-color knitting a lot easier, but for straight knitting, I'll take Continental hands down. (So to speak...)

Gayle

Rachel said...

I once tried to teach a friend who claimed she never knitted in her life how to knit and she had a hard time following my movements after quite a few failed trials and a lot of frustration she suddenly said, but my mother does not knit like this, so I asked how she is knitting. She said that her mother put one needle under her arm (she was from Argentina) so I told her to try, I do not know how to knit that way but I can probably help and to my great astonishment it worked! So maybe you have to check with Willibald about any special knitting fashion ingrained on his genes from past generation.

TheBunny said...

He does have to learn to purl for ribbing, but when he is ready to do flat pieces in stockinette, he can just knit backwards across the knitting. No purling and no turning of work!

I heart it.

brewerburns said...

I knit continental. When I first taught myself to purl it was a bit fiddly, and took some practice to get used to. Now, I don't mind it at all. I have since taught myself to knit the in the "american" style (yarn in my right hand) so that I can work fair isle patterns more easily. It just takes a few hours of practice.

Sarah said...

I found a YouTube video demonstrating the thumb method of purling -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPxOxYhfGec
I think in South America this type of purl is more common; it seems even easier than the Norwegian purl to me, so maybe Willibald will learn to stop worrying and love the purl.

Anonymous said...

Poor, poor Doc. Tell us, is he knitting continental or American? Maybe knitting another way would be easier????

DebbieB said...

I enjoyed your Electric Company reference - I say "And what about Naomi?" often, but no one understands why.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Willibald can learn to knit backward? It might come more easily than purling.

mk said...

One more suggestion to try Norwegian purl - Annie Modesitt's "combined" knitting had me at hello and I've knit that way ever since. My struggles with other ways of knitting has paid off in that on occasions when combined would be too tricksy or I'm teaching someone who wants to learn a particular way, I can do it. And then go back to the way that suits me best afterwards.

Love the socks, btw.

MonicaPDX said...

::giggles:: Ok, between the beady-eyed hatred, hissing through teeth, and the shield on your new baby... and the nom de plume, let's not forget that... I'm having visions of Willibald going berserk over purling. Which inevitably had me thinking of 'bare sark' and even more giggling. Actually, the berserk part is quite possible, if he's already bending steel needles.

I can sympathize on the Continental purling. I think there's always something, no matter what method you use. Heck, I knit English, but I don't hold my yarn the way all the books show. Draping it over your forefinger and letting it just lie there, even with the rest of your fingers tensioning it? Yegawds, who the hell can control it that way? I sure can't; it always escapes me. Plus my forefinger starts hurting, holding it out as they show. It's unnatural. Screw that. ::refrains from giggles:: Definitely sounds like Willi needs something of an alternative. Good luck! (And cool on more info on the new baby.)

Spinneret said...

I'm with you on the shield. Below that I'm getting Kaiser Willhelm, especially the mustache.

Jessica said...

I had the exact same thing happen teaching my son to purl. But he is 8. Have you tried the Norwegian purl? I found that some people have a really difficult time with continental purling because you're going at it blind. The needle is blocking your view of the working yarn and the loop you're trying to work through it. Good luck.

Anne said...

That sounds like my reaction when I was learning to knit. I started out teaching myself continental, and after pulling most of my hair out trying to learn to purl, I tried English and never went back.

Anonymous said...

Darling, I concur with the suggestion of the Norwegian Purl. Or the purl with the yarn in back. It is the only way I purl anymore.

cheryl :) said...

you really ought to do your own PODCAST

Anonymous said...

Or, you should do a Knitting Designer interview for MY podcast :) (thanks, Cheryl, nice opening!) http://podcast.christagiles.com

But, what I actually came here to write was this: the standard continental purl (as described by Gayle up there) can be adapted or over-exaggerated by rotating at the wrists to move the tips of the needles towards your chest (or eyes, depending on the angle you look at your needles) and the ends of the needles away from your chest (or eyes) - this makes it a) less "blind" as Jessica puts it.. and b) a more natural angle for the left forefinger to turn into and push down against the tensioned yarn

I've had decent success with this adaptation for many frustrated Continental purlers! Good luck!

(oh, and I love the green socks.. makes me wish I was more of a sock knitter)

Anonymous said...

I use a quasi-Continental method (more like a left-handed throw, no scooping of yarn but a very short finger movement) and when purling I hold the yarn like Mel; between the thumb and forefinger and "throw" it. For knitting in the round I have some Portugese needles I got from Lacis which are hooked on one end and pointed on the other. You use the crochet hook end to knit with (just like doing a crochet hook bind-off)and the stitches slide off the pointed end. LOVED them for socks and they make purling a breeze. Your friend might like them for his beanie, or you might for socks...Sue F

knitnzu said...

I don't know any hippies that make bungholerimjob jokes and own a rug like that Chinese wool thing (which we do as well, but my excuse is that it is a handdown and keeps the cold wood floor a bit warmer). Rather, I would say you are a "modern man".

Caroline said...

If you will contact me via email, I may have the name of someone who can make bobbins for your wheel who may still be in Crown Point. This is all speculation, mind you, but it might be worth a try.

claudig12atyahoodotcom

Deidre said...

I have this theory; indulge me for a moment.

My roommate (who also taught me knit, by the way) introduced me to your blog a few weeks back. After a bit of reading I have to say that I think you're too awesome to be a real person.

The solution: you're obviously a joint creation of several fairly awesome people (I'm betting it's a ladies' knitting circle somewhere in Oklahoma or thereabouts) who have combined to make one Really Awesome Person and then Write A Blog.

This does not, however, explain the obviously masculine legs in the recent green socks photo. I'm still working on that.

J9 said...

Try combination purling! Annie Modesitt taught me how to knit and i've never understood why people hate purling. She has tutorials on her site.

Anonymous said...

Waiting patiently for the rest of this tale of the purl, as I too (still. after several years.) do not like the purl. I do not not know if I knit continental or what.. but purling I do not like.

Anonymous said...

I anxiously await the end of the tale. In the meantime, if Doc desires a hat, he can do the Tychus hat off the Knitty website. No purls but intros him to short rows.

Today's word is dggfeeuu - your chien roving smells.

doulicia said...

And what ABOUT Naomi?

I caught the Electric Company reference, thank you very much.

wayne said...

Just wanted you to know, as a male knitter, how much I am enjoying your blog. I am making my way through the archives and really having fun! I notice that you never mention the one man who should be an inspiration to us all. Kaffe (rhymes with safe) Fassett. You should check him out. He never uses a strand more than 2-3 ft long and has been known to use more than 140 different colors in his work! I think you'll like his stuff.

hollyeqq said...

I have been thinking about your new wheel since I saw the pictures. I am ABSOLUTELY jealous with envy. ENVY I tell you. I would love an antique wheel. I mention it to my mother and she AGAIN reminds me that she saw handcarved wheels in mint condition in East Germany all over the place and how was she to know I would become a fiber FREAK. I think she really wanted to buy one, because she even remembers prices, but couldn't justify since she didn't know anything about spinning yarn.
So just to recap - I am naming a yarn after you this week, in honor of your awesome find. I will let you know when I figure it out.
Thanks
Holly

Anonymous said...

This is too bizarre. I am being filmed for a Discovery Chanel special on cancer and I am commenting on your blog. Just to say, this is more interesting than what I am supposed to be doing.

the kitchener bitch said...

Franklin, check out the Spinning Wheel Sleuth newsletter - you could post a picture of your wheel there for free, and see if anyone knows more about your wheel. It's a pretty cool site actually... it's at spwhsl.com.

Good luck with it! The wheel looks like a honey.

Danny Ouellette said...

24" addi? No dear, use a 32" or 40". More room to maneuver and get a good strangle hold.

And don't put the body under the Rowan. Put it under some cheap acrylic. It can be made into a good body bag or you can just throw it all in the washer later.

Strangely, I don't have much trouble purling, but I'm a left handed thrower, not picker. I hold the yarn in my left hand, but throw it around the needle rather than pick it. This makes doing purl actually pretty easy. I've tried to do continental, but my hands just go into fits and won't do it.

Juliette said...

That same guy told me in the 1970s that San Francisco was "Sodom by the Sea" and that's why it will be destroyed by the earthquake.

Gomorrah the merrier.

Anonymous said...

I knit the continental style and use my thumb when purling instead of bringing my wrapped finger down, if that makes sense to you you'll get it. You'll see it done at the end of this video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6iEX_-m00k

-Yarnsnob

Anonymous said...

The inlay looks like an upside-down owl. I'm just sayin'

Lucia said...

The things I learn from you. No, I do not mean about rims and orifices (stop that giggling!), I mean Norwegian purl. (OK, so technically that was all your totally smart commenters, but you're the one who attracts them.)

kitkatknit said...

You forgot to add a giggle after the word elongated.