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Saturday, 01 November 2008 20:50
Hand-knitting

Hand-knitting is a special case of knitting, in which the knitted fabric is produced by hand.

Contents
  • 1 Flat and circular knitting
  • 2 Stitches
  • 3 Social aspects
  • 4 Psychological and meditative aspects
  • 5 In literature

Flat and circular knitting

Weft-knit fabrics can be divided into two types: those that have selvages (side edges) and those that are tubes, where the side edges have been joined. The former are knit using "flat knitting", whereas the latter are knit using "circular knitting", also known as "knitting in the round".

In flat knitting, the hand-knitter generally knits from right-to-left on one side of the fabric, turns the work (over), and then knits right-to-left back to the starting position. Usually one side of the fabric is considered the right side, the one that faces outwards for viewing; the side that faces inwards, towards the body, is known as the wrong side. Thus, flat knitting involves knitting one row on the right side, then one row on the wrong side, etc. Stitches knit on the wrong side are reversed in appearance; for example, a knit stitch carried out on the wrong side will appear as a purl stitch on the right side, and vice versa. Thus, the uniform stockinette fabric requires that the hand-knitter knit all the stitches on the right side, and purl all the stitches on the wrong side. For comparison, garter-stitch fabric is produced if the knitter knits (or purls) every stitch in every row, regardless of which side is being worked.

In circular knitting, the knitter generally knits everything from one side, usually the right side. Circular knitting is usually carried out on a single circular needle, although this becomes more difficult as the radius of the tube gradually shrinks. In such cases, the knitter can resort to a variety of alternative techniques, such as double-pointed needles, knitting on two circular needles, a Möbius strip-like "magic needle" approach, or careful use of slip-stitch knitting or equivalently double knitting to knit the back and front of the tube.

Stitches

There are well-nigh an infinite number of possible combinations of knitting stitches, the favorites of which have been collected into stitch treasuries. A piece of knitting begins with the process of casting on (also known as "binding on"), which involves the initial creation of the stitches on the needle. Different methods of casting on are used for different effects: one may be stretchy enough for lace, while another provides a decorative edging — Provisional cast-ons are used when the knitting will continue in both directions from the cast-on. There are various method employed to "cast on," such as the "thumb method" (also known as "slingshot" or "long-tail" cast-ons), where the stitches are created by a series of loops that will, when knitted, give a very loose edge ideal for "picking up stitches" and knitting a border; the "double needle method" (also known as "knit-on" or "cable cast-on"), whereby each loop placed on the needle is then "knitted on," which produces a firmer edge ideal on its own as a border; and many more. The number of active stitches remains the same as when cast on unless stitches are added (an increase) or removed (a decrease).

Most Western-style knitters follow either the English style (in which the yarn is held in the right hand) or the Continental style (in which the yarn is held in the left hand). A third but less common method, called combination knitting, may also be used.

Once the knitted piece is finished, the remaining live stitches are "cast off." Casting (or "binding") off loops the stitches across each other so they can be removed from the needle without unravelling the item. Although the mechanics are different from casting on, there is a similar variety of methods.

In knitting certain articles of clothing, especially larger ones like sweaters, the final knitted garment will be made of several knitted pieces, with individual sections of the garment knit separately and then sewn together. Seamless knitting, where a whole garment is knit as a single piece, is also possible. Elizabeth Zimmermann is probably the best-known proponent of seamless or circular knitting techniques. Smaller items, such as socks and hats, are usually knit in one piece on double-pointed needles or circular needles.

Social aspects

This woman is knitting at a coffee shop; although it is usually done by one person alone, knitting is commonly a social activity. There are many knitting guilds and other knitting groups or knitting clubs.
Main article: History of knitting

One of the earliest known examples of knitting was finely decorated cotton socks found in Egypt in the end of the first millennium AD. The first knitting trade guild was started in Paris in 1527.  With the invention of the knitting machine, however, knitting "by hand" became a useful but non-essential craft. Similar to quilting, spinning, and needlepoint, knitting became a social activity.

Hand-knitting has gone into and out of fashion many times in the last two centuries, and at the turn of the 21st century it is enjoying a revival. According to the industry group Craft Yarn Council of America, the number of women knitters in the United States age 25–35 increased 150% in the two years between 2002 and 2004.While some may say knitting has never really gone away, this latest reincarnation is less about the make do and mend of the 1940’s and 50’s and more about making a statement about individuality as well as developing an innate sense of community. Additionally, many contemporary knitters have an interest in blogging about their knitting, patterns, and techniques.

There are now numerous groups that are not only growing individually, but also forming international communities. Communities also exist online, with blogs being very popular, alongside online groups and social networking through mediums such as Yahoo! Groups, where people can share tips and techniques, run competitions, and share their patterns. More people are finding knitting a recreation and enjoying the hobby with their family. Knitting parties also are becoming popular in small and large communities around the U.S. and Canada.

Psychological and meditative aspects

The oral histories of many knitters have been collected, and suggest that hand-knitting is often associated with compassion. "I knit love into every stitch" is a common refrain.
Knitting especially large or fine garments such as sweaters can require months of work and, as gifts, may have a strong emotional aspect. The so-called sweater curse expresses the experience that a significant other will break up with the knitter immediately after receiving a costly hand-knit gift such as a sweater. A significant minority of knitters claim to have experienced the sweater curse; a recent poll indicated that 15% of active knitters say they have experienced the sweater curse firsthand, and 41% consider it a possibility that should be taken seriously.Although sometimes labeled a "superstition", the sweater curse is not treated in knitting literature as anything paranormal.

Hand-knitting is generally relaxing and repetitive, Some practitioners have noted that these factors, combined with its compassionate nature, make hand-knitting well-suited for meditational or spiritual practice.

In literature

Knitting is sometimes featured in literature. Knitting and its techniques may be used as a metaphor; its meditative and spiritual aspects may be emphasized; it may signal various types of domesticity; or it may be used for dramatic irony, as when an apparently harmless knitter proves deadly and implacable. Examples from 19th century novels include Madame Thérèse Defarge in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Anna Makarovna in Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, various characters in Jane Austen's novels and Miss Ophelia in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin. Several characters in Virginia Wolff's novels are knitters. In the first decade of the 21st century, knitting has been a key element in several novels and even murder mysteries.

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Last Updated on Sunday, 28 June 2009 12:58