ImageUm, yeah.  That’s Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot herself.  (And if you don’t know who she is, then I’m not sure we can still be friends…)  I was lucky enough to nab a spot in her Knitting for Speed & Efficiency class at A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland.  I was totally star struck.  Strangely, though, my fellow classmates seemed utterly unfazed by her presence.  (My friend Sarah went to the evening version of the same class and reported that her group was star struck — go figure.)  She was as interesting and funny in person as she is on her blog and in her books.

I went primarily to be in her presence but the class was quite informative too. (However, I could have done without the woman across the room who insisted on shouting out commentary after every freakin’ thing the Yarn Harlot said. Why, why is there always one person who thinks she is in her own personal knitting class?!  I wanted to strangle her with my Cascade 220 Superwash.)  Stephanie spent the first hour going through the history of knitting, which I found surprisingly fascinating.  Seriously, I was riveted.  Did you know that knitting was invented in the Middle East?  We know that because knitting moves from right to left and there’s no rational reason it would move that way other than to follow the path of the written word in that area.  Did you know that the term Luddite has its origins in knitting?  Did you know that when knitting traveled along trade routes from the Middle East, to Spain and then to the UK, people were knitting at a pace of a sock a day?  Those people were fast.  The Yarn Harlot insists that the more we knit like those original knitters, the faster we’ll be.

She spent a fair amount of time on lever knitting, where you tuck a long straight needle under your armpit. It was interesting, but I honestly don’t know if I can adopt it. I certainly get her rationale for why it’s speedy and efficient, but it just seems so inefficient to learn a whole new way of knitting. Fortunately, she also taught us some other tricks to apply to our regular methods.  For example, if you “spring load” your stitches at the end of the left needle, you’ll more quickly knit them onto your right needle.  Also, do you push one or both of the needles with your index finger?  (I do.)  If so, stop it right this minute!  She’s right — that’s a completely unnecessary movement. Try not doing it (it’s hard) and you’ll see what I mean.  She also recommends doing a swimmer-like “kick turn” at the end of the row — that is, don’t drop your fingers and your needles just to set up for the next row.  Instead, keep everything where it is and simply turn the work and get moving again.  Try it — you’ll see.  

We did two timed tests — one at the beginning of the class and one three hours later after she’d taught us these tricks.  I went from 22 stitches per minute (that was about average for the class — the fastest person was 41 stitches per minute; the slowest 12) to 31 stitches per minute.  I’m having to seriously readjust my muscle memory with some things (especially that darn index-finger pushing of the needle), but it seems like it’ll be worth it.

Overall, three well-spent hours in the presence of a knitting queen!