Sunday, 6 April 2014
Most knitters in Western society are familiar with the two most common styles of knitting: English style, in which the yarn is kept at proper tension using the right hand; and Continental, in which the yarn is kept in play using the left hand. A number of knitters employ both, switching to either hand as the other tires, or using both hands when working with two different colours. But there is another common method you may not know about called Portuguese knitting.
Portuguese knitting, also known as Turkish Knitting, Incan Knitting, Andean Knitting and "around the neck knitting", originated among Arabic knitters. The technique gradually spread north from Africa and the Middle East to the Mediterranean, the Balkans (especially Bulgaria and Greece), the Iberian Peninsula and eventually came to South America via Spanish and Portuguese colonization. Knitters in these countries sometimes use hooked knitting needles but it's not necessary to do so as the Portuguese style of knitting is often practiced with the standard knitting needle.
When using the Portuguese knitting technique, the yarn in play is wrapped around the right hand, and then strung around the knitter's neck or through a pin fastened to the knitter's shirt or sweater, before continuing to the piece being knitted. It's a smooth, easy, fast technique involving only a flick of the left thumb to wrap the yarn around the needle for the next stitch, and it could be of great help to those who can no longer knit English or Continental style due to injuries to their hands. In the video above Andrea Wong demonstrates knitting and purling in the Portuguese knitting style.
Andrea Wong says in the above video that she uses knitting pins (such as the one above) "for comfort" rather than running the yarn around her neck, and she uses more than one pin if working in different colours. But I would be concerned about the holes it would create in my clothes.
There are also Portuguese knitting pendants available, which look like a better idea to me. These pendants can be strung on a cord and worn as a necklace, such as the one above, which is from Knitting Boutique.
Another option is to use a magnetic pin that can be fastened to your clothing (the magnet goes on the underside of the fabric) without risking any damage to the garment. This magnetic pin is from Etsy vendor Flighty Fleurs.
There are some very pretty knitting pins and pendants available on the net that could almost pass for jewelry, such as the pins above, which were made by Etsy vendor Lazy Cat Fibers, but if you just want to try out the technique before investing in some beautiful pins or pendants, you can always begin by simply stringing the yarn around your neck. If that irritates your neck, try making your own pin by fastening a bent paper clip to a safety pin, or making a Portuguese knitting pendant necklace by slipping a bent paper clip onto a cord.