Learning to Knit All Over Again – Using a Knit Sheath

Learning to knit with a knit sheath

I’ve been practicing with my knit sheath. I’m not going to say that I’m pretty good. That would be bragging. It might also be untrue. But I’m light-years better than I used to be and so I’m happy. In fact, I may even feel a bit smug about my knit sheath skills.

A knit sheath is a device, traditionally carved from wood, that is held with a belt against the right side of the knitter. Its made to support the right-handed knit needle. With the working yarn in the right hand, knitters “play” the stitches off the left needle and down onto the right. This is the method that was used by the working class in what we know think of as Northern-ish United Kingdom. It was also used in Germany (one of the oldest pictures of a knit sheath is German) and in Scandinavia. Museums in Belgium and France house collections of knit sheaths. So the practice must have been wide spread in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Sadly, its largely disappeared as a way of knitting. One particular pocket of knitters with knit sheaths that has held on to this tradition is the Terrible Knitters of Dent... and the Dales at large. And the Shetland Islands. They have kept with it and guess what? They are famed for their knitting speed. In fact Hazel Tindall, the knitter who won the title of World’s Fastest Knitter in 2004 by knitting 255 stitches in 3 minutes, uses a knit sheath.

Yep. Knitters who can use a knit sheath can knit like the wind. So I’m teaching myself this method. Its a bit like learning to knit all over again and that’s both fun and frustrating as all get out.

Btw, for my sheath I’m using an aluminum size 11 knit needle with the end popped off. What? Its working, lol. I do wish I had a talented woodworker to make me a warm and lovely knit sheath but I don’t. I also kind of wish I was the talented woodworker who could make them for myself, like Aaron of A Fisherman Knits does. Aaron is a blogger and a woodworker and a knitter and is almost single handedly keeping the tradition of knitting with a sheath alive. Check out his personal collection of sheaths that he keeps on hand “for reference”.

Knit sheaths made by Aaron of A Fisherman Knits


So how does one knit with a supported right hand needle? Well, here is what I’ve worked out so far:


There I go. I’ll keep at it of course and I’m sure my technique will change the more I practice. I do like this way of knitting. Its easy to get a tight gauge. Its less effort than knitting in the “regular” yarn-in-the-right-hand way. And its always fun to learn new things.


If You’re interested in knit sheaths as a part of knitting history check out:


If your interested in learning to knit with a knit sheath yourself, I point you towards:

I realize that’s not much to go on. There aren’t many resources out there. Unless you can find a knitter that knows how to teach you (which might mean making a trip to the Dales of York), you’ll be learning on your own. Like me.


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18 Comments on "Learning to Knit All Over Again – Using a Knit Sheath"

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I love your blog. It is so interesting. And the photos and videos are really clear and fun. I think I could hear your heart beat in this one!


You learn how to knit on the sheath then teach us! Meanwhile, I will figure out how to care for a newborn lol. Pics: http://s165.photobucket.com/user/ceres_andraste/library/Alexandria


So cute. Congrats to you! Thanks for the pic.


Beautiful! Congratulations to all!

I’ve seen someone do this in person. She had a lot less motion in her yarn carry hand than you do in the video. She just flicked the yarn over the needle using only the tip of her right index finger. This is what gave her knitting speed. I don’t think it was the knitting sheath per se. I practiced using her index finger motion and even without using a knitting sheath (impossible to find), I doubled my knitting speed pretty quickly..Someone told me what I’m doing now is Irish Cottage style knitting (never heard of it before that). Anyway,… Read more »

Loved this article Jenn. Wish I could knit as quickly as Hazel. I would feel accomplished. I find your blog very interesting and never get bored. You’ve given me something new to think about. Hope you have a wonderful and restful weekend. 🙂


I’m learning to use a modified sheath…aka my hand brace. At least when I’m doing socks, I can support one needle in the brace. Since I have to wear this at least another 5 weeks, maybe I will get better? I knit “continental”, so I’m only wiggling my forefingers. I had to prove that to the doctor….