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”.
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.