These Hands Are My Hands

The joys of being left-handed

These hands are my hands!
These hands are my hands.
My hands
They look like normal hands.
My hands - palms

Everyday tasks

But these hands write like this!
Writing left-handed
These hands can manage to use right-handed scissors fairly neatly.
Cutting paper with scissors
These hands use a knife and fork in the conventional way,
Using a knife and fork
but hold a spoon with the left hand,
Using a spoon left-handed
chop vegetables with the knife in the left hand,
Chopping vegetables left-handed
and peel vegetables with the vegetable peeler in the left hand.
Peeling vegetables left-handed
They try to use a right-handed can-opener, but although this looks right it feels so wrong …
Using a right-handed can-opener
… whereas this feels as awkward as it looks.
Left-handed person using a right-handed can-opener

So how do these hands knit?

They throw stitches like this …
Knitting by throwning stitches
And pick stitches like this …
Knitting by picking stitches
That makes me a mirror knitter! In other words I’m left-handed and I knit left-handed. As opposed to being left-handed and knitting right-handed or right-handed and knitting right-handed or even right-handed and knitting left-handed (they do exist).

How I learnt to knit

So, why do I knit left-handed? After all, some left-handed people knit right-handed. Well, although I was taught to knit right-handed I could not. It didn’t matter how hard I concentrated, my hands did not cooperate; what emerged from all these efforts was a tangle of yarn! And this was in spite of having no problems learning to sew, embroider and crochet (all of which I do left-handed). Everyone gave up trying to teach me and I gave up trying to learn.
Years later, I decided that, given I could do so many other textile crafts and to a high level, there was no reason why I should not be able to learn to knit, so I decided to teach myself. This was before the internet, so I visited the library and found a knitting book. On one page I read something that provided me with a eureka moment!
It read along the lines of “if you are left-handed, balance a mirror next to the diagram, do what you see in the mirror, reversing the instructions”. It has to be said that balancing a mirror on a book whilst trying to learn to knit is not easy – in fact it’s nearly impossible! So, I traced all the diagrams (before computers here) and taught myself to knit. And knitting has been a passion since then, there’s no technique I won’t try, and I work out everything from right-handed instructions.

The benefits of struggling

This has given me a good understanding of how knit techniques work. More recently I have taught myself to knit right-handed, but don’t hold your breath, I shall never make anything knitting this way – I’m far too slow and it’s mentally exhausting! However, this lack of speed is perfect for teaching right-handed knitters – it’s a bit like watching a slow motion film.

Oh dear!

I have read posts on Ravelry about teaching left-handed people to knit. And I’m amazed to read comments along the lines of “teach them to knit right-handed – they’ll never know!” If that were the case, I could teach right-handed people to knit left-handed and they’ll never know either – but don’t worry, I wouldn’t do that. Clearly some left-handed people can learn to knit right-handed and vice versa, but they are a minority.
It is decades since we used to force people to write with their right hands regardless of whether they were naturally right-handed or not. This caused all kinds of problems for those who are not. Left-handed people developed a reputation of being clumsy and there are all kinds of insults to this effect. And wouldn’t you be clumsy if forced to use the wrong hand all the time? Worse still, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of left-handed people being forced to write right-handed, then developing a stutter.
So, just as we allow people to learn to write with their natural hand, I think that we should all teach potential knitters to knit in the way that comes naturally to them.

Coming soon

I’m planning some technical knitting posts to compare and contrast left- and right-handed knitting. I’m hoping that both left- and right-handed knitters will find them useful.
These hands are my hands, these hands are my hands
From sketching ideas to swatching stitches;
From knitting garments to writing instructions
These hands make things for you and me.
(big apologies to Woody Guthrie)

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. brifrischu

    Thanks for these encouraging post! I wish I had known the mirror trick earlier. I now knit in my own way, both handed. As so often with left-handed people perseverance was the key…

    1. Being Knitterly

      Britta, I wish scanners had been invented when I learnt to knit!

  2. Patricia

    Not to mention the words sinister and dextrous.

    1. Being Knitterly

      And they’re the polite ones!

  3. mariegrimoires

    I have the same hands. 😉
    I learnt to knit with a book and a mirror, about twenty years ago. I’m a knitaholic (can we say that ? lol) now.
    Thanks for your wonderful tutorials. Love your crochet cast-on method !

    1. Being Knitterly

      Marie, we can definitely say knitaholic! I’m glad you like my tutorials for knitting left-handed. The crochet cast-on is great, isn’t it!