In late February I went on my first ever yarn retreat (I am certain it won't be the last). I've already told you about the retreat in general and the first class I attended (Lace Knitting with Katie Westermann), and today I'm going to tell you about the second class I attended: Portuguese Knitting with Julia Billings.
Portuguese knitting was a mystery to me when I signed up for the class several months ago, and was still a mystery to me when I sat down in Julia's class. I was aware that knitting techniques varied around the world, having heard of English vs. Continental Knitting, but it wasn't something I'd put too much thought into. Julia's class stared with an introduction to the technique: Portuguese knitting is practiced in Portugal and South America, and the yarn is tensioned by one of two methods, either by allowing the yarn to flow round the back of the neck, or by running the yarn across a Portuguese knitting pin, which is a little hook that you pin on to your clothing. The knitting itself requires very little movement of the hands (stitches are worked with just a flick of the left thumb), and allows the purl stitch to be worked very efficiently, so people who knit using the Portuguese technique will often purl every row to work garter stitch or knit stocking stitch in the round by purling every round.
Julia showed us how to hold the yarn and how to work the stitches, and after a little confusion and a few dropped stitches everyone in the class was able to work knit stitches. Some people in the class went straight for knitting with the pin for tensioning, but I wasn't wearing clothes that would happily have had pins put through them and went for tensioning the yarn round the back of my neck. The movements used in the knitting really were efficient, and even more so when we all moved on to purling! Julia said that the technique is good for people with limited mobility in their hands, and because the hands don't move much at all I think I might be able to use this technique for using small-circumference circulars, which have previously been my nemesis; once I've got some other things off the needles I'm going to have a go at knitting a pair of socks using Portuguese knitting and mini-circulars (though maybe not on the bus as the yarn round the back of the neck will get some odd looks!).
Once we had all mastered the basic stitches, Julia showed us how to work lace - I really struggled with yarn overs as I was over-thinking how to work them and ending up with double yarn overs instead. I did eventually get it, and with practise might be ok. We were also shown how to knit stranded colourwork using the technique and this is another area where I think the technique will come in handy. At the minute I pick up and put down to work stranded colourwork, which is really inefficient, but with Portuguese knitting you can wrap one colour behind your neck in one direction and the other colour in the other direction, then just work each stitch in the correct colour. I will try this with Portuguese pins though as having them both round my neck I was forgetting to release more yarn for each stitch and the work kept getting closer and closer to my face!
While I didn't know what I was expecting at the start of the class, I really enjoyed learning a new technique.
I hope you've enjoyed the posts about my yarn retreat adventure. I really did have a fabulous time and hope to do it all again some time. Have you ever been on a yarn retreat or taken a particularly enjoyable knitting class? What do you recommend I try next?