I was talking to my cousin Leigh about knitting one day and she mentioned she had not yet tried Portuguese Knitting (PK) yet, not having decided what to do about the pin/hook situation. She lives in hot, humid Tampa and doesn’t tend to wear garments that have much fabric up high where one would pin the PK pin for the yarn. So I suggested she use the little sock hanger idea, maybe from a short chain around her neck or a choker or such.
So today I tried that myself and it works great. Maybe better than a regular pin in that the chain I’m using has a set of beads on it that give it a little weight. So with the yarn on the sock hanger (you could use a j-hook or something more decorative, even make it a jewelry-like pendant) it kind of is suspended in the air, and hangs there on the weight of the beads as I knit. It seems to keep a nice, light tension on the working yarn.
I’ve seen Andrea on her DVD where you can hear the yarn vibrate almost like a guitar string as she flips it with her thumb. I get that as well, but when I knit with a hook or pin sitting in a fixed position on my shirt or vest there is no give or springiness to keep tension on the yarn in a flexible, self-adjusting way. I have to keep the work at the right distance and watch how I’m keeping my yarn tensioned with my right hand and arms. With the hook on a chain with beads for a little weight the tension is “managed” nicely for me by the springiness in the setup.
The one problem I’ve had with Portuguese style is that my knit stitches were always rather tight. I would have to deliberately pull the loops I was creating a bit more to open them up as I formed them. THIS HAS BEEN SOLVED by this trick with the hook on a weighted chain. I just did a few rounds on my speed practice swatch and find that now I must be sure I don’t give an extra pull when making a knit stitch or it’s too loose. Now my knit and purl stitches are all evenly tensioned and I can slide my stitches on my needles. I feel normal now. See #4 below on how to change the tension.
Here’s a picture of my first setup:
And it occurs to me that with a sock hanger you could use the second hook for a second color for color work knitting. And they are cheap! Not elegant, but cheap.
That said, I fashioned one that is more wearable as a pendant/necklace (see below). The possibliites are endless but the weight of the pendant is important, I find (see below). You could do one with a nice sterling j-hook and some cool beads on either side, or in anticipation of two color work, two hooks with beads keeping them apart.
There are a lot of nice j-hooks at www.silverenchantments.com and other places.
By the way, last night I was knitting with the sock hanger in the placket opening of my golf shirt. Turns out I wore the shirt to bed and woke up with the hanger still in place! I also accidentally wore it out to a restaurant. Oops. I think the pendant hooks necklace will be a lot less strange looking.
Notes added late 9-21-09:
More on the Portuguese knitting pendant idea:
A great thing about the knitting pendant is that as long as the pendant or beads are kept hanging in mid-air the tension on the yarn and your stitches is kept pretty much constant. I also find that the little bit of bounce from when you flick the yarn over the needle helps to advance the working yarn as you knit.
If you want something more elegant you can easily make a pendant or add a j-hook to something you have on a chain. I found an old rune pendant that I have and added a j-hook that I bought at Michael’s. It weighs 14 grams – I have a small digital fisherman’s scale I use for weighing balls of yarn. The beaded necklace you saw with the sock hanger on weighs 15 grams.
Here’s the one I made with a metal pendant:
IMPORTANT: You can experiment and see what weight produces the best tension for you. I tried a pendant weighing thirty grams and found it made my knit stitch tension to tight again. Twenty grams also made knit stitches tighter than I like on bamboo with acrylic yarn but might be okay on metal needles.
After more research I’ve found the critical elements are:
1. Pendant weight of about 15 grams. Mine is 14 grams.
2. Chain/cord length of 24 inches.
3. When knitting, keep the angle between the cord and your yarn between about 150 degrees and 170 degrees, meaning its closer to a flat angle as you work so the weight of the pendant can have full effect and “bounce”. This keeps your loops on your needle tips and draws the loops on the needles closed.
4. If your resulting tension is too tight, as it tends to be for me on knit stitches, allow the pendant to be closer to your chest (let it hang lower so the angle is smaller, more toward 90-120 degrees). This will reduce the pull on the yarn. If your tension is too loose, keep the pendant higher in the air and this will effectively increase the pull a little to tighten up the loops. Totally adjustable tension!
Remember that this tool will aid you in moderating your tension. For knit stitches you will allow the pendant to hang a bit lower, and that will loosen them up. For purl stitches you would pull out a bit more to lift the pendant and increase the relative tension a tiny bit over the knit stitch. With mixed stitches it doesn’t seem to matter. So the pendant won’t fix your tension without a little involvement from you. It gives you a way to moderate it. If the yarn is on a pin or around your neck you don’t have much range to apply more or less tension. The pendant acts like a spring so you can “cushion” your tension on the knit stitches in particular. Pulling it out more on the purl side will make it more akin to a pin, using up the springiness. Relaxing the pendant will reduce the tension on the knit stitches. Practice before you do any serious project.
On that note you might want to make a pendant set with easily removed charms or such so you can vary the weight as you experiment to find the right weight. If you don’t have a digital scale note that for reference a USA nickel weighs approximately five grams.
And here is my version for stranded knitting:
I don’t have the exact weight of the pendant but it felt about the same as my single strand version. Worked great. Those are carnelian beads. If you make one with such beads be aware that with all the bouncing that over time the wire cord you use will wear through and the strand is likely to break, so this is not necessarily the best design unless you want to periodically restring your necklace to prevent surprises.
Added 10-13-09: And here’s a budget version you can make. I bought a pair of flipflops to day and they came on this plastic clip. It could be used in a similar way. Just hang it on a chain or string with a loop to keep it centered. You will need to add some weight though, as this is very light. Here’s the pic:
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