It has been a month since I ran a bit of a challenge to get an idea of the range of knitting speeds and to see if factors like technique and needle type made a difference. We ran the challenge at Knit August Nights (and I forgot to take a photo), the FOMO Fibre Retreat and through the blog’s Facebook page. There were about 28 entries and I plan to start a fresh ongoing survey to gather some more data based on the feedback on this one.
The challenge itself was simple – either cast on 80-100 stitches onto your preferred needle in your preferred yarn weight, or use a project you are already working on. The most important thing was you needed to be able to knit without having to pause to pull a cable through for magic loop or to do any patterning. Then either timing yourself or (preferably) getting someone else to time you – knit across the stitches without pause for one minute (60 seconds). I used the timer on my iPhone or watch. Then count how many stitches you knit in that time. Ideally test yourself three times so you get an idea of an average time. And by all means test yourself using different techniques and needles!
Obviously the more experienced a knitter you are, chances are the faster you will knit. I wasn’t quite happy with this survey question which focused on how long you had been knitting, and having chatted to some of the other traders at KAN I am going to add another one about how much you knit in a year.
“English” versus “Continental”
One thing that has been demonstrated in this exercise is that there is a range of styles within each of these techniques. In English knitting the most obvious difference is between those who drop their needle when they loop the yarn and those who flick it over the needle without letting go of the needle. Lever knitting (where the needle is held under the arm) exists in both styles and continental knitting also has several variants within it. And on that topic I just want to stress that none of those variations is wrong as long as it is a comfortable technique for you. Strictly speaking in New Zealand the technique we typically call continental (with the the yarn in the left hand) is German style with the name being changed around the time of the World Wars. I knit (lazy) German style which is slightly different from Russian style but which would both be considered “Continental”
The survey results reflect this and I think next time I might add a few more options around technique for the purists (and looking at this question it should be which not what – I was jet lagged when I wrote the survey)
Needle type and material
There was quite a range on this and the material question had the most likelihood of errors/ respondents being unsure. Not surprisingly Knitpro and Chaiogoos where the most commonly used brands – the hidden two “legend” results are for an unknown and a “handmedown from Grandma”
And as final note – 90% of people responding were using circular needles. It would be great if I had more responses from Europe to see if that would balance out!
And the results were…
As a general rule if you have only been knitting for two years or less your average stitch speed tends to be in 28-32 range, but there are also some very experienced knitters (10 years+) who are in this range too which is why a “how much do you knit” could be a useful additional question. It is also worth noting that this sample came from a group of a committed knitters participating in knitting events which will skew the sample to more prolific and therefore faster knitters compared to the knitter who picks up a project now and then.
When it came to English versus Continental, needle material had more impact than technique. Experienced knitters (10 years plus) who had knitting speeds of over 45 stitches a minute were evenly spread between the two techniques. Lever knitting using a straight needle is very fast – apart from the responder who averaged 58 stitches a minute, one of our participants at KAN switched from the circulars she uses now to a swatch on straights which she lever knit and her speed went up by 30%, although this was partially a material shift as well.
I want to qualify these results as some of the fastest knitters I know didn’t participate but Knitpro Nickel were overall fastest with stitch counts in the mid to high 50s with ChiaoGoo Stainless Steel not being far behind with a wider range of averages. We didn’t have enough knitters using Addi or HiyaHiya to make a judgement but would assume they would be similar. These results needed a bit of fiddling with some knitters assuming a needle was steel when it was either nickel of aluminium.
Fast knitters tended to be about 10% faster on metal compared to wood or bamboo which isn’t really a surprise in a speed test like this – hand fatigue from using metal needles isn’t an issue.
And who was fastest?
Well that honour went to Jodi who managed 61 stitches a minute knitting English style on Chiaogoo Stainless Steel needles. The next fastest where two more English style knitters on 58 stitches and then Continental knitters on 54.
But as a general rule I think its fair to say that a fast knitter regardless of technique and needle material is working in the 45-48 stitch a minute range. A typical knitter is working in the 34 – 38 stitches a minute and newer knitters are in the high 20s to low 30s depending on how much they are knitting.
And while none of us will knit consistently at our fastest speed having a good idea of how fast you knit can give you some ability to make a realistic estimate of how much more time we need to finish a project. For instance I can estimate that the 60 rows * 64 stitches of my sock foot will probably take me a couple of hours of straight knitting.
I am updating the survey – thanks for everyone who took part. If you are reading this and would like to add to the data gathering you can participate by taking the refreshed survey below.