Please note: left handed knitting (where the knitting starts on the right hand needle and ends up on the left hand needle) is different to backwards knitting (done so you can avoid purling in stocking stitch, commonly used in mitred squares, entrlac etc). I’ve used backwards knitting quite a lot- I taught myself for entrelac, and (I think) it’s fairly intuitive. That being said, I’ve always held the yarn for it in my right hand, which definitely I find easier. Ahh, the glorious ease of long practice!
The main difference between left handed and backwards knitting: the way you wrap your yarn around your needle to make the stitches. In backwards knitting, you want the leading leg of the yarn to be facing you without turning the work, in left handed knitting, you turn the work and then want the leading leg to be facing you.
Question: what do I mean by leading leg? (Ok, I had to look this up- I had an intuitive idea, but wasn’t able to verbalise why). The general consensus is that the leading leg is the one which sits closer to the tip of the needle. (Disclaimer: I’m not pitching this at complete beginners).
Fig 1: left hand knitting after a row of knitting:
The important thing to note here is that the leading leg of the stitch is at the back of the work(the tip of the needle is on the right), rather than the front. If you were to knit right handed after this, all the stitches would be twisted- hardly a deal breaker, but something to bear in mind. Also, the yarn would be at the other end…
(Right hand knitting after a row or knitting looks exactly the same as after a right hand row of purling, and so I’m not going to provide a picture of that)
Fig 2: left hand knitting after a row of purling (knit side):
This now has the leading leg at the front on the knit side, ready for the next knit row. (Bear in mind that the tip of the needle is on the left here).
Note: in both these pictures, the yarn loops are facing the same direction. What is important here (but I couldn’t photgraph due to needing to be close enough to the yarn to see the direction of the loops) is where the tip of the needle is.
Either way, you ideally want the leading leg to be facing you, whichever end has the point of the knitting needle. Otherwise, all your stitches will be twisted. Second disclaimer: of course, you might be going for twisted stitches, and you can untwist them as you knit/purl, but that’s more awkward (most of the time).
Ok, so how to knit (and purl) left-handed? Flippant answer: copy someone knitting righthanded in a mirror. Everyone gives this advice when someone asks how to teach a left-handed person to knit. Either that, or to just teach them continental (as though putting the yarn in the left hand is all there is to it…)
Full disclosure: this is why I learnt to knit left-handed. I agreed to teach a left-hander to knit and want to do it properly. (Word of the year is still preparation 😉 )
So, knit stitch. Insert working needle (left needle) through the first stitch on the holder (right needle) away from you, wrap the yarn around the working needle by going under the needle towards the holder needle then over away from it (see picture). Pull the yarn through the stitch then push the stitch off the holder. Please note: this is exactly the same as the instructions for the knit stitch right-handed, just with the working needle and holder the other way around. This shouldn’t be a surprise to people, but I wanted to highlight it. Second note: the leading leg of the new stitch should be at the back of the work (the needle then gets turned around at the end of the row to bring the leading legs all to the front of the work).
And the purl stitch: insert the working needle towards you through the first stitch on the holder, wrap the yarn around the needle by going over the needle away from you then under the needle towards you (then over the needle away from you to get it back in place for the next stitch) (oh boy was that one hard to master!), pull the yarn through the stitch then pull the old stitch off the holder needle. Same tricks about this being the same as right handed purl and the trick about the leading leg still apply. As does the picture under this paragraph 🙂
So, now that I’ve talked about how to knit lefthanded- why? Well, for me it was originally so I could teach a lefty to knit. But I’m going to keep going with this technique- it’s fascinating to go back to being such a beginner! I had to go back to holding both needles in one hand to wrap the yarn in the beginning. I’m struggling with my purl gauge, and the idea of having to completely learn how to knit again, just because I’ve mixed my hands up is taking a bit of getting used to! However, I’ve recently been knitting so much (right handed) that my right arm is *very* unhappy with me, and learnign to knit lefthanded would be an excellent way to knit twice as much! On different projects- ooh, I wonder if my gauge left-handed will end up different to my gauge right-handed. That would be fascinating!!!! I also have this strange idea about knitting garter stitch with two colours, but one row of each colour. I’m not sure whether my idea will work, but I want to try 🙂 So many new ideas I have from doing this!