Saturday, July 26, 2008

Germans take knitting seriously!

Did you ever have one of those odds and ends days? You know the kind that seems to tie up a lot of loose strings? It is the day I finally made the batch of cookies I've been thinking about for a couple of weeks. The day I transplanted the spindly tomato plant and fed the palm some magnesium sulfide or something like that. And it is the day I finally sat down at watched the knitting videos a friend recommended when I absolutely could not figure out how to turn the heel on a practice sock. What I quickly learned was that I have been knitting wrong all of these years.

Let me explain. I grew up in the aftermath of World War II and Korean Conflict. Decades later wounds and prejudices were still raw. Anything German, Japanese or Russian were on the list to avoid at all costs.

I am a mutt when it comes to genealogy-- a little French, a little Swiss, and a whole lot of German. But in those days, admitting to being German just wasn't done. So I grew up disassociating myself from my roots. And I tell you this because the knitting method I should have learned as a child is labeled continental or more accurately: German knitting.

I hesitated when I heard that. Old habits and all. But I watched the videos at and sat in front of my computer learning all over again how to knit and purl. Some aspects were easier than I expected, but in many ways the frustration of stumbling over each stitch made this old dog want to forget about learning any new stitches.

While struggling to hold the thread in my left hand instead of the right, my thoughts kept wandering to German women knitting blankets for their sons and husbands, brothers and uncles -- the ones who went to war against the United States, England, France and their allies. I felt a kinship to those women, knowing that Mom and her mother knitted squares that were sewn together for blankets and lap roads for our own soldiers. It didn't seem to matter which side their loved ones fought on, the same love formed each stitch.

That was World War I, but still, women tend to do what they can to give comfort in any situation.

As with most things, my odds and ends day opened up a host of new projects yet to be finished. I set aside the knitting needles, resting my brain and fingers by telling myself that tomorrow would be better. But let me tell you, once I got over my German angst (us Germans can be a hard headed lot), I discovered just how seriously 'we' take our craft.

Earlier this year, April 4-6, a speed knitter challenge was held. (See above photo). Guinness World record holder Miriam Tegals hosted the German Speed Knitting Finals at the Handarbeit and Hobby Show in Cologne. By the way Miriam knits 118 stitches per minute to achieve that record.

More than 155 knitters took part in the competition, 11 of which knitted over 200 stitches in three minutes. The new German champion is Angela Mühlpfordt who achieved 220 in three minutes, sharing second place were Doris Wingerath and Ursula Barth with 216 stitches
. Angela is shown receiving her prize.

I knew Germans excelled at speed skating, but speed knitting? I never thought of knitting fast as a goal. For me keeping all of the stitches on the needle is a challenge. 220 stitches knit in three minutes. Ohhhhhh my!

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