Last year, I attended Maine’s Fastest Knitter Race for the first time, as the official Over the Rainbow Yarn photographer. Today, I put my knitting skills to the test, and joined the race! (I took some photographs too.) Unsurprisingly, I did not win, but participating was a blast.
The English knitters took the stage first, including myself. I watched the crowd grow quite large while Mim explained the rules, the difference between English and Continental knitting, and why everyone in the world ought to be a proud knitter. She invited any knitters hiding in the audience to join the stage. The prizes were so tempting, and admittedly the pressure from the crowd was strong enough to draw several quiet knitters who may have thought they could get away with just watching out of the crowd and onto the stage.
Mim did a great job as the MC.
I surveyed my competition, and tried to think calm thoughts. I knew I’d knit best without my hands shaking with anxiety. And long, straight needles are already hard enough for me to handle. In fact, I’d wager that I’ve spent about 10 minutes knitting with straight needles in my entire life, and possibly never with such long ones. They feel wobbly and awkward in my hands compared to circular needles, which are short and easy for me to hold. It’s all in good fun, and I never planned on being too intense about it, but when I started thinking of the chance at winning a knitting cruise next year, my heart began to beat a little faster. Wouldn’t it be lovely?
Usually I’m a good knitter. My stitches are neat and even. Not too tight. Not too loose. My technique is smooth, rhythmic, and comfortable. Today at the race, I was a bad knitter. I assume that everyone was, to be fair. I dropped several stitches, and watched them unravel as I plowed on, splitting a few as well. Every stitch was a wibbly-wobbly mess. Every time I turned, it was an ordeal for me to figure out how to re-orient those big, long needles to begin my next row. Nonetheless, it was such FUN. I was wearing #23 and heard several strangers in the audience hooting and cheering for me, number 23! I was half way through with row 4 of 4, but Susan was the proud, deserving winner of my round. Go Susan!
The six Continental knitters had just begun.
Next up, the Continental knitters took the stage. Unlike last year, we were fairly evenly split between English and Continental knitters – surprising, since most Americans knit English-style. Though maybe not surprising, since Continental-style is typically faster. It’s a contentious subject, though. I think it’s faster for most people, but in fact the fastest knitter in the world, Hazel Tindall of Scotland, knits English-style! Both Andrea and Anne (a lucky name, clearly), previous winners of Maine’s Fastest Knitter Race, participated in this round. There was a good-natured ferocity in the air. In the end, Andrea won the Continental round.
Andrea (left) and Susan (right) received their amazing yarny prizes. Andrea also won passage aboard the J & E Riggin for next year’s “Eat, Knit & Dye” knitting cruise!
In the final round, Andrea and Susan faced off. They both knit like the wind, and Susan gave Andrea a good run for her money, but Andrea took home the crown for the third year in a row. Congratulations, Andrea! You’re officially Maine’s Fastest Knitter, until next time.
The final times were as follows: Susan won the English-style round by knitting 4 rows(200 stitches) in 5 minutes, 16 seconds. Andrea won the Continental-style round by knitting 4 rows(200 stitches) in 4 minutes, 2 seconds. And Andrea won the final face-off round in 3 minutes, 46 seconds. Woot woot!
We’re gearing up for the 4th Annual Maine’s Fastest Knitter Race on Wednesday July 29, 2015 at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine. Hence, we have speed knitting on the mind. Can you imagine knitting 80, 90, 100 stitches a minute? With the increase in popularity of knitting races around the world, some knitters are polishing their needles, doing their warm up exercises and keeping training schedules. There are classes popping up with titles like Knitting For Speed and Efficiency or Need For Speed and YouTube and the blogosphere are filled with tutorials on how to use the science of ergonomics to increase your knitting speed. There has been a good-natured rivalry between the two fastest knitters in the world, Hazel Tindell and Miriam Tegels, for at least 10 years. Hazel Tindell has been knitting for as long as she can remember. As a teen, she knit and sold Fair Isle yokes. In 2002, Tindell qualified to participate in the World’s Fastest Knitter competition. She beat out her three other competitors by stitching 255 stitches in three minutes. https://youtu.be/GfRZnN2rL4Y Miriam Tegels always knew she was a quick knitter, and knit all through high school and continually since then. She practices her speed knitting frequently to keep her pace up, and won the record on August 26, 2006. Clocking 118 stitches in one minute, she holds the Guinness World Record for fastest knitter. https://youtu.be/aFi0nhA1uHU The two finally faced off in 2008 at a Minneapolis, Minnesota Knit Out event where Hazel handily beat Miriam, 262 to 243 over three minutes. There are good reasons to learn more efficient hand positions that ease fatigue and relaxation techniques that get you to unclench your pinkies (you pinky clenchers know who you are!). We should all take an interest in our hand health, but most people knit for relaxation or as a hobby and don’t think about ergonomics or efficiency. When we invite folks to join us at the race, they usually answer with a variation on, “Oh, no. I couldn’t. I’m not fast enough. I could never win. If you had a race for the world’s slowest knitter, I would probably win that.” So what does all this have to do with you, you ask? Well let me ask you something in return. Is there any other place in your knitting world where you can sit on a stage in front of a cheering, adoring crowd and ply your craft to thunderous applause? I thought not. Fast or slow, win or lose, the knitters on the stage at The Maine’s Fastest Knitter Race know that they are doing something special, something enviable, something admirable. Many of them come back year after year because it is fun to meet other knitter in a public place and collectively raise the profile of knitting for every one. Check out some photos from last year’s event here. If you live locally or are visiting Rockland, you can come and watch and cheer on your favorites, but arrive early if you want a seat, as there is usually standing room only. If you are ready to compete, drop by 18 School Street or call us at the shop 207-594-6060 to reserve you seat. You can also register online here or even show up by 4 p.m. on race day to join! I promise you that even if you think you are the worlds slowest knitter (and seriously you can’t all be the slowest!) your place is on that stage with us – the swift, the proud, the elite – who know that knitting is a superpower unlike any other. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. On your mark, get set… GO!