Forum Topic: James Norbury and the Method of Knitting

Yesterday, we went to an antique show/fair and one of the exhibitors was a woman who was furiously knitting.  Of course, I went to chat with her and discovered that she was knitting in the medieval method of holding the right needle still and tucked under the right arm while all the movements of knitting were done by the left arm.  The only involvement of the right hand was to throw the wool.  Those who have studied the history of knitting know that in the medieval ages the members of the knitting guilds wore special belts with a groove which held the right hand needle in a stationary position.  I must say that this woman knitted with great speed both the knit and the purl stitches.

James Norbury was and still is considered an authority of knitting and certainly has both followers and detractors.  He was a very particular knitter and emphasised that there was a proper and improper way to knit and he stressed using the method I've described above.

I can knit in this fashion with my Addi circulars if I concentrate.  I find that it prevents some fatigue and I can knit much more rapidly.  However, the down side is that I tend to knit too tightly and I can't seem to remedy that.  Even for the sake of speed, I don't think I could go back to straight needles.

For the sake of discussion, I bring all this up for the reasons that I'm curious to know if others have tried this method and what they think of it.  In addition, I'm seeking information on Mr. Norbury's knitting books: I am curious to know what others think of them before purchasing some.  They are long out of print and rather dear to purchase.


Paul's picture

My ex-sister-in-law used to knit that way.  She was left handed, and said that it was the only way she could do it.  I tried, but couldn't get used to doing it that way.   Her tension was kinda tight in her knitting, though.  I didn't realize that this was an actual technique of knitting - I thought it was just my sister-in-law doing her own quirky thing.  (Come to think of it, now I'm not sure if she placed the stationary needle under her left arm or her right....)(My brother divorced her about 15 years ago or so - and we've all been so much happier ever since.  lol!) Thanks for sharing this info.  Paul

Not just the medieval guilds. The British knitters of the 1930 - 1950 vintage often use that same technique. The literature is full of comments on knitting belts, needle holders, and other items that eased the knitter's tasks.

I am a continental knitter and consider myself a fast knitter. But an old-fashioned English knitter, using a knitting belt, can usually finish a row and one-half in the time I do one row. However, if the sweater is full of ribs, cables, and purl-and-knit columns, our speed generally runs about the same.

Have fun,


Paul's picture

Jesse, has several Norbury books in their database - they also rate the books from the book sellers, so you can pick and chose how much to spend and for what condition the book is in.  Just do a search for James Norbury, and you'll get a list of the book available. Have fun!  Paul

kiwiknitter's picture

Paul,  Thanks for that!  Can anyone give me their opinion of Mr. Norbury and his books?  Cheers,  Jesse 

I've got knitting fever in the worsted way.

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on.  ~Billy Connolly

I have a couple of his tomes.  Although he was a knitter and designer I think that his work is fundamentally the work of others and published in his name.  The designs and advice are of their era and were published during the austerity period.  The designs clearly reflect this.  His needle-work publications seem to date to an even earlier period (1920/30).  He was very known in his day but that doesn't mean he was terribly good. He wasn't. Mary Thomas' work is far far better (and the little line drawings that animate the pages are quite amusing).  She was a much better knitting historian and her books are still available.