As American knitters, we often tend to think of only two knitting holds: English and Continental. But, there are actually other styles of holds. One lesser known hold is the Peruvian knitting technique.
In the Peruvian knitting technique, you hold your right-hand working needle like a pencil and wrap your yarn around several fingers on your right hand. The left hand and left-hand needle have very little to do in this hold. The idea is to slide the working needle back and forth while throwing the yarn in an efficient motion with the same hand to maximize speed. Of course, as with learning any new knitting hold or technique, it's not going to feel very speedy when you first learn it.
To begin, you need to get your yarn into the right place when you're ready to knit your first row. Start by wrapping the working yarn all the way around your right-hand pinkie finger. With the working yarn in front of your pinkie, wrap it around the finger once. Then bring the yarn up in front of your ring finger. Next, slide your middle finger in front of the yarn. Now hold the yarn around that middle finger, which will take charge of throwing the yarn. I found my forefinger was only tangentially involved in helping to hold the working yarn tension as I used the middle finger to throw the yarn around the needle.
The yarn hold of the Peruvian knitting technique was easier for me to master than the needle hold. You hold the right-hand needle like a pencil so the working tip of the needle is lightly gripped between your thumb and forefinger and the length of the needle rests on the top of your hand, just like a pen would. This is where I struggled to learn this technique. I so wanted to grip that needle better! For someone who wants to feel in control, it was hard for me to learn to let that needle go and trust that it would stay where it needed to stay. This seems to me the real trick to making the Peruvian knitting technique work as a speed knitting technique.
To purl in the Peruvian hold is the same. At the start of a row, it feels quite natural with the way the needle is being held. Working on a rib pattern, though, I had a little difficulty figuring out how to smoothly transition the yarn from front to back to switch between knits and purls.
Overall, my first attempt at knitting in the Peruvian knitting technique wasn't exactly a rousing success, so there's lots of room for improvement. I can see why the technique is considered one of the speediest knitting techniques out there. Those who master this technique can work with efficiency and an economy of movement. It will take some work for an English or Continental knitter to learn this new hold and make it work, but it's worth it.
Perhaps a chullo, a common knitted item from the Andes, is just the right project for practicing this technique!