On ambidexterity

My right hand has been so dominant throughout my life it's taken me about 25 years to be able to make a semi-decent job of painting the nails on my right hand.  I've never been able to catch a ball with my left hand. (Some might say I'm not much better at catching with my right, but that's for another post!)

In fact, aside from displaying my wedding rings and stopping my watch from dropping off, my left hand has always been pretty much useless....until I learned to crochet and it was needed to hold/tension the working yarn. That was definitely the hardest thing to get right.


A couple of weeks ago Mum noticed I was using my left hand to thread needles when sewing. Since then I was shocked to find myself washing my hair with my left hand as if I'd been doing it all my life, I realised the filter jug and kettle were suddenly facing the "wrong" way, suggesting left handed use, and just before starting this post I caught myself stirring two saucepans - using both hands. I'm pretty sure this all started when I taught myself to knit "Continental". (You can find my "Continental Knitting Post" here about my reasons for changing the way I knit.)

I looked up Ambidexterity on Wikipedia and it mentions knitters which had me wondering... 
Ambidexterity is the state of being equally adept in the use of both left and right appendages (such as the hands). It is one of the most famous varieties of cross-dominance. People that are naturally ambidextrous are rare, with only one out of one hundred people being naturally ambidextrous.[1] The degree of versatility with each hand is generally the qualitative factor in determining a person's ambidexterity.
In modern times, it is more common to find people considered ambidextrous who were originally left handed and who learned to be ambidextrous either deliberately or during childhoodinstitutions such as schools, jobs where right-handed habits are often emphasized or required. Since many everyday devices (such as can openers and scissors) are asymmetrical and designed for right-handed people, many left-handers learn to use them right-handedly due to the rarity or lack of left-handed models. Thus, left-handed people are much more likely to develop motor skills in their non-dominant hand than right-handers (who are not subjected to left-favoring devices). Right-handers may become ambidextrous due to an injury of their right hand or arm. Ambidexterity is often encouraged in activities requiring a great deal of skill in both hands, such as knitting, typing on a computer, jugglingswimmingpercussionkeyboard musicbaseballlacrosse,surgeryboxingmartial arts and basketball.
Of course my right hand is still much more dominant but the dexterity and strength in the left is noticeably improved, resulting in it being unconsciously used it a LOT more now. Has anyone else noticed anything like this after switching to continental knitting, or becoming a crocheter? I'd love to hear your experiences. 

29 comments

  1. wow, that's great! i'm happy for you :)

    i was into juggling, martial arts, thai yoga massage, doing repair works on cars and other vehicles etc for many years before i properly took up knitting, so... i don't know, i haven't noticed any specific improvements since then. but i do enjoy using both my hands :)

    never tried english knitting, so i can't compare.

    very interesting topic, thanks for bringing it up -- can't wait to read other people's comments on this post..!

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    1. Wow - your hands must be very adept to do all that! I'm glad I posted this as the comments have been so interesting!

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  2. Interesting comments about lefties in this article Sarah. I'm a leftie myself, but suppose by that definition I'm actually ambidextrous, in that I use cutlery the right way round, cut with normal scissors, type effectively with both hands and knit the English way.

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    1. My mum is a leftie too and she knits the English way, but an adapted version where she just knits back and forth without turning her work - like a knitting machine!

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    2. wow that sounds really amazing! does it make her a faster knitter?
      My mum is forced ambidextrous, being left handed, though they never suceeded in getting her to write with her right hand she can do everything else with it. I think i probaby use my left hand 40% of the time, I dont have a clue how long I have been doing it for, but I will be typing with both hands and use my left hand to pick up my coffee/eat a snack/find something etc. Off to read your continental post now.

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  3. Interesting post. I've always been towards ambidextrous - I can write with my left hand, it looks like a five-year-old did it but its legible. I guess that made it easy for me to pick up knitting and crochet.
    I also have toes that can pick things up and cross but thats another story...

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    1. I can do quite a bit with my toes too actually, but then I have quite long toes.

      My lad can write with his left hand, just about as well as with his right and when he was younger we thought he might be a leftie but his right is more dominant now. It's very interesting to read all these replies, thanks for your input.

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  4. One of my first memories of school is being punished for using my cutlery the "wrong" way round. A dinner lady actually forbid me from eating my lunch unless I had my fork in my left hand and knife in my right.

    I'm right-handed when I write, but I did many other things in a left-handed manner. Skateboarding, playing the recorder and flute and on a school trip I discovered that I can only shoot a rifle as a left-handed person. Because I was considered a right-handed person, I was often scoulded for any left-handed activities...my recorder teacher was especially cruel about my inability to play the recorder like a right-handed person. Over time I have been forced to change my natural instincts, but as a child I was spilt between being strong with my left or strong with my right, depending on what the activity was, maybe this is why I find crochet much easier than I do knitting. My hands work more efficiently with crochet, although my knitting skills are improving with time. Maybe I should give continental a go, I might be a natural :P

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    1. btw I nominated you for an award on my blog :)

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    2. That's really interesting - I defintely think you should try Continental - I bet you'll love it!

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    3. And thank you so much for the award :) xxx

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  5. I too taught myself to knit continental style a couple of months ago, it makes a lot more sense to me, although I am definitely right handed......I found crochet difficult at first, not the stitches just holding the yarn, but I reckon this is why now I find continental knitting more straightforward. I guess as a player of more than one instrument I do use my left hand in a nimble manner......interesting post!

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    1. I was like you - I struggled with the crochet but once I could do that Continental knitting was easy.

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  6. I'm right handed, but I open cans with my left hand and use a screw driver with both hands. I probabely have seen my father doing it this way because he is a lefty.
    On the other hand, at least one of us children should be a lefty considering heredity. Maybe I am the one, a hidden lefty? That would explain some "problems" I have, for example driving backwards and dislexia but also why I can write and sew with my left hand.
    I think it is amazing that I can read bass clef only when I play with my left hand. Certain tasks seem to be linked to one hand. But that's probabely based on practice.
    I have a student (right handed) who broke his wrist. No he has to write with his left hand. It's almost illegible (I'm a nice teacher and give him a lot of credit). However, his usual handwriting is almost illegible too. :-)

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  7. I'm ambidextrous, but I don't think I'm a 'natural'. I learned to play the recorder and the flute at a very young age, requiring me to use both hands, and I've been doing things with both hands ever since. I write with my right hand because that's the way it was taught to me but I can write left-handed too.
    Interesting post, I think more people should 'learn' to use their other hand more often. Sometimes I see people struggling with things like cooking and they completely stress themselves out, when all they have to do is use their 'other' hand to put less strain on their dominant hand :)
    xo,
    wink

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    1. I agree. Having two 'useful' hands has to be better than one, doesn't it?

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  8. I was born left handed, by born I mean that was the hand I started doing everything with first. But my mother stopped me and made me switch to my right hand. She had this belief that being right handed would aid me more in some way especially when it came to crafts. Regardless I learnt to tie my laces the left handed way and I pretty much use my hands the same amount, my hand writing with my left hand sulks but it's readable and I can generally do everything with the left the same as the right.

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    1. It's interesting that there has been such a preference for "teaching" children to be right handed.

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  9. I've always used my left and right hand for things, except for writing. Perhaps that's why I've never had any problems tensioning on my left (even though I learned on my right)

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  10. What an interesting post. I'm just cack-handed ..lol. I'm a rightie so that could be why I had problems learining to crochet for almost 40 years. Now that I've finally mastered it, I may try my hand at continental style knitting. Picking is meant to be faster than throwing.

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  11. I guess I come into the category of having an injury, although it's actually arthritis. I swithed from bowling (ten pin) right handed to bowling left handed some time ago due to it being painful to bowl right handed and have now found I can do quite a bit left handed I haven't tried knitting or crocheting left handed yet though.

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    1. .... maybe you should! Let us know, if you do!!!! :)

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  12. What a fun and interesting post!!

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    1. I'm fascinated by the replies - this is certainly one of my favourite posts!!!!

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  13. What an interesting post Sarah! I am loving all the comments too!
    I am left handed but use all sorts of implements with both hands. I was never offered left handed sissors so I use right handed ones. My Grandma taught me to knit left handed one year, then forgot the following time I saw her, so I learned both ways. I sew with both hands, left to right with my left hand and right to left with my right hand. I have often wondered if anyone else does the same!
    When 'drawing' on the PC with my mouse - I use it right handed, although it did take me some time to become skillful at it!
    Oh, I also play tennis with both hands (so never need to play backhanded) and as far as ten pin bowling goes - I still don't know which hand to use!

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