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Learn to Finger Knit with the Knitting Runner, David Babcock

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Learn to Finger Knit with the Knitting Runner, David Babcock

db_squareFeatured in the New York Times and around the world, David Babcock is the Guinness World Record holder for knitting the longest scarf (12 feet!) while running a marathon, which he did in Kansas City last October. Coupled with a great deal of skill and endurance, David credits his choice in using Lion Brand’s Hometown USA as a factor in his amazing accomplishment! Lion Brand is sponsoring David in the New York City Marathon on November 2nd, 2014 and lucky for us, he’s agreed to write for us leading up to race day! Plus, you can meet David while he’s in New York City!

This Sunday, I’ll be running the New York City Marathon while knitting a scarf. I’m doing it to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s. While training for the New York City Marathon, I was faced with a problem. Due to security concerns I was told that I would not be allowed to bring knitting needles or a crochet hook with me on the run. I respect the great service that the New York Police Department provides and want to support their efforts. So I had to come up with a way to knit on the run without needles.

I tried arm knitting, but a 15 minute scarf doesn’t fill my target 4 hour finish time and the giant loose gauge would not hold up well on the run. I was aware of what is commonly called finger knitting but I didn’t feel that a 4 stitch stockinette would work well either. So I did a little experimentation of my own and in the process I learned more about knitting.

Knitting at its simplest level is just a series of loops inside of loops. Knitting needles are a very helpful tool for holding stitches and picking up and pulling loops through, but learning where to insert them and how to twist them was quite a challenge for me as a beginner.

Knitting Made Easy With Fingers

When fingers take the place of a needle, the yarn is pushed through the loop with a thumb, or plucked up from the back with thumb and index finger. Loops are slipped to the ends of the fingers to be worked and transferred to the other finger, just as they would be on a needle. My index fingers are pretty small, yet they can easily hold 15 loops of Lion Brand’s super bulky weight Wool-Ease® Thick & Quick® or Hometown USA® yarns. The thicker yarns do really well with the natural gauge of finger diameters. With fingers you don’t turn the work, you just go back and forth, left to right, and right to left, from finger to finger. A reasonably tight gauge is fairly natural, as there is a natural tension in trying to get the loops onto your fingers. I do feed the yarn between my middle and third finger when knitting, and around my thumb when purling.

David Babcock’s Finger Knitting 101

(For full, 14-minute, unabbreviated tutorial, click here.)

For my NYC Marathon run I will actually be double finger knitting. Just like double knitting with needles, I will be working with two colors of yarn alternating between knit and purl stitches to determine which yarn color emerges to the front face of the fabric. This results in a double-sided fabric where the pattern is inverted on the opposite side. The resulting scarf is twice as thick and half as wide as the number of stitches that you put into it.


I plan to knit the words, “I’ll remember for you” in honor of the many Alzheimer’s caregivers and families who carry on the legacies their loved ones have lost. It will take at least 3 1/2 hours to make, under ideal conditions, due to the complexity and in the crowds of NYC, will most likely take me all the way up to 4 hours. The final scarf will be around 6 feet long and 4 inches wide and 1 inch thick. A mostly normal scarf that respects the concerns of the NYPD. The pattern is fairly simple and I hope that you will make one for your loved one, even if you make it while relaxing in your chair and using your needles.



babcock_knitrun_sept10Sponsored by Lion Brand, David is running the 2014 New York City Marathon on November 2nd to raise money for the NYC Athletes To End Alzheimer’s team – please donate!

Since its creation in 2009, the Alzheimer’s Association’s NYC Marathon teams have raised well over $2 million. The Chapter offers free support and education to the more than half a million New York City residents who either have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia or are caring for someone who does.

Photo: David with a recently-made scarf, finger-knit with Hometown USA while running 10 miles in 80 minutes on September 10th!

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  • I’ll be rooting for you tomorrow. I hope the rain clears out and you have a good day for your run/knit. I have never had a close family member with Alzheimer’s but I feel for all those who have . It is a great thing you are doing!

  • You are doing a wonderful thing, David! I have worked with people with dementia/Alzheimer’s for 16 years as a chaplain. I also lead a knitting/crocheting prayer shawl group and know the joy a shawl can bring. Thanks for raising awareness because awareness brings hope.

  • What an inspiration you are! I’ll be cheering you on & can’t wait to see your finished product!!!

  • I am wondering where do you carry the yarn?

    • Marty, I usually carry the yarn wound into a tight ball placed inside a ziploc bag and then inside a waist pack where it can spin freely but not pop out. With the NYC marathon I crocheted arm sleeves and unraveled the yarn from the top near my elbow.

  • THIS! Is amazing! And thank you for sharing your technique with us! 🙂

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