I found a fascinating blog through Ravelry: A Fisherman Knits. He's been experimenting with historical methods of knitting ganseys and creating the legendary wind-proof and warm garment.
I'm currently attempting one myself, and discovered that the result, so far, is slow knitting that causes intense pain in my hands and wrists. Not good.
But reading Fisherman Knits' research has piqued my interest in the proper way to knit them, cuz those women were either walking around with lame hands or they were doing something FAR different from what I'm doing!!
Turns out they did something far different.
They used different tools. (Go ahead and peek. I'll wait.)
They didn't have Addi circular needles. They didn't even try to make a super-tight form fabric using just their hands. They used the wonderful world of physics. They used leverage.
Why didn't I think of that??
So how did they get leverage? Long needles and a place to lodge one (without getting stabbed). My choices, then, were to get my hands on a knitting stick (or sheath) or a knitting belt.
Being ever the patient one when I'm on a research and recreation jag (NOT!) there was no way I was going to wait for one to arrive by mail. Not even by priority. And then there's the side of me that says 'they didn't mail away for their knitting belts - so why should I?'
So I went stash-diving into the old costuming bins, and came up with a nice sturdy, thick full-grain upholstery-grade half-hide. And I found a punch. And some fiber fill. But no horsehair. Fine.
You know what? It works. It's ugly, it's not stitched well, the buckles are the wrong size, and the holes are way too big. But it WORKS! I tried it out with long pointy sock needles, and I like it!
Next time: smaller holes, use the Riccar machine for stitching (stronger), a real buckle. Still won't have horsehair, but if it works, does it matter?
But the holes I accidently punched in the basement area rug? Let's not do that again, shall we?