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Continental Knitting vs English Knitting

Continental Knitting and English Knitting are the most common ways to knit! Both techniques create the same knit stitches. However, there are small differences in the way the yarn is held and stitches are formed that can make a big difference in how tight or loose the knit fabric is, and also how fast a knitter can form stitches. Today, we’ll look at the differences between continental and english knitting and describe some of the pros and cons for both techniques. 

Continental Knitting
Continental Knitting

Knitting Continental Style 

Continental knitting is also known as German knitting or “picking”. This method holds the yarn in the non-dominant hand with the strand looped over the back of the index finger. The index finger is used to help the knitting needle pick up yarn before pulling it through to create a new stitch. In this technique, both hands are on the knitting needles at all times. 

Continental Knitting - How to tension the yarn step 1
Continental Knitting - How to tension the yarn step 2
Continental Knitting - How to tension the yarn step 3
Continental Knitting - How to tension the yarn step 4

How to Knit Continental Style

Step 1: Tension the yarn in your left hand by wrapping it around one or more fingers before passing it over the back of your index finger. In this example the yarn is wrapped around the pinky and up over the back of the index finger. The index finger guides the yarn over the needle as you form new stitches and is the most important part of setting up your yarn in your left hand.

Note: the yarn is positioned behind the knitting needle when forming knit stitches.

Step 2: To create a new stitch: insert the right needle tip into the first stitch knitwise (upward through the front leg).

Continental Knitting - How to form a knit stitch step 1
Continental Knitting - How to form a knit stitch step 2
Continental Knitting - How to form a knit stitch step 3

Step 3: Scoop the right needle around the index finger strand counterclockwise so that the strand is looped over the needle.

Step 4: Pull the yarn down through the stitch.

Step 5: Slip the left stitch off the left needle. You now have a knit stitch on the right needle.

Continental Pros & Cons

Continental knitting might be easier for crocheters to learn.

Both continental knitters and crocheters hold the yarn in the left hand making it an easier way for crocheters to learn how to knit!

Continental knitting is fast.

While both methods can be fast, some knitters find that continental knitting is faster because there are fewer hand movements needed to create each stitch.

Knitting English Style 

English style knitting is also known as “throwing.”  This technique holds the yarn in the dominant hand while knitting. To create a new stitch the right hand releases the right knitting needle and the yarn is “thrown” over the needle to form a stitch. 

English Style Knitting
English Knitting

How to Knit English Style

Step 1: To create a new stitch, insert the right needle tip into the first stitch knitwise (upward through the front leg).

Note: the yarn is positioned behind the knitting needle when forming knit stitches.

Step 2: Letting go of the right needle, pick up the yarn in your right hand and wrap it counterclockwise around the right needle tip.

English style knitting - how to throw the yarn step 1
English style knitting - how to throw the yarn step 2
English style knitting - how to throw the yarn step 3
English style knitting - how to throw the yarn step 4

Step 3: Pull the yarn strand down through the stitch on the left needle.

Step 4: Drop the left stitch off the left needle by pulling the right needle up and to the right.

Pro Tip: You can use your finger tips to help slide the left stitch off and also to anchor the right stitch on the right needle while forming new stitches.

English Knitting Pros & Cons

English style knitting might be easier for kids.

English-style knitting involves “throwing” the yarn around the needle younger children might find it easier to form stitches, especially when using thicker yarns. Tensioning the yarn, especially with thicker yarns, by wrapping it around fingers as for continental knitting might be too bulky for small hands.

Reasons to learn both Continental and English Knitting!

Reduces wrist strain and gives you flexibility. 

At some point, you may find that the repetitive knitting motions can strain wrists and joints over time. Both English and Continental style knitting use different hand movements to create the same stitches, you can alternate which method you use to give your body a break. 

Colorwork is easier with both hands!

Getting used to carrying the yarn in either hand can make some more intricate colorwork designs easier to do! Colorwork uses multiple colors of yarn across a row. That means you’re wrangling multiple yarn strands at once! Learning how to use the yarn in both hands makes it easier to carry one color in each. You’ll also be able to use the now-familiar picking and throwing motions to work quickly and across a colorwork row.  

Learning a new technique is just plain fun. 

We always find that it’s just fun to learn more techniques! The more you know, the more you can incorporate pieces of each technique into your own knitting practice in a way that makes it fun, comfortable, and works with your body.

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