Craft · Knitting

Switching to Continental

Knitting barged into my life nearly six years ago now. Though a large portion of that first year or two was taken up crocheting, I still knitted occasionally and since then I’ve knitted almost every day. When I learned, I learned English – not surprising as I lived in England at the time. Now, after six years, I’m thinking of switching to Continental.

What’s the difference? For my readers who don’t know, a quick explanation.

English knitting is also called throwing. You tension the yarn in your right hand and ‘throw’ the yarn around the needle for each stitch.

Continental knitting is also called picking. You tension the yarn in your left hand and ‘pick’ the yarn with the needle through each stitch.

There are dozens of videos online about how to do both, so it’s easy to learn if you feel like switching. I wish I had learned Continental to begin with; it’s quicker and kinder on your hands, or at least it is for me. My right hand once had a severe RSI as a teenager (believe it or not, from making pixel dolls) so knitting English is sometimes a strain.

When I knitted the obscene mitts, I knitted two-handed. One hand English, one hand Continental. That’s how I learned Continental, though not on that project. However I can’t seem to get into the habit of knitting one-handed when doing Continental.

After finishing those mitts and the baby sweater (pictures coming soon!) I started getting hand pain again. Fed up, I decided to try a project completely Continental. I picked up the yarn I bought a few days before and cast on a stockinette cowl for a friend. Easy, rhythmic, and perfect to practice. It’s so much faster and because the movements are so small and confined it’s not nearly as hard on my tendons.

English knitters, I highly recommend trying it.

What method do you use when you knit? English, Continental, other? Is that how you learnt or did you make a conscious choice to switch?


23 thoughts on “Switching to Continental

  1. When I learned basic crochet as a kid, I was taught how to keep tension by winding the yarn around my left pinkie, like in Continental. When I started knitting, I already knew how to do it so it seemed natural to just knit Continental–I’ve always done it that way. English looks to me like a lot of extra effort and possibly confusing; I’ve never even tried it.


  2. I learned English as a child and thought I hated knitting. Then, as an adult, after years of crocheting, I taught myself Continental (since I was used to tensioning with the left hand with crochet). I loved it, but still got frustrated with purling.
    Then I learned Combination knitting and was thrilled (but still had some frustration with purling after rows of purling because it requires a knit row after a purl row to untwist the previously purled row of stitches).
    This year I learned how to Portuguese knit and I have no more frustration (at least not with knitting)! It’s so easy on my hands! Two handed knitting is even easier than it was before (and I, like you, used to knit both English and Continental when knitting with two colors at once). My tension was always good, but now it’s amazing; and the stitch definition is crisper and sharper than I thought possible with mere yarn.


    1. I haven’t heard of Portuguese knitting, I should check that out. My tension in Continental is bad right now but it’ll get better. I don’t knit as tightly as I do English which is a good thing since I often break needles!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so glad I was taught Continental as my hand is toast anyway. Can’t imagine the damage I would have done if I’d learned English. Now I really want to see what Portuguese is all about re: LauraLee, as I loathe purling and all the extreme movement it takes.
    Thanks LauraLee for throwing a wrench my day 😉 Off to Youtube to learn a new tequnique!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kelly, Portuguese knitting can be found on YOU Tube and there’s a really good class on Craftsy that teaches the basics of it. Andrea Wong is the teacher.


  4. I taught myself from a book, and sort of naturally fell into a style of knitting that was easiest for me. I’ve since discovered that it’s Continental, but also Combination (I twist my purls, then knit through the back loop on the knit side). I do most of my knitting in the round, with the Magic Loop method, so I rarely have to purl anyway. The only time it’s a problem is on lace scarves with those big decreases.

    I’ve thought about switching to the English and standard knitting methods, but everything I’ve read suggests I accidentally learned the most efficient way to knit, so I’ll stick with it and put up with untwisting stitches before I make a decrease.


  5. I learned Continental when I was 15 from my mother-in-law (way before she was my mother-in-law) and have never learned any other technique. Now LauraLee has my interest peaked about Portuguese!


  6. What is an RSI? Stress injury? Thanks to tendonitis, I know how frustrating it is when you can’t knit without pain, so I hope switching will make it better for you! Before I learned to knit, I had several people tell me I should learn Continental first, that it was easier, so that’s all I’ve ever known. I also started with crochet, so it was familiar for me to have the yarn in my left hand. I’m amazed when I see knitters go so fast with the throwing method but I don’t think I’ll be tempted to switch. But now I’m wondering if I’m still doing something wrong with my purling, because it doesn’t really change my movement that much. Maybe I’ll take a video and have people tell me what I’m doing wrong! 😉


    1. Yes, it was tendonitis actually. I started with knitting but switched to crochet for a long time, then back to knitting, but the left-hand-yarn didn’t stick into knitting. You can generally tell if you’re twisting your purl stitches – however, I didn’t notice for the first two years so your mileage may vary 🙂


      1. LOL I can tell now! It took me three years to notice I was twisting them and had to relearn how to purl. I hope your pain improves. I seem to have healed from my second bout of tendonitis (knock on wood) so now it’s just trying to manage it so it doesn’t come back. It’s a nasty bugger.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I am currently trying out Continental as I’m a dyed in the wool ‘thrower’ but the saying about old dogs and new tricks keeps ringing around my head. When I look at Continental knitters they are so fast in comparison to my slow and steady pace. I guess the important thing is being able to knit first of all and if it’s possible to make the ‘shift’ but if not be grateful for the skills that I do have.


  8. I knit English style, and while I can knit with both hands (color knitting)- I can’t seem to get the hang of knitting regularly in continental style. I can also knit backwards (so I don’t have to turn my work), but if I lay that project down for more than a day- I forget how to knit backward and I have to re-teach myself. (I’m an odd duck.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been like that for a long time – I could knit two-handed but not Continental on its own. Determined to change that.

      I learnt to knit backward for entrelac but that was a few years ago, no way I’d remember now!


  9. I’m guessing I do a Continental style somewhat. Honestly if anyone ever saw me knit they would laugh. I tuck my left needle under my arm, use my left hand for yarn, also wrapping around the pinky as I was taught crochet first, and then knit off that needle, wrapping the yarn around the needle from my left hand. When I watch videos of people knitting holding both needles in their hands, they throw the yarn over with their right hand. I’ve tried to copy that and what I’ve discovered is it makes your stitches look different. So no matter what you choose, you should be consistent. I was taught in a class at our local YMCA because my mother who was a knitter didn’t want to teach me any of her habits and wanted me to learn the right way. lol


    1. I think consistency is the thing – I want to be able to knit Continental consistently because it’s better for my hand. If I switch in a project by accident (has happened) the gauge is totally off because I am a tight knitter in English but loose in Continental. So weird!


    2. No matter what the nutters say- there is no one way to knit correctly. If you can get the yarn onto the needles, and create stitches correctly and uniformly- that is the right way for you.


  10. I knit English style but a few weekends ago I was taught how to knit continental. I think it’s great for knit stitches but I really struggled to get the hang of purling. I think I will make a conscious effort to knit continental when doing things in the round or fair-isle patterns, as it is much quicker. And now after reading the comments here I am curious about Portuguese style. Off to youtube I go!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s