Understanding the Continental Knitting Method

Are you tired of the traditional way of knitting and looking for a new method to try? Look no further than the Continental Knitting Method! This unique technique is gaining popularity among knitters all over the world, and for good reason. In this article, we will explore what the Continental Knitting Method is and why you should consider giving it a try. So grab your needles and get ready to discover a whole new world of knitting possibilities!

What is the continental knitting method?

The continental knitting method is a style of knitting that originated in continental Europe, hence its name. It is a popular technique that involves holding the yarn in the left hand while manipulating the knitting needles with the right hand. This differs from other knitting methods, such as English knitting, where the yarn is held in the right hand.

Definition of continental knitting

Continental knitting is characterized by its efficiency and speed. By holding the yarn in the left hand, knitters are able to make smoother and more fluid movements, resulting in quicker stitch formation. This technique is particularly favored by those who prefer to work with finer or more complex yarns, as it allows for greater dexterity and control.

Origin and history of continental knitting

The exact origins of continental knitting are not well-documented, but it is believed to have been widely practiced in countries throughout continental Europe for centuries. The method became particularly popular in Germany and Scandinavia, where it was passed down through generations of knitters. Over time, continental knitting also gained recognition in other parts of the world, becoming a staple technique in the knitting community.

Comparison with other knitting methods

When compared to other knitting methods, such as English knitting, continental knitting offers several distinct advantages. One key difference is the hand positioning and yarn management. With continental knitting, the left hand remains relatively stationary, holding and controlling the yarn. This reduces strain on the right hand and wrist, leading to reduced hand and arm fatigue.

Advantages of the continental knitting method

Faster knitting speed

One of the biggest advantages of the continental knitting method is its ability to increase knitting speed. By holding the yarn in the left hand, you can make quick and efficient movements, resulting in faster stitch formation. This is especially beneficial when working on larger projects or those with intricate patterns, as it allows you to complete your knitting in a shorter amount of time.

Reduced hand and arm fatigue

Since the majority of the yarn manipulation is done with the left hand in continental knitting, it reduces the strain on your right hand and arm. This can greatly benefit those who suffer from hand or wrist issues, as it minimizes repetitive movements. By distributing the workload more evenly between both hands, continental knitting decreases the risk of developing hand or arm fatigue during long knitting sessions.

Consistent tension

Achieving consistent tension is another advantage of the continental knitting method. By keeping the yarn close to the knitting needles and using the left hand to control the tension, you can maintain a more even flow of yarn, resulting in uniform stitches. This is particularly valuable for projects that require an even stitch gauge, such as garments or items that require precise sizing.

Efficient use of yarn

Continental knitting allows for more efficient use of yarn, as it eliminates excessive yarn movement. With the yarn held in the left hand, you have greater control and can avoid unnecessary yarn manipulation, reducing the risk of tangling or stretching the yarn. This can be beneficial, especially when working on projects with limited or expensive yarn, as it helps to optimize your yarn usage.

Getting started with continental knitting

Choosing the right knitting needles

When starting with continental knitting, it is essential to choose the right knitting needles. Opt for needles that are comfortable to hold and suited to the project you are working on. Many continental knitters prefer circular knitting needles, as they allow for a larger number of stitches and distribute the weight of the project more evenly. Additionally, choosing needles with a smooth surface can help ensure smooth yarn movement and prevent snagging.

Holding the yarn and needles correctly

To begin continental knitting, you must first learn how to hold the yarn and needles correctly. Hold the working yarn in your left hand, allowing it to pass between your fingers while keeping it taut. The knitting needles are held in the right hand, with the right needle resting against the palm and the left needle positioned between your thumb and index finger. Practice holding the yarn and needles until you feel comfortable and natural in this position.

Basic continental knitting stitches

To start knitting using the continental method, familiarize yourself with the basic stitches. The knit stitch, for example, involves inserting the right needle into the front of the stitch on the left needle, from left to right, and using the yarn held in the left hand to wrap the working yarn around the right needle. Practice perfecting your tension and forming even stitches with the knit stitch. You can then move on to the purl stitch and other more advanced stitches as you become more confident.

Different variations of continental knitting

German continental knitting

German continental knitting is a variation of the continental knitting method that originated in Germany. In this technique, the knitter holds the working yarn around the neck, creating additional tension. This allows for even faster knitting speed and greater control over the tension. German knitting is favored by many knitters for its efficiency and smooth stitch formation.

Portuguese knitting

Portuguese knitting is another variation of continental knitting that hails from Portugal. In this method, the yarn is held around the neck, similar to German continental knitting. However, the primary difference lies in the way the knitter forms the stitches. Portuguese knitting involves using a specialized knitting pin or hook to wrap the yarn around the needle, resulting in a distinctive appearance and unique tensioning method.

Combined knitting

Combined knitting is a technique that combines elements of both continental and English knitting. In this method, the knitter mostly uses continental knitting for knit stitches and English knitting for purl stitches. This allows for fine-tuned tension adjustments and greater efficiency when knitting complex stitch patterns. Knitters who have mastered both continental and English knitting may find combined knitting to be a versatile and adaptable technique.

Eastern knitting

Eastern knitting, also known as Russian knitting or the Russian join, is another variation of continental knitting. This style involves wrapping the working yarn around the finger rather than holding it in the hand, resulting in a distinctive tensioning method. Eastern knitting is known for its efficiency and speed, making it a preferred technique for those who enjoy rapid knitting.

Common challenges and troubleshooting tips

Tight stitches

One common challenge in continental knitting is creating tight stitches. This can be caused by pulling the yarn too tightly or not allowing enough movement between stitches. To combat this, focus on maintaining a relaxed grip on the yarn and needle and allowing the stitches to flow smoothly. Practice with a looser tension until you achieve the desired result.

Uneven tension

Uneven tension is another challenge that can arise in continental knitting. This can result in stitches that are inconsistent in size and appearance, which may affect the overall appearance of the finished project. To address this issue, pay close attention to how you are holding and manipulating the yarn. Practice maintaining an even tension while knitting, ensuring that the yarn flows smoothly and uniformly with each stitch.

Difficulty with purl stitches

For some knitters, purl stitches can be more challenging to execute in continental knitting compared to knit stitches. This is because purling requires a slightly different movement and coordination of the yarn and needles. If you struggle with purl stitches, take the time to practice and experiment with different techniques until you find a method that feels comfortable for you. With patience and perseverance, you will be able to achieve smooth and consistent purl stitches.

Transitioning from other knitting methods

Transitioning from other knitting methods, such as English knitting, to continental knitting can be a challenge. It may feel unfamiliar and awkward at first, as you are adjusting to new hand movements and yarn management techniques. However, with practice and patience, the transition becomes smoother and more intuitive. Start with small practice projects to build confidence and gradually incorporate continental knitting into larger projects.

Comparing continental knitting and English knitting

Technique differences

The main technique difference between continental knitting and English knitting lies in how the yarn is held and manipulated. In continental knitting, the yarn is held in the left hand, with the right hand primarily responsible for moving the knitting needles. In English knitting, the yarn is held in the right hand, and both hands are used to manipulate the yarn and needles. This fundamental difference in hand positioning and movement contributes to the unique characteristics of each method.

Speed and efficiency comparison

Continental knitting is generally considered to be faster and more efficient than English knitting. The continuous flow of yarn from the left hand to the right-hand needle allows for quicker stitch formation. Additionally, the reduced movement of the right hand contributes to increased knitting speed and decreased hand fatigue. However, it’s important to note that knitting speed ultimately depends on individual technique and proficiency, so personal preference plays a significant role.

Preferred techniques for different types of projects

The choice between continental knitting and English knitting often comes down to personal preference and the type of project being worked on. Continental knitting is favored by many knitters for projects that require speed, such as blankets or large garments. This method is especially advantageous when working with finer or intricate yarns. On the other hand, English knitting may be preferred for projects that require more tension control or involve complex stitch patterns, as it allows for precise manipulation of the yarn.

Learning resources and tutorials for continental knitting

Online video tutorials

Online video tutorials offer a valuable resource for learning continental knitting. Websites like YouTube host a multitude of instructional videos that guide you through the various techniques and provide step-by-step demonstrations. By visually following along with experienced knitters, you can gain a better understanding of continental knitting and incorporate it into your own projects.

Books and written guides

Books and written guides are another excellent resource for learning continental knitting. There are many comprehensive knitting books available that cover various knitting methods, including continental knitting. These resources often include detailed instructions, diagrams, and illustrations to help you grasp the techniques. Look for books specifically focused on continental knitting or knitting basics to get started.

Local knitting classes and workshops

Attending local knitting classes or workshops can be a fantastic way to learn continental knitting. In-person instruction allows for personalized guidance and immediate feedback from experienced knitters. Local yarn shops or community centers often offer knitting classes or workshops that cater to different skill levels. Participating in these classes not only provides the opportunity to learn continental knitting but also allows you to connect with fellow knitting enthusiasts.

Famous knitters who use the continental knitting method

Designers known for continental knitting

Many renowned designers in the knitting world utilize the continental knitting method. Their expertise and exceptional designs showcase the versatility and advantages of this technique. Examples include Elizabeth Zimmermann, a pioneering knitter and designer known for popularizing continental knitting in the United States, and Meg Swansen, Zimmermann’s daughter, who carries forward her mother’s legacy and promotes continental knitting in her own designs.

Knitting instructors promoting the method

There are also notable knitting instructors who actively promote and teach the continental knitting method. These instructors use their expertise and enthusiasm to inspire others to adopt this technique. One such instructor is Arne and Carlos, a duo from Norway who are renowned for their colorful and intricate designs. They frequently incorporate continental knitting into their workshops and tutorials, encouraging knitters to explore and embrace this method.

Possible challenges when transitioning to continental knitting

Muscle memory and habit changes

When transitioning to continental knitting from another knitting method, muscle memory and habit changes can pose a significant challenge. Your hands and fingers are accustomed to a particular method, and reprogramming them to adopt new movements and positions takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself and embrace the learning process. With perseverance, your muscle memory will adjust, and continental knitting will become more natural and intuitive.

Adapting to different hand movements

Adapting to different hand movements is another challenge when transitioning to continental knitting. The movements and coordination required for continental knitting may feel unfamiliar and awkward initially. However, with dedicated practice, your hands will become accustomed to the new movements, and the flow of knitting will become more comfortable. Be open to experimenting with different techniques and finding the hand movements that work best for you.


The continental knitting method offers an efficient and versatile approach to knitting that has been favored by generations of knitters. From its origins in continental Europe to its widespread adoption and recognition worldwide, continental knitting continues to appeal to both novice and experienced knitters. With its faster knitting speed, reduced hand and arm fatigue, and consistent tension, it is a technique that enhances the knitting experience. Whether you are a beginner looking to learn a new method or an experienced knitter seeking to expand your repertoire, continental knitting provides a valuable skill set that opens up endless possibilities for creativity and enjoyment.