Continental v. English Knitting

Not sure why experience makes you doubt yourself  rather than give you confidence but I’ve definitely noticed that the older I get, the more questions rather than answers present themselves. And this has now extended to knitting too!

Let me explain, I learned to knit the Continental way – or left-handed way (!) and I always thought that this method was THE way. You control the yarn with your left hand and get friendly with the tips of the needles and your stitches. I hold my work even closer to the tip!


Of course, quite soon, I saw that there were many other ways of knitting. Most specifically, the English way which is also called “throwing”. I observed carefully friends “throwing”. Yarn “thrown” with the right hand to form the stitches and a formidable control from what I saw to be quite a long way away from the action end of the needles. I saw some poetry in the motion but I had no desire to try it. After all, it was virtually impossible to control tension properly, wasn’t it?


And then I began teaching and all those hurdles which I found so difficult to surmount as a learner, I saw other struggle with too. The way the yarn was wound round the index finger and held, accusingly, at an angle from the needles. The tension control – only control freaks can do that – no?

I’ve now taught myself how to knit the English way. I think it’s nice to transfer from one type of knitting to an other. Never  in the same project though – I’m just not quite there yet with the tension. And not as a first choice. It’s a bit like learning a new language. Unless you count and dream in the “other” language, you don’t speak it as a native. I definitely count and dream the Continental way. However, this afternoon, I had an epiphany.

I’m currently working on a project involving colour work. It suddenly dawned on me that it would be so much simpler twisting the different coloured strands together if I knitted the English way. And  instantly I wished I started that way from the beginning of the work. Thankfully I don’t have much of the pattern left.

Some Interesting Facts About English Knitting

  • used by English and American knitters as well as parts of Europe
  • not all English knitters let go of one needle to “throw”
  • some older knitters using the English knitting method say that “throwing” the yarn is in fact the “American” or “Swiss” method
  • English method knitters prefer it for speed of knitting and control over tension

Some Interesting Facts About Continental Knitting

  • used in Germany and Northern and Eastern Europe or people originating from those countries
  • left-handed knitters find this method of knitting easier to learn
  • some knitters knit the mirror- Continental way
  • Continental method knitters prefer it for speed of knitting and control over tension

Of course, if you can’t make up your mind which you prefer, you could try the Polish way (yarn round the neck), the Portuguese way (yarn round a brooch on the shoulders) or Australian knitting, Peruvian knitting, knooking, German knitting and Norwegian knitting. Of course there is ergonomic knitting too.


So I suppose what I’m saying is that there is as many different types of knitting as there are people doing it. And whatever feels right in knitting terms, just do it. So I think that I’m knitting the knit rows in the work Continental style but purling the English way.

How do you knit?

About monsteryarns

I am a yarn enthusiast and knitter.
This entry was posted in Continental knitting, English knitting, Knitting, Yarn and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Continental v. English Knitting

  1. Really intetesting post. I use the English version. I get my tension with the way i wrap the yarn around my hand. I use the same wrapping method when i crochet so it works really well for me. 🙂

    • monsteryarns says:

      Thanks. I’m really interested in all the different ways of knitting. The wrap-round-the-neck version looks so interesting as it seems the easiest for people with strained wrists etc. and sometimes it’s nice to give your fingers a rest….
      But you’re right. It’s getting the tension right that is the main thing.

  2. Hannie says:

    I knit the way that my Mum taught me now I think that must be the English way as I throw the yarn around with my right hand and sometimes onto the floor!

  3. Sara M says:

    I’m an English knitter. It’s how my grandmother taught me when I was about 12 years old. She’s well into her 80s now, and still knits charity sweaters for a local NICU (over 500 of them and counting)!

  4. Continental – unless doing color work with more than three yarns. I can hold three yarns in my left hand Continental style. If I add a fourth, then that yarn goes in my right hand for throwing. I draw the line at five. 🙂

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 )

Connecting to %s