Learning to knit continental....

Okay... so I'm taking the plunge to learn how to knit continental... I'm having a lot of trouble with how the yarn is held with the left hand.... the whole one loop around the pinky then up and over the forefinger is just not flowing right... Instead I've been weaving the working yarns through all my fingers (in front of pinky, behind ring, in front of middle, and over forefinger)... The yarn flows better, but for me to keep tension this way my fingers get tired because they're also holding onto the needle... so I end up relaxing my hand, and my stitches don't come out even (I'm a bit of a perfectionist-so knitting English style gives me a little more control over my stitch tension- instead of throwing with my whole hand, my right forefinger flicks the yarn over and I can decide how much to pull... versus continental where my knitting is at the mercy of the tension of the working yarn...)

I wanted to see if anyone could suggest a different hold... my main motivation for learning is that I'm going to be teaching beginner knitting at my LYS soon and I'd hate to look like a bungling fool if someone asked to be taught continental.

I know... long rambling post... but any thoughts from our awesome veterans here?


2manyhobbies's picture

If you're wanting your knits and perls to come out with even tension on flat knitting, I've read several places that combined knitting works well for that. For combined knitting, you knit through the back of the loop, as you do for eastern-style knitting so that the stitches sit on the left needle with their fronts facing to the left, and your perl as you do for western-style knitting, scooping the yarn from top to bottom. It's described well here: http://www.modeknit.com/knit.html Note that you cannot really do combined knitting in the round - I now switch to western-style "through the front of the loop" kntting in the round, after puzzling out why all my stitches would end up crossed. Note that for combined knitting, you have to change what you do for left-leaning and right-leaning decreases. Ted gave a fascinating workshop on combined knitting at the knitting retreat in May.

I think continental (non-wrapping) knitters may generally knit looser than english knitters. I usually have to use a needle a couple of sizes smaller than most knitters to get guage. I'm not convinced this is a bad thing, though, unless you're working with slippery yarn on metal needles where looser stitches can tend to slip off (but that's what the wood or bamboo needles are for!).

Although I can knit eastern, western, or combined easily enough, I've never learned to knit well English style (meaning where you hold the yarn in your right hand and wrap it). I tried to do that recently when I was doing some faire isle work, since you're supposed to be able to carry one color in your left hand knitting continental, and the other in your right knitting English, but I found that my tension was pretty different between the two (the wrapped stitches were much tighter), and I didn't want to take the practice time just then to try to correct that.

But, I think you should teach whatever you're comfortable with and know well. I've read several places that continental knitting is supposed to be faster than English style knitting (and combined knitting even faster yet), but then again I've also read that most of the fastest knitters are English style. Maybe continental knitting is just faster on average, but the speediest knitters perfect the movements of whatever style they're most comfortable with.

Stan Stansbury's picture

I wrap the yarn from the work around my index finger once, then run it across two fingers and down between my ring and little fingers. I find that having the yarn wrapped around my index finger gives me really good tension control.

2manyhobbies's picture

I notice I didn't answer the question in my response :). I just rest the yarn over my left index finger and tension by holding it against my middle finger, so I don't wrap the yarn around any of my fingers. If I feel the tension get too loose, I move those two fingers farther away from the needle for a couple of stitches until the extra length is taken out, and then move back to the original position.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

When doing Continental I wrap the yarn like you now do, DeceptiveCookie, and some times take an extra wrap around the index finger to maintain the tension - especially with really slick yarn. A lot of the tension issues between the two styles is just from lack of experience with Continental. I knit both styles and can keep an even tension even if I switch back and forth in a piece of knitting [as I have been known to do] but it took quite a lot of practice. Be patient with yourself and just keep clicking away and you'll get the hang of it. Bravo for you in wanting to be able to help any and all who take your class. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

DeceptiveCookie's picture

I think it definitely is patience that I'm lacking. I had decided to tackle an 80 stitch wide 1x1 rib wrap using worsted yarn and size 8 needles... I'm just plugging away at it currently... I've got the motions down pat... it's the tension that's still getting a little wonky... I guess I'm just getting flustered that the stitches aren't even...

Albeit, since I'm using very fall colors (it's going to be comprised of 4 large plain color blocks of russet brown, deep Burgundy, orange, and a vintage yellow) it adds a little bit of rustic charm to it... guess there's a bright side to everything!

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Sounds like a great color combination. Even after all these years of knitting Continental, I still have an occasional wonky period with tension. [Love that description BTW :-)] All I can do is take a moment to get it back under control. Otherwise, I move on to another project and/or switch to Throwing instead of Picking. Keep on knitting...you'll get it. Good luck. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

WillyG's picture

Good for you! I tried to learn, then put it aside. For what it's worth, I'll pass on advice a friend gave me for learning continental... put aside all other knitting, and knit only Continental for at least a few weeks, and work on it a bit each day. He said it's like learning to knit all over again--there's muscle memory things that just take a bit of time to learn.

DeceptiveCookie's picture

That's what I'm doing with the wide 1x1 ribbed scarf... 860 yards of continental fun...

The hard part is putting all my other projects on hold...

WillyG's picture

Blessings on your head! I do want to get around to doing this...but today's not that day. Or maybe this ain't that year...

Kerry's picture

There are also some good videos on YouTube showing continental knitting.

michaelpthompson's picture

Can't answer your question, but I admire your initiative. I've been wanting to learn Continental for some time, but haven't tried it yet. When you beat this, I want to hear your story.

"All knitting is just one stitch at a time."

KnitteryNinja's picture

I knit continental and maintain even stitches well using this method: I do not wrap the yarn around the pinkie. I only wrap it around my forefinger twice, meaning the yarn tangles inside by hand, comes up between my forefinger and middle finger, wraps once completely around my forefinger and wraps to the top of my forefinger again. I found this worked best for me.

Continental knitting allows you to knit quickly without tiring or cramping at all if you hold the yarn this way:
Make certain that your yarn position is exactly the way she shows it. Have fun!

EricJT's picture

I started trying to learn english and continental and almost gave up entirely because of the standard suggestions for wrapping the yarn around the index finger just didn't work for me. DO NOT THINK YOU HAVE TO DO THAT. After learning to knit portuguese style i then needed to work continental for a particular project (I use continental when doing mostly knits, portuguese when doing mostly purls, all for speed reasons) and tried again, this time without thinking about it I just held the yarn the same way i always did for crochet and it works great:

With the ball at your left of your left hand, palm down, bring the yarn over your pinkie and back under to the left and over the top of it again toward the right, then under your ring finger, then over your middle and index finger. Use the later two fingers to adjust tension on the yarn, and your pinkie to control the feed.

"Knitting your brows won't knit you a hat."

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

Good point, Eric. I thought of it myself late one night over the weekend but didn't get to post it. Good thing you got there first. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

DeceptiveCookie's picture

I've been trying it this way and it's working the best so far... I'm about 2.5 balls of yarn into the scarf so far. We'll see how she goes.