Continental Purl

I just got back from a group class at my LYS where I learned that I'm wrapping my purl stitch the wrong direction! I also found out that I'm supposed to hold both needles with thumb and forefinger. That's making my continental purl seem all new and foreign to me. Anybody have any suggestions that might help me be a better purler?

MMario's picture

My question would be "sez who?"

If you like/prefer the fabric you get doing it the way you have - then it is "different, not wrong"

MMario - I don't live in the 21st Century - but I sometimes play a character who does.

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

Tallguy's picture

I have to agree that there are many ways to do the same thing. However, there are some things that will make knitting alot easier if you do it a certain way. Not wrong, just a lot easier!

I've been finding that a lot of new knitters are winding the yarn around the needle in the opposite way most of us use. While you will still get a stitch, you do create problems for yourself when you try to do other things with it. And it's much harder to UN-learn something, and then re-learn something in its place. Best to learn it properly the first time around.

The yarns should always go around the needle in a counter-clockwise direction for best results. Doing them consistently is the key. Then following other directions should work out well. If not, then you have to do a lot of "translating" to make sure your own stitches come out as they should. Again, not wrong, but different.

I would be curious to know where you learned to knit. Was it from a book, a video, from watching someone, or did you actually get some direct hands-on instruction from a knitter? I'm curious to learn what methods us guys use to learn these new techniques. It's a good thing that you took this class! And good thing that they were able to put you on the correct path before it was far too late! Clear sailing from here on out... well, most of the time!

Stephen450's picture

Thanks for the advice. My finished product looks just fine, but during the knitting process, my knit stitches were twisted so I had to knit through the back of the stitch. I want to learn the "correct" or "most accepted" methods before I put my own twist on it, as I usually do with most things I learn.

I learned the basic knit and purl stitches from my sister when she visited for Christmas. Unfortunately, there was not sufficient time to sit with me until I was proficient at both stitches. I signed up for group classes at a LYS, but one-on-one instruction for a significant time is not possible in group instruction. I am going to see if I can't arrange for an hour of private instruction so I can become comfortable with what I am working on.

Gabriel's picture

I agree with your previous posts....these boys know what they are doing! One thing you might do is check out the website ! She is amazing when you are starting out or trying to learn something differently then you have been doing it previously.
Good Luck!!!

Stephen450's picture

I am getting such great advice here! I really appreciate the input and the exchange. I also really like the website and I plan to spend the evening at the computer with my yarn, needles, and a cup of coffee.

JPaul's picture

I don't understand why you've been told to hold both needles with the thumb and forefinger. That doesn't seem like good advice to me. I'm not a continental knitter; I "throw" my yarn, so maybe I'm missing something, but if you're forefinger is busy holding the needles, how do you tension your yarn?

Stephen450's picture

The tension without using my forefinger is exactly what I am struggling with. I plan to "camp out" at the LYS until I am comfortable with my technique.

grandcarriage's picture

My knitting and purling look symmetrical from above...if the left needle is a mirror, my knitting/purling technique is a mirror image. I push my needle through the stitch and the yarn rests on top: In the little valley formed by the two needles, whether I am knitting or purling. I find this to be very fast. (Better than a stitch/second when I am warmed up).

Not tonight honey: I'm knitting...

kiwiknitter's picture

Wow! A stitch/second! Your needles must smoke when your knitting!

My knitting is totally tubular!

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on.  ~Billy Connolly

yarnivore's picture

I have big hands, and hold my needles so they're comfortable, usually with thumb and middle finger, and use the index fingers for balance. It depends on the stitch. I also knit continental most of the time.

The important thing is to find your way to hold the needles so you can maintain even and comfortable tension.



I'll stop after this row. Honest.

Crafty Andy's picture

My life is a Craft, not a blog. 

You have gotten great Advice and I will add that as long as you are getting a steady tension or a staedy gauge and you are not hurting your wrists or your hands, you knit anyway you want. I teach Crochet and I tell people that there is really not a right or wrong way of holding the hooks, I show them what is easy for me.

Some people are blessed with long fingers, other with short, so each of us find a way of knitting no matter what. When you are having trouble then you can get ideas and if your trouble seems like a strange needle positioning then they may suggest a change.

Imagine if you knit withyour Toes . What is the correct way to hold the needles? ROFL!

The LYS doesn't always have all the answers.

I've been purling the 'easy' way or the 'wrong' way for more than 10 years now and did initially knit a few pieces with twisted stitches, but once I figured out to knit or purl the leading edge of the stitch everything was fine.

Try googling "combined knitting" and check out the websites:


That method is used a lot in Eastern Europe, and has some advantages over strictly continental knitting or throwing. There's nothing wrong with it. In fact, purling that way is truly (topologically) the opposite of the continental knit stitch.

When you get to decreasing, you have to decide if you want the decrease to be left-leaning or right-leaning -- usually if you're following a pattern and it says ssk you k2tog and vice versa, but that is a topic for another time.

By all means, try the 'accepted' method, but I'd rather knit with the minimum amount of motion.

kiwiknitter's picture

There's lots of good advise already posted here. I'll just add you learn to recognise how a knit/purl stitch "sits" on the needle (with either the left or right leg leading) and how it behaves when you knit into the leading leg or back leg. There are lots of combination knitters (see "Confessions of a Knitting Heretic" by Annie Modesitt or ""Knitting for Anarchists" by Anna Zilboorg) as well as some MWK members. I agree to hold the needles in the fashion that works most comfortably for you. I use my left index finger for tension when I do continental.

My advise is to stay away from the knitting police.

My knitting is totally tubular!

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on.  ~Billy Connolly

Knittinglady says go to good free video tutorials .keep clicking


Aaronknits's picture

I also recently discovered that my purl stitches were "different" (I will no longer say "incorrect") but I didn't beat myself up too badly about it. Wasn't too difficult to learn another "different" method.

As for how to hold your needles, I suspsect that one reason why some people don't "get" knitting or don't enjoy it is because how they are "taught" to hold their needles just doesn't work for them or isn't comfortable. I know damned well that how I hold my needles is also very "different" but it works very well for me and I'd probably stick my needle in someone's eye if they told me I was doing it wrong.

I agree about each person's distinctive "hold" on the needles. What I learned is to keep your tension consistent while both knitting and purling. I was getting this strange "ribbing" thing happening. It looked like every other row in stockinette was raised. My knitting lady who I take class with kept watching me: "Let me watch you purl" "Let me watch you knit now". Both looked ok to her. Then I figured out I was 'pulling' my purl stitches tighter than I was 'wrapping' my knits--therefore knits were looser and laying flat while purls were tighter and raising up. I had done it for so long that now I must really think about relaxing on the purl rows. Anyone else ever experience this?