Continental vs. English

The first time I saw continental knitting, I thought "you have got to be kidding." Being right handed, I couldn't deal with having to work with my left hand. Also, while the knit stitch looked easy, the purl looked impossible. So, I have stuck to English.
Well, I'm fasinated with fair isle and all the info I can find on it says the easiest way to do it is to carry one colour in your left and the other in your right. So, last night I sat down and taught myself continental.
To my surprise (after about four hours), I found that I like it better. My stitches look neater. Also, I have found that I have less problems with the purl stitch and more with the knit. Anyway, I think this is going to be my preferred method from this point forward.


scottly's picture

That's exactly my experience, except I am left handed and a crocheter so it felt pretty natural. It did take several hours of intense kntting to really get the rhythm of it but my God I'm so much faster now then I ever was doing English and my stitches do look a lot neater.


MMario's picture

Whereas I am a lefty and a crocheter - but I've always manipulated the yarn with my right hand, though I hook with my left,.
when I try to knit continental I just find it completly ackward - because it seem I do a lot of stuff with the left needle when I knit English - and I can't do it knitting continental because that mucks up tension.

I think under my "normal" conditions I am moving the left needle around a stable right rather then knitting with the right needle.

MMario - ambiguity is cultivated, it doesn't happen in a vacuum!

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

scottly's picture

Mario, do you knit mirror image left handed like some of the books tell you to? I don't - I never could figure it out that way. I knit just like any right hander doing continental.

MMario's picture

I can knit mirror image with no problem (Including norwegian purl); I can knit English "right handed" (my normal mode) - I just can't seem to get the hang of Continental "right" handed. My left hand wants to do too much with the needle.

MMario - ambiguity is cultivated, it doesn't happen in a vacuum!

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

kurtys's picture

I too am left handed. I knit English because I do. I can do continental, but I don't like it. My wife does it and her mother and I don't think the stitches don't look any neater. In fact, I'd say it was the opposite.

Stephen450's picture

I was surrounded by continental knitters my whole life, so when I started knitting, I just naturally did the continental method. English method is too awkward for me.

grandcarriage's picture

I knit either technique, going either direction: right to left or left to right. I find it's good when doing colour work. My little pecadillo is that I seem to do my knitting /purling (I'm a picker, BTW) in a symmetrical fashion. I wrap away from the needle whether I'm knitting or purling. It makes for some adjustment if I'm knitting in the round, whether or not I'm going in the near or far leg when I knit or purl, (so I don't twist stitches unintended),but the adjustment is easy. I think I'm one of the fastest knitters in the groups I attend... But if you really want to be amazed, youtube fastest knitters: They all knit English and they are RIDICULOUSLY fast.

scenter's picture

Miriam Tegels in this video is knitting Continental:

Hazel Tindall is knitting English, without the usual 'throw' that slows you down here(her throw looks more like a wiggle):

And just for fun here's the German Speed Knitting Championship 2007 (set to a German Team Fight Song):

In the last video, for non German speakers:

"2. Deutsche Schnellstrickmeisterschaft" = "2nd German speed-knitting-master-championship"
Köln = Cologne (city on the Rhine)
01. April 2007 = April 1st 2007
Kein Aprilschertz = No April Fools

kiwiknitter's picture

Miriam is knitting "Scottish" which means the right needle is held in her right armpit (in lieu of the belt); it accomplishes the same thing as the belt.

Hazel is using a knitting belt. I just used a knitting belt to knit a jumper and it is so much quicker. If you watch her closely, the left hand does all the work in making the stitches; the belt holds the right needle so all the right had has to do is rest on the needle and flick the wool. I love the method but hate the DPN's!

Knit like the wind!

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

I'm also a natural 'lefty' who cannot cope with knitting continental. I learned to knit sitting alongside my right handed granny and aping everything she did. Many years later I taught myself to crochet and I have to use the left hand for that.

Buck Strong's picture

Uggh! I just noticed that I spelled fascinated without the "c". It's a curse being a math teacher.

To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring-it was peace.
~Milan Kundera

scottly's picture

Just use the edit function - we need never know.

Well damn, now I know!

Rowan's picture

I knit predominantly continental. The only times I knit in English is then I am doing Fair Isle patterns.

Actually, I found a really cool ten-minute continental video tutorial that you guys may like. I only gave it a cursary glance since I couldn't hear the lecture (I am profoundly deaf), but it looked pretty good and easy to understand.


Blankie's picture

This video with Lorilee is awesome... look especially at how she does the purl stitch. It's the best and fastest method I've seen. Very simple.

I had to relearn to knit (I was knitting through the back of the stitch) and so figured I'd best learn continental since it was different enough that I wouldn't confuse myself all over again.

V's picture

It's confusing how many names they have for the way knitting is done. I've always known "Continental" to be the "Pick" method and THE OTHER to be the "Throw" method. I learned continental so I can do the two handed fair isle knitting which is the only time I use the Continental method.

YarnGuy716's picture

I was blessed by a yarn store owner who said, "Knitting is 2-handed, there is no left or right handed." She taught me Continental, which I've always done. I do English when I knit Fair Isle, which isn't often.

Just to add another bit to wrap your brains around... I know a woman who knits Continental, ie. she holds the yarn in her left hand, but she works the yarn like she is throwing. It is interesting to see none the less.

kylewilliam's picture

I am a "thrower" although I have been playing with "picking" at times when doing color work - I think the way I am doing it is twisting the stitches though - which is annoying. someday, I'll work on knitting faster - for now, I just try to enjoy it...



beardnpipe's picture

I do both, I also crochet, and continental, to me, is very similar to crochet. It's also my preferred knit method. I had a difficult time learning to purl until I realized I just need to have the yarn on the opposite side of the item being knit.

My spouse "throws" and when we are knitting, I usually can complete a row quicker than she can.

dannvictoria's picture

I learned continental and don't seem to be able to learn how to do English. I find continental quite easy and have consistant tension so have no desire to change. Throwing looks so slow. My mother was a thrower as is my brother. I was taught by my partners ex-wife who was a picker. I've learned more terms reading this blog than most of the books I have read.
Here is a great web site which teaches both methods and has helped me out more than once in figuring out instructions in difficult patterns.



RickeScott's picture

Confession... My mother is a 'thrower' and taught me to knit when I was a small kid. And, well, that is how I still knit. I call it "lap" knitting. I hold one needle in my right hand, manipulate the yarn with my left (I'm right-handed, but oddly do some things with my left, like throw a ball...) and the left needle is held firmly between my crossed legs. I know, it sounds strange and probably looks even stranger, but knitting in the privacy of my own home, who cares... Am I the only one who knits this way? Please don't think less of me ;-) I guess if I ever want to knit in a group setting, I'll need to learn a proper method. It does limit me to flat knitting on two needles...

I knit English style, and everyone tells me my action looks 'weird'. This is perhaps because I am naturally left handed and taught myself to knit right handed. However, I don't think there is a 'right' or 'wrong' way of knitting, and I firmly believe the equipment should fit the user, not the other way around. Carry on knitting and just enjoy it.