Continental arghgh!

I'm into my fourth month of learning to knit and decided to try continental. By far the hardest and most frustrating thing yet, but I won't give up!! I have my sights on doing color stranded work someday. Feels like starting over at the beginning again.


New York Built's picture

Rob, if I may offer a suggestion from one suffering fool...

Don't bother to try to learn Continental if you're goal is to learn stranded knitting. Learn to do stranded knitting, which will have you practicing two handed knitting, which is continental knitting in the LEFT hand.

Different set of motor skills, different neural pathways, different vision processing, different ALMOST everything.

You will be a much more satisfied knitter. IMHO, after beating myself up on learning Continental. Now, I knit combined, and it flies.

Also, after seeing all that has been published over the pasty 10 years, BUY this book...Mary Thomas's Knitting Book. Pgs. 91 through 113 on Colour Knitting was written in 1938, accompanied with quaint and antique-y illustrations...but I learned how to do stranded knitting without floats, how to purl this wonderful weaving stitch, and how to decrease, increase and alter fit IN PATTERN in stranded knitting.

These skills seem to escaped the writers of most current books for some reason. This, to my knowledge is the most comprehensive...much deeper than the Bourgeois' efforts in Fair Isle Simplified, and they are showing stranded knitting, not Fair Isle.

But no reason you should fear the unknown.

Be a friend to yourself and take it like a man.

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

purlyman's picture

I'm going to check out the book NYB suggests. I've been knitting for about 7 years and only learned Continental very basic so I could do stranded two color knitting. Even now I find it difficult and I'm working on something right now that has quite a bit of just one color knitting in the round. I'm trying to force myself to do it Continental and I'm hoping it'll become just a natural and easy as English did after a while. It seems only natural that that will happen - I sure hope so. Good luck!!


YarnGuy716's picture

My suggestion is simply, do what works best for you. I've taught English style knitters how to knit Continental and they do suffer through the early stages, just like when you were a new knitter. Which is basically what you are again, your teaching your hands a different process, just like when you first learned English.

Jumping in and just learning 2 handed knitting works for some people, but many are frustrated by the lack of speed and control with the hand they normally hold the yarn with. I knit Continental, but when doing 2-handed I felt I had no speed or control and my gauge completely flew out the window. So I spent some time learning English and learning to control the yarn while holding it in my right hand.

I would still check out NYB's suggestion of the Mary Thomas book. She is always an excellent source of knowledge.

albert's picture

I do two-handed knitting when doing colorwork; when knitting a single color, I do English. When doing two-handed, the continental bit feels natural, but if I try to knit continental with just one yarn it feels totally alien, so I immediately switch to English.
I also give a thumbs up to the Mary Thomas book.

As the others said, do what feels natural. Go to Youtube as well...I learned alot from the videos there. I taught myself to knit continental last fall. For was the best thing to do.

But I have struggled with tension. I have just come to the realization that different yarns require a different weaving among fingers.

albert's picture

They can sometimes require different fingers altogether- which can be somewhat problematic.

YarnGuy716's picture

Never once do my fingers leave my hands!

ronhuber's picture

I think you should knit the way you want to and find a method that suits you and is comfortable for you. There are no rules. And unless you are in a competition, or knitting things to sell, it is a not a race. In addition, there are no rules for Fair Isle Knitting. I thought I knew what I was doing until I visited Shetland. There are as many different methods used there are there are knitters. I have many books on Fair Isle knitting and each author has her/his method of knitting. Then there is the Norwegian stranded knitting. And the Swedish. And the Estonian. If you already know how to knit by throwing the yarn, then why not do stranded knitting with both colours in the right hand. If the sweater takes you five weeks instead of four, who cares. Enjoy your craft.

jdkcubed's picture

Have to agree with BNY above. Had the worst time trying continental knitting then learned "two handed" knitting for fair isle and I love it. Intellectually it is probably he same but it seemed clearer and easier to grasp with two colors going at once. Tension has also been my challenge with the left hand.

The World's a blast. Ka-Whoosh, Ka-Whish. With healthy soul and belly. And all the skies are full of fish, and all the fish are smelly!

scottly's picture

I knitted English for over 20 years and now that I knit Continental I feel like I hadn't been knitting at all those last 20 years. It opened up a whole new world for me. My theory is that because I'm left handed it's a lot easier for me and also crochet is my first love and the movement and the rythm are almost identical. I'm so much faster and I find learning new stitches so much easier. I have yet to work color but it is also on "to do" list.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

As a longtime knitter who taught himself, I can only suggest that you grasp knitting first, then move on to expanding to Continental. Learning to do two-color helps as well. Mary Thomas has lots of information in her books and NYB is right that her explanation of stranding is the very best. As for gauge...I can only say that my experience has been that it comes after LOTS of practice. I now find no difference in mine whether I do Continental or English (unless I'm tired or tense) and often switch styles as I work a project. But it took several years of knitting to do that. Lots of luck and please be patient with yourself - the skills will come. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

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

JDM511's picture

I have like continental for everything but cables. I just can't get comfortable crossing the cables while holding the wool in a continental fashion.

purlyman's picture

This is from someone who is waiting to join MWK - he emailed me through Facebook:

Frank, when I read that post yesterday from Rob Strauss entitled “Continental Arghg!” I so wished I could reply. I was in the same place he is until one night one of our Monday Night Knitters walked in and started knitting using the Portuguese method (also called Turkish and/or Arabic method; and I’ve heard they knit this way in the Andes too). This is a method whereby the yarn goes around the back of the knitter’s neck. The result is that the yarn is self-feeding and self-tensioning. The hands are completely free of having to hold or carry the yarn at all. The hands just work the needles. It’s completely possible to learn this method off YouTube. If you go to YouTube and type in “Portuguese knitting” you’ll see several hits by “chuanavit”. She’s good. She’s Portuguese. She doesn’t speak a lot of English but her demonstrations are simple and good. There is also a 7 minute video by Andrea Wong that is very good and gives some background on the technique. The only issue I have with Andrea Wong is that she suggests using a knitting pin instead of running the yarn around the neck. If you do it this way you have to tension the yarn with your right hand. But if, instead, you run the yarn around your neck and under your collar like a necktie, the natural drag of the yarn on your shirt collar tensions the yarn perfectly. (I honestly can’t understand why this isn’t catching on more.) For videos that show stranded knitting in the Portuguese style you should type in, “knitting around the neck”. It will blow you away how effortless stranded knitting can be with this method. Discovering this method has completely changed the experience of knitting for me. While I enjoyed knitting before, I am now well and truly hooked on it.

Anyway if you could pass that on to Rob Strauss, it would give him another option and might open things up for him. It certainly opened things up for me. In my experience the only caveat with this method is that it can light a very large fire under your knitting so you’d want to be careful with that.


Bill's picture

I suspect this is from one of our "Monday Night Knitters"...we have two guys knitting in the Portuguese way...and liking it...but I'm not sold seems to be necessary to knit with the wrong side facing you...awkward for colour work, I should think...
I mostly knit with multiple strands of continental doesn't feel comfortable to me...throwing works well....and I'm not after speed...just enjoyment.

rjcb3's picture

Learning both ways will help you out a LOT when you start doing two-colour work.

...and also, later on down the line, when you're REALLY experienced and start teaching someone else, OR if you have a difficulty with something in the future and someone is showing you how to overcome whatever and shows you in one way or the other, it will be MUCH easier to grasp. Believe me, I tried asking advise once from a continental knitter and the whole time I was being shown, I had to translate while going along and it became very confusing -- this was before I took up continental. I still knit English, but use continental method as a tool, useful for when I need it.

...also, sometimes some of the videos that are out there will only show one way or the other. does have demonstrations in both ways.