An alternative to Continental for beginners (or anyone for that matter)

I am a beginner knitter and a new member of the group. I started knitting about 3 months ago. And I started out with the English or American style of “throwing”. Then, because I wanted to be able to do stranded knitting I tackled Continental. It wasn’t fun but I got it. Even the Norweigian purl! Then about 6 weeks ago Stan Stansbury showed up at Monday Night Knit in San Francisco and started knitting two utterly and entirely awesome red, white and green Christmas stockings in the Portuguese style with the yarn around his neck.

That night I went home and typed in “Portuguese knitting” on YouTube. That’s how I learned. It was that easy. And then Stan told me to type in “knitting around the neck”. It’s all about stranded knitting in the Portuguese style.

One of the things that makes this method (also known as Turkish and Arabic) so easy is that you don’t handle the yarn at all. The only yarn manipulation required is a flick of the thumb for either knit or purl. The knitter handles the needles and the work but not the yarn. I wear the yarn under my collar like a tie. The drag of the collar on the yarn enclosed within it provides the perfect, easy pull with the result that the yarn is both self-feeding and self-tensioning. This allows the knitter to focus more on the actual act of stitchery and on how the work is coming out. With this method yarn becomes something you no longer really have to fuss with. If you’re a beginner with big dreams and really want to get going quick, not having to fuss with the yarn anymore is kind of huge. For me this method has been pure knitting magic. I strongly recommend it to any beginner who is having trouble with Continental, check it out. For me it’s been far easier than either English or Continental and with stranded knitting there’s no contest at all.

I’d be real interested to know if there are any lads in the group who are living in either Portugal or Brazil or Turkey or any Arabic country and have seen native knitters knitting. (I’ve heard they knit this way in the Andes too.) I also wonder if there might be more men knitters in some of those places too.

Stitch on, Tom

PS Can’t help but feel that “native knitters knitting” should be one of the 12 days of Christmas.


albert's picture

Have you tried this method yet with two strands or just with one? How would it work with two yarns at once?

Stan Stansbury's picture

Using two yarns is as easy as using one with this method. You put one yarn around your neck from left to right, and tension it with your right hand. You put the other around your neck from right to left and tension it with your left hand.
The purling motion is the same, you just pick the color you want for the next stitch with your left thumb.
I find this method much easier than continental on aging arthritic hands.
There's a video on Portuguese knitting by Andrea Wong that shows details of this style, and Portuguese knitting videos by Chuanavit on You Tube. There are also some 2 colors videos on You Tube under the title knitting around the neck. The woman who did these is very efficient, I've forgotten her name.


New York Built's picture

I love this method and the Norwegian purl rocks! Seems to offset nicely the pull of regular purls on stockinette. Great recommendations, Tom!

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

There's a book on Andean knitting showing men knitting their caps this way, with multiple colors. It looks like it's wonderful for knitting multiple colors in stranded knitting. There's also an Interweave book "Knitting around the World" with an article by an American woman who learned this method in Greece using notched wire for knitting needles. The web site on Portugese knitting that I saw uses a hook similar to the notched wire idea. Looks like fun, but I've not really tried it.

TomH's picture


QueerJoe's picture

I found this method intriguing...mostly because of how they manipulate the knit-stitch so they complete it from the front. I will definitely need to try this technique.

Bill's picture

Stan has been knitting this way for a while, and he's developed a comfortable obviously works for him...
It's fun to watch both Stan and Tom at our Monday Night Knit group...

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

I'm familiar with this but haven't tried it. My C-style purl is similar to Norwegian purl but I put the yarn to the front of the needle - just like regular purl. The scoop/swoop action is very similar, though, and is must easier than any other type of C-style purl I've found. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

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

Pinecone's picture

Thanks for this interesting posting Tom. I have a couple of multi-color projects I'd like to try this on. John