Continental Knitting Guide: All You Need To Know

By Jodie Morgan

| Updated:

A speedy knitting style known for seemingly complicated hand movements, an advanced user knits super fast, zooming through knit and purl stitches.

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I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 18, 2023.

Table Of Contents

What Is Continental Knitting?

Continental knitting is a knitting style. What makes this unique is how you hold the yarn and work stitches. (Aka left-handed knitting, European, and German knitting.)

The term “left handed” to describe this style is a misnomer. Left hand and right handed people do it. Knitters using the continental style hold their yarn in the left hand, other styles use the right.

Unlike standard English style knitting (‘throwing’), and Portuguese knitting, work knit stitches with the tip of your right knitting needle. There’s no wrapping of yarn required. Some call it ‘picking.’ Do the hand motions change the stitch’s look? No.

Continental Vs English Knitting

English style knitters hold the working yarn in their right hand. Continental knitters hold the yarn in the left hand and have less hand movements. The continental style is a popular class of knitting style used for fair isle and Norwegian knitting. The abbreviations and patterns are the same.

Try these knitting styles and see if you’re a continental or English user.

How To Knit Continental For Beginners

Here’s the way you hold yarn as a continental knitter.

Hold Option 1: Wrap the working yarn around your left wrist 1- 2 times. Take the yarn under your pinky, and over the next three fingers. Stick up your index finger with the yarn over that finge. Pull the yarn coming from your wrist if the pointer finger is too high up. Note: This for tight knitters, and produces a loose gauge.

Hold Option 2: Wrap the yarn around your left index finger 1-2 times, and lift that finger slightly.

Hold Option 3: Wrap the yarn around your left pinky two times, take it under the fourth finger and middle finger and over the forefinger.

Neither work for you? Experiment and find a comfortable yarn position.

How Do You Wrap Yarn For Continental Knitting?

Wrapping yarn creates a new loop or stitch when knitting. Wrap the yarn around the right handed knitting needle from left to right. Pull it through.

How To Cast On Knitting Continental Style

  • Step 1: Make a slip knot with yarn, put a needle through the loop, tighten.
  • Step 2: Tension the yarn. Hold the needle like a knife with your yarn hand.
  • Step 3: Push the right needle into the first stitch (the slip knot) onto your left hand needle as if to knit.
  • Step 4: Wrap the yarn with your index finger around the right-hand needle from left to right.
  • Step 5: Pull the new stitch through. You have one stitch on each needle, and your needles will be crossed.
  • Step 6: Take the left knit needle into the right side of the stitch on your right needle. Your needles will be crossed in the same second stitch, with the right knit needle behind the left. Repeat steps 1 – 6.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to do this.

How To Do The Knit Stitch in Continental Knitting

  • Step 1: Cast on.
  • Step 2: Tension the yarn, and keep the working yarn in the back.
  • Step 3: Take the right-hand needle from left to right, place it in the first stitch on your left knitting needle. Keep the right needle in the back.
  • Step 4: Use your thumb to wrap the yarn around the right knitters needle.
  • Step 5: Pull the working yarn through the first stitch on your left hand needle through and off. You’ve completed the stitch!

How Do You Purl Continental Style?

  • Step 1: Maintain the yarn tension, and hold the yarn you’re working with in the front.
  • Step 2: Pull the yarn forward and down
  • Step 3: Push the working needle right to left into the first stitch on the left hand needle
  • Step 4: Wrap the working yarn from the bottom, over the right knitting needle, and back down again
  • Step 5: Pull the new stitch through the old loop. You’ve made a purl stitch!

How To Bind Off Continental Style

Knitted Bind/Cast Off

  • Step 1: Knit 2 stitches
  • Step 2: Take the left needle tip through the left side of the first stitch you knitted on your right needle
  • Step 3: Lift that stitch over the second stitch on your right needle.
  • Step 4: Knit 1 stitch. Repeat steps 2-4 until there’s one stitch on your right needle
  • Step 5: Cut the yarn leaving a 10″ tail
  • Step 6: Take the stitch off the needle, poke the tail through, and tighten

Purled Bind/Cast Off

  • Step 1: Purl 2 stitches. Poke the left needle tip from left to right into the first stitch you purled
  • Step 2: Lift that stitch over the second stitch on your right needle. You now have one stitch on your right needle.
  • Step 3: Purl 1 stitch. Repeat steps 2-4 until there’s one stitch on your right needle
  • Step 4: Cut working yarn and leave a 10″ tail
  • Step 5: Take the stitch off the needle, put your tail through the loop. Tighten

FAQS About Continental Knitting

Is English Or Continental Knitting Easier?

Learn both methods of knitting, and see which you prefer. Some say knitting bulky yarns in the English style is easier. Others think learning continental is easier if you’re good at crocheting. It’s faster than English knitting, especially with the knit stitch. However, it depends on your skill.

How Do You Knit Faster In Continental?

Knitting in the continental method helps you gain speed. The more you knit and the more used to the motions your hands get, the better you’ll become.

Why’s It Called Continental Knitting?

The continental style came from continental Europe and was popular in Germany. During the early 19th century, this style’s popularity increased. During World War 2, it decreased in popularity due to the technique’s connection with Germany.

Thanks to Elizabeth Zimmermann, a knitwear designer, continental knitting gained popularity again in the USA. Countries where people often practice continental knitting technique include Greece, Bolivia, Portugal, Peru, and Turkey.

Is Continental Knitting Better?

It depends. You might like it because of its limited hand motions, speed, efficiency, and ease of movement. Other people prefer other knitting techniques because of the tensioning knitting method and where you hold the yarn.

Try different styles and see if you’re a continental or English method user.

Is This Knitting Method Looser?

Some yarn holds help you knit looser if you’re a tight knitter. Change needle size if your gauge is off.

What Knitting Needles Are Best For Continental Style?

All knitting needles work with the continental style of knitting! For more information on the types, see here.

Conclusion

Happy knitting, and good luck trying something new. Want more information on another popular method? See my English knitting guide.

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About The Author

Jodie Morgan From Knit Like Granny

Jodie Morgan (Author & Founder)

jodie@knitlikegranny.com | Lives In: Regional Australia

Author: Jodie Morgan is a passionate knitter and blogger with 40+ years of experience currently living in regional Australia. Taught by her mother and wonderful grandmother “Mama”, she fell in love with crafting from a young age. When she’s not knitting, you’ll find her enjoying a cup of coffee with cream, or sharing helpful resources and tips with the online knitting community. Get to know Jodie and the team on our meet the team page.

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Comments

  1. I use continental style knitting. I am knitting a linen stitch dishcloth. My knit stitches are done by pulling the stitch down and pulling the working yarn through the stitch with my right needle. This helps me not knit so tightly.

    I do not have a “cool” purl stitch that works well with this. Every other stitch is slipped on both side of the piece. Do you have a suggestion?

    Reply
    • Hi LaVerne. I am still a beginner to continental style of knitting. I am using it to do stranded colorwork when I knit holding the yarn in my left hand and right hand. I knit continental for yarn held in the left and English style for yarn held in the right. I did a bit of research but wasn’t able to find anything to guide you. I hope you eventually work out the “cool” purl stitch. Cheers Jodie

      Reply
  2. Another variation of holding/tensioning yarn on left hand: Wear a ring on your 4th finger (preferably with a little height). Yarn falls under pinky, over 4th finger (behind the ring), under middle, and then over index finger. The ring prevents the string from straying. I have tried all other techniques and for me this felt the most secure and consistent. Once I didn’t have a ring- and made one out of black electrical tape! You do what you have to do, right? Ha!

    Reply
    • Thank you very much Amy for sharing your tips on tensioning the yarn when knitting Continental style. I am going to give your suggestion a try. Cheers Jodie

      Reply
    • Hi Audrey. I’d suggest trialling both lengths to see which you prefer. For larger projects the 14 inch would be a good idea. I have moved away from knitting on straight needles as I prefer to knit on circular needles as I find them more comfortable. The weight of the project is held on the flexible cable between the 2 needle tips. Happy Knitting!

      Reply
  3. I am using a round needle and working in the round to create a seamless baby tunic, my problem is that the right side of the body is the garter with increases and decreases done in the area of the sleeves (4x) and continued down the right and left side of the body. My problem occurs where the right and left sides join in the middle of the back since the back is all garter stitch. To explain this further the pattern. is round 1 #of purl stitches followed by 9 knit sts (2 yo = 11 st) back to purl for a continues 8 sts. increase, round 2 is all Knit. I have made seamless sweaters before, but the pattern never changed in the middle of the back. Help, please.

    Reply
    • Hi Leomi. Have you tried to reach out to the designer of the pattern? I’ve sent you an email to ask for you to send me a picture of where you are experiencing problems. Cheers Jodie

      Reply
  4. Oops I just realized I’ve been doing the knit stitch through the back loop only. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Guess I’ll do the next project differently LOL

    Reply

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