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Continental Knitting Guide: All You Need To Know [2020 Update]

A knitting style known for the speed and seemingly complicated hand movements, an advanced user of this technique can rush through stitches at incredible speeds.

The knit continental style isn’t for everyone, but it’s interesting to learn about regardless. Read on for a complete guide on what it is, how to do it and answers to some of your questions.

Closeup of Hand Dyed Yarns in purples and reds

Table Of Contents

What Is Continental Knitting?

Continental knitting is a knitting style. What makes this style unique from other knitting techniques, is how you hold the yarn, and how you work stitches. Also know as left-handed, European, and German knitting.

Unlike English (also known as ‘throwing’), and Portuguese knitting, you work knit stitches using the tip of your right needle to poke through and under the working yarn. There’s almost no wrapping of yarn required.

Unsurprisingly, some people call continental knitting ‘picking’.

You might be wondering, “Don’t the different hand motions change the stitch’s look?” No, they don’t.

There are various ways to work stitches, but they all look the same when completed.

Continental Vs. English Knitting

Many things make continental knitting different from English knitting. The most obvious is where the knitter holds the yarn.

English knitters hold the working yarn in their right hand, while continental knitters hold the yarn in the left.

You also knit stitches by ‘picking.’ To work knit stitches, you insert the right needle into the first stitch, poke the needle over and under the working yarn, and pull through.

How To Continental Knitting – Continental Knitting For Beginners Step By Step

Here is how to do continental knitting.

How To Hold Yarn For Continental Knitting

Here is a quick guide on how to hold yarn when knitting continental.

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 coming over that finger.

Pull on the yarn coming from your wrist if the index finger is too high up. 

Note: This hold is for tight knitters, and thus produces a more 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 the yarn under the next two fingers, and over the index finger.

If none of these holds work for you, play around and find a comfortable yarn position.

(Note: Holding yarn is the same as tensioning yarn.)

How Do You Wrap Yarn For Continental Knitting?

Wrapping yarn creates a new loop or stitch when knitting. To start the knit stitch, follow steps 1-3 in the tutorial below. Wrap the yarn around the right needle from left to right. Now pull it through and complete your knit stitch.

How To Do The Knit Stitch in Continental Knitting

Step 1. Cast on the desired number of stitches.

Step 2. Tension the yarn, and keep the working yarn in the back.

Step 3. Take the right-hand needle from left to right into the first stitch on your left needle. Keep the right needle in the back.

Step 4. Wrap the working yarn from left to right around the right needle.

Step 5. Pull the working yarn through the first stitch on your left needle through and off.

You’ve completed the knit stitch.

Here’s a video tutorial by BerrocoKnitBits.

How To Cast On Knitting Continental Style

This cast-on method is very similar to working knit stitches. 

Casting on with this technique will give you good practice working some.

Step 1. Make a slip knot with yarn, put a needle through the loop, and tighten slightly.

Step 2. Tension the yarn. (See above) Hold the needle like a knife with your yarn hand.

Step 3. Push the right needle into the first stitch (the slip knot) on your left 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, so that you have one stitch on each needle. Your needles will be crossed.

Step 6. Take the left 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 needle behind the left.

(Note: It turns out you can start the cast on sequence right from this position! If you’ve finished casting on, just pull the right needle crossed position, and leave it on the left needle.)

Repeat steps 1 – 6 until you have the correct number of stitches.

Here’s a helpful video tutorial.

How To Cast On Continental Style On A Circular Knitting Needle

Casting on with circular needles has the same method as if you were casting on with straight needles.

Just follow the ‘How To Cast On Knitting Continental Style’ instructions up top. Only remember to keep your stitches loose, so the stitches slide easily over the chord and needles.

How Do You Purl Continental Style?

Step 1. Tension the yarn. Keep the working yarn in the front.

Step 2. Pull the working yarn forward and down.

Step 3. Push the 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 needle, and back down again.

Step 5. Pull the new stitch through the old loop.

Here’s a video tutorial by B.Hooked.

How To Bind Off Knitting Continental Style

Here are two ways to cast/bind off in continental knitting. The knitted cast-off, and the purled cast off.

Note: Casting off and binding off are the same thing.

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. Now you have one stitch on your right needle.

Step 4. Knit 1 stitch.

Repeat steps 2-4 until you have one stitch on your right needle.

Step 5. Cut the working yarn leaving around ten inches of a tail.

Step 6. Take the stitch off the needle, and poke the tail through it. Tighten.

Purled Bind/Cast Off:

Step 1. Purl 2 stitches.

Step 2. Poke the left needle tip from left to right into the first stitch you purled.

Step 3. Lift that stitch over the second stitch on your right needle. You now have one stitch on your right needle.

Step 4. Purl 1 stitch.

Repeat steps 2-4 until there is only one stitch on your right needle.

Step 5. Cut working yarn and leave a ten-inch tail.

Step 6. Take the stitch off the needle, and put your tail through the loop. Tighten.

Your Questions Answered

Is English Or Continental Knitting Easier?

The two styles are equally interesting and unique, so it is up to you to find out which is easier. It’s an excellent idea to attempt to learn both methods of knitting, and see which you prefer.

Some people consider knitting with bulky yarns in the English style easier.

Other people think learning continental knitting is easier if you’re good at crocheting.

Some people say that continental knitting is faster and more efficient than English knitting, which it usually is. However, the speed depends on your skill level.

How Do You Knit Faster In Continental?

Knitting in the continental style frequently will help you gain more speed due to constantly knitting, practicing, and getting familiar with the hand movements. The more you knit, the better you’ll get.

Why Is It Called Continental Knitting?

The continental style originally came from continental Europe and was popular in Germany. During the early 19th century, this style’s popularity increased and spread to adjoining countries.

Unfortunately, during World War 2, continental knitting decreased in popularity in English speaking countries due to this knitting technique’s connection with Germany.

Thanks to Elizabeth Zimmermann, continental knitting began to gain popularity again in the USA.

Countries where people often practice continental knitting include Greece, Bolivia, Portugal, Peru, and Turkey.

Is Continental Knitting Better?

It depends on the individual knitter. You might like it better than other styles because of it’s limited hand motions, speed, efficiency, and ease of movement.

Other people may prefer other knitting techniques because of the tensioning method and where you hold the yarn.

The best thing to do would be to try out different knitting styles and see which you think is better to answer.

Is Continental Knitting Looser?

It depends on whether you are a tight or loose knitter. Some yarn holds help you knit looser if you’re a tight knitter, like a hold mentioned in this article. Sometimes you may have to change needle size if your gauge is off.

Hopefully you’ve learned something about this knitting style. Perhaps you can start a new project and try doing continental knitting to switch things around. Happy knitting, and good luck trying something new.

Hand Dyed Yarns in Purple and Red
About Jodie Morgan

Hi. I’m Jodie Morgan, owner and creator of Knit Like Granny. (Yes, I’m a real person :) ) Thanks for being here.

I created Knit Like Granny to help show 1,000,000 people the benefits of knitting & highlight alternatives to fast fashion.

I love knitting and have met so many other fabulous knitters through this site. I enjoy learning and helping others discover the joys of working with yarn.

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