Continental Knitting Guide: All You Need To Know

A speedy knitting style known for seemingly complicated hand movements, an advanced user zooms through stitches.

Continental Knit Style Feat Img

I reviewed and updated this post on August 30, 2022.

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, 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 English (‘throwing’), and Portuguese knitting, work knit stitches with the tip of your right knitting needle.

There’s no wrapping of yarn required. Some call continental knitting ‘picking.’

Do the hand motions change the stitch’s look? No.

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

A great tool is a knitting winder. It makes everything easier.

Continental Vs English Knitting

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

There’s less hand movements in continental.

The knit continental style is a popular knitting style used for fair isle knitting and Norwegian knitting.

The knitting abbreviations and patterns are the same.

Continental Knitting For Beginners

Here is how to do continental knitting.

How To Hold Yarn For Continental Knitting

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

Hold Option 1

  • Wrap the working yarn around your left wrist 1- 2 times
  • Take the yarn under your pinky
  • Over the next three fingers
  • Stick up your index finger with the yarn over that finger
  • Pull the yarn coming from your wrist if the pointer finger is too high up. 

Note: This hold is for tight knitters, and produces a loose gauge.

Hold Option 2

  • Wrap the yarn around your left index finger 1-2 times
  • 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
  • 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.

For the knit stitch, wrap the yarn around the right handed knitting needle from left to right.

Pull it through and complete your knit stitch.

Looking for something new? Read my arm knitting tutorial.

How To Do The Knit Stitch in Continental Knitting

Here’s how to do the knit stitch when you knit continental.

Step 1

  • Cast on the desired number of stitches.

Step 2

  • Tension the yarn
  • 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 knit stitch!

YouTube video

How To Cast On Knitting Continental Style

Here is how to cast on when you knit continental.

Casting on with this technique is good practice.

Step 1

  • Make a slip knot with yarn
  • Put a needle through the loop
  • Tighten slightly

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)
  • On 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
  • Your knitting 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 until you have the stitches needef.

YouTube video

How To Cast On Continental Style On A Circular Knitting Needle

Here’s how to cast on on circulars in the knit continental style.

Casting on with circular needles has the same knitting method as casting on with straight needles.

Keep your stitches loose, so they slide over the needles.

Casting on in the round is similar, but you knit the first and last cast on stitch together before the next round.

How Do You Purl Continental Style?

Here is how to do the purling stitch in knit continental.

Step 1

  • Maintain the yarn tension
  • 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
  • Back down again

Step 5

  • Pull the new stitch through the old loop.
YouTube video

How To Bind Off Knitting Continental Style

Here are two ways to cast/bind off in continental knitting.

  • Knitted cast-off
  • Purled cast off

Note: Casting off and binding off are the same.

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 yarn leaving a 10″ tail

Step 6

  • Take the stitch off the needle
  • Poke the tail through
  • 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’s one stitch on your right needle

Step 5

  • Cut working yarn and leave a 10″ tail

Step 6

  • Take the stitch off the needle
  • Put your tail through the loop
  • Tighten

Q&A

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 knitting is easier if you’re good at crocheting.

Continental knitting is 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 style helps you gain speed.

The more you knit, the better you’ll get.

Why Is 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, continental knitting decreased in popularity due to the technique’s connection with Germany.

Thanks to Elizabeth Zimmermann, continental knitting gained 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. 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 knitting styles and see which is better.

Is Continental Knitting Looser?

Some yarn holds help you knit looser if you’re a tight knitter.

Change needle size if your gauge is off.

Happy knitting, and good luck trying something new.

Want another speed method? See my lever knitting guide.

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About Jodie Morgan

Hi. I’m Jodie Morgan, creator of Knit Like Granny. I started this site to show 1,000,000 people the joys of knitting & highlight alternatives to fast fashion. Please say hello!

Jodie Morgan Profile Pic

About Jodie Morgan

Hi. I’m Jodie Morgan, creator of Knit Like Granny. I started this site to show 1,000,000 people the joys of knitting & highlight alternatives to fast fashion. Please say hello!

4 thoughts on “Continental Knitting Guide: All You Need To Know”

  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

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