Lever Knitting Guide: All You Need To Know In My Tutorial For Knitters

Lever knitting (aka the Irish cottage style or pivot knitting) is a knitting type like English knitting.

Read on for my guide on what it is and how to do it.

This was historically used by production knitters. (People who knitted to earn an income.)

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

Table Of Contents

What Is Lever Knitting?

Once mastered, lever knitting is a quick knitting method. It’s good for speed knitting.

It saves time because the yarn doesn’t have to travel far to wrap around the needle tip.

Lever knitting is like English knitting, but there are some differences.

You keep the right needle still, by, believe it or not, sticking it under your arm.

Or holding the right hand needle like a pencil and using your fingers to tension the yarn.

Alternatively, use a knitting belt.

You use longer needles than usual.

You can do lever knitting on circular needles, but it’s better to learn with straight needles.

Here’s a great video by Stephanie Pearl McPhee, aka the Yarn Harlot.

Be mesmorized by the speed at which Stephanie knits!

Her right hand flicks the working yarn with the needles perpendicular.

There is very little movement in the left and it is important to watch the angle of the working yarn held in the right hand and right hand needle.

Thumbs and fingers on both left and right hands work together to bring the stitches up to be worked and then taken on to the right hand needle when the stitch is complete.

YouTube video

Searching for a new skill to try? Learn how to arm knit with my post.

How This Knitting Style Is Done

Lever knitting with straight needles.

Part 1 Hand Positions And Tension.

Right-handed

  • Hold the right needle like a pencil
  • Tension the yarn the way you usually do in your right hand
  • Tuck the right needle under your right arm so it remains steady.

Left-handed

  • Hold the left needle like a pencil
  • Tension the yarn the way you usually do in your left hand
  • Tuck the left needle under your left arm so it remains steady

Part 2 The Knit Stitch

You knit the knit stitch similar to what you would normally do in English knitting.

But, you don’t drop the needle to yarn over. Instead, you let the needle rest between your thumb and index finger.

Right-handed: 

  • Keep the right needle steady
  • Take the left needle under the right needle so the tips touch
  • The right needle is behind the first stitch on the left needle
  • Bring the left needle up and over the right needle
  • Insert into the first stitch on the left needle
  • Keep that right needle steady
  • Keep the tips together when knitting
  • Take the yarn over the right needle
  • Bring the left needle back under the right needle
  • Pull the left needle out

Left-handed

  • Keep the left needle steady
  • Take the right needle under the left needle so the tips touch
  • The left needle is behind the first stitch on the right needle
  • Bring the right needle up and over the left needle
  • Insert into the first stitch on the right needle
  • Keep that left needle steady and the tips together
  • Take the yarn over the left needle
  • Bring the right needle back under the left needle
  • Pull the right needle out

Part 3 The Purl Stitch

Right-handed

  • Put the left needle over the right needle
  • Ensure the tips touch
  • Bring the left needle around the right needle tip
  • So the right needle inserts into the first stitch on the left needle.
  • Yarn over
  • Bring the left needle back around the right needle
  • Stick it on top of the right needle
  • Pull out the left needle

Left-handed

  • Put the right needle over the left needle
  • Ensure the tips touch
  • Bring the right needle around the left needle tip
  • So the left needle inserts into the first stitch on the right needle
  • Yarn over
  • Bring the right needle back around the left needle
  • Stick it on top of the left needle
  • Pull out the right needle

Here are some great video tutorials on how to do it.

How To Lever Knit By Rebecca Swersky who demonstrates this style using 14 inch knitting needles.

She holds the right knitting needle under her arm. This needle stays in place and the working yarn is tensioned in the right hand.

The yarn is held tight and flicked or wrapped to create the stitch.

The left hand needle moves more and the left hand index finger and thumb move the stitches up to be worked.

YouTube video

Once you practice enough, you’ll knit this variant of the English style without looking!

Lever Knitting In The Round

Lever knitting in the round is the same as lever knitting with straight needles.

Here’s a video on lever knitting in the round. Working with shorter needles you can still knit the lever style.

It is about how you hold the knitting, the angle of your needles in relation to each other and the skill of your left hand when loading the stitches ready to be worked.

This video doesn’t have very good clarity but you can get the gist.

YouTube video

Lever Knitting And Fair Isle

Fair Isle knitting is a great way to add different colors to your knitting.

Fair Isle knitting makes beautiful patterns in the fabric. You can knit Fair Isle using lever knitting.

Doreen Brown demonstrates the use of a knitting belt and knitting a Fair Isle pattern lever style.

Doreen is an adept knitter with years of experience so be kind to yourself when starting out using a knitting belt. It will take some practice.

YouTube video

The ease and speed which she knits is amazing! The way she has the two yarns held in her right hand is worth taking a closer look at.

The right hand needle is held securely in the belt which gives your fingers the ability to move the stitches back on the needle as you knit them.

One long double pointed knitting needle is held in a knitting belt.

The use of a knitting belt means you don’t have to hold the needles. Your fingers are free to push and pull down the stitches.

It is difficult to see the movements clearly as Doreen knits quickly. As she says herself it is hard to slow down!

The Benefits of Lever Knitting

Learning to do lever knitting will increase speed.

It’s not 100% guaranteed, but with practice, you’ll go faster than usual.

Knitting using this technique reduces pain in your hands and fingers and distributes the work between your hands.

Knitters have also found that they experience less wrist, elbow and shoulder pain knitting this way.

Lever Knitting Needles

In lever knitting, you use long needles so the right one can tuck under your arm.

Use circular knitting needles to knit in the round.

Q&A

How To Knit Faster With Lever Knitting?

The more you practice, you faster you’ll get!

Increase your knitting speed by practicing every day. Make a time to knit each day and practice lever knitting.

Why Should You Change The Way You Hold Your Yarn and Needles?

It’s great to learn different styles of knitting because some techniques help with specific knitting methods.

Continental knitting, for example, is helpful if you are knitting colorwork.

What Is The Fastest Knitting Method?

Continental knitting requires the least hand movement, so the continental style is quick.

Lever knitting is speedy. Knit fast with any knitting method if you try hard enough.

Is Lever Knitting (Circulars) Really More Ergonomic?

Yes! People who knit and sell things use lever knitting because you can knit for many hours without pain.

Lever Knitting Vs. Continental – How Is It Different From Continental Knitting?

Lever knitting is different from continental knitting. If lever knitting had a mother, she would be English knitting.

Are There Other Knitting Styles?

Other knitting styles include Portuguese knitting, English knitting, Continental knitting, and Irish cottage knitting.

How Do I Increase My Knitting Speed?

The best way to increase your knitting speed is to keep practicing! You could plan a time of day where you practice knitting for a while.

The daily practice will produce speed improvements slowly, as the muscle memory in your fingers improves.

Why Is It Called Irish Cottage Knitting?

People who knitted to make money were Irish and did it at their cottage.

How Difficult Is The Lever Knitting Style?

Lever knitting isn’t that difficult, but, it’s hard at first. Once you get more familiar with lever knitting, you’ll be stitching easily.

What Knitting Style Is Lever Knitting Like?

Lever knitting is like English knitting. The working yarn is flicked or wrapped around the needle to create the stitch.

I hope this guide to this style of speed knitting helped you.

Perhaps you could expand your skill repertoire. Happy knitting!

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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 “Lever Knitting Guide: All You Need To Know In My Tutorial For Knitters”

  1. In your opinion, how does this differ from knitting belt and long needles like the Shetland knitters do? The cost of the belts can be fairly expensive.

    Reply
    • Hi Kevin. The use of a knitting belt isn’t necessary. It is the way you hold the needles and tension the yarn with your fingers that then creates the “lever” action. I highly recommend to look at the videos I’ve gathered by other experts demonstrating the technique. Hope your knitting is going well. Cheers Jodie

      Reply
  2. Hi Jodie,
    my name is Raymond (or more casually ray) please be casual
    I’m a make knitter in central Australia and very eagerly desirous of knitting much faster than I have ever in the past so as to satisfy my insatiable desire for the craft and hope fully become more creative! Please bear with me that new techniques may be clumsy for me at first as old habits die slowly.
    Also the devil we know (dare I say it) is better than the devil we don’t know!

    Reply
    • Hi Ray. That’s great to hear that you are attempting different methods of speeding up your knitting. Learning something new is always hard at the beginning and it takes lots of practice. Have a try of lever knitting. I’d love to hear how you got on. Cheers Jodie

      Reply

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