Lever knitting (aka the Irish cottage style/pivot knitting) is a knitting type like English knitting. Read on for my guide. This was historically used by production knitters.
I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on Jan 1, 2024.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Lever Knitting?
- How to Start Lever Knitting
- Lever Knitting In The Round
- Lever Knitting And Fair Isle
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. It’s 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. For more on the types of needles, read my article.
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.
The benefits of learning lever knitting are it increases your 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 around the world have also found that they experience less wrist, elbow and shoulder pain knitting this way.
How The Lever Knit Style Is Done
You use long straight needles so the right one can tuck under your arm.
Part 1 Hand Positions And Tension.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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 the ways of 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. It 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 tip moves more and the left hand index finger and thumb move the stitches up to be worked.
Once you practice enough, you’ll knit this variant of the English style without looking!
In The Round
Lever knitting in the round is the same with straight needles. Here’s a video with shorter needles.
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. The needles are held so that they are at a 90 degree angle to each other and the yarn is tensioned in the right hand with it going over the third finger.
This video doesn’t have very good clarity but you can get the gist.
Lever Knitting And Fair Isle
Fair Isle knitting is a great way to add different colors and motifs. You can create Fair Isle using the lever knitting style.
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.
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 shaft as you knit them.
The point of her 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!
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FAQS About Lever Knitting
Is Lever Really More Ergonomic?
Yes! People who knit and sell things use lever knitting because you can knit for many hours without pain. There is minimum hand and finger movement.
Why Is It Called Irish Cottage Knitting?
People who knitted to make money were Irish and did it at their cottage.
Why Should You Change The Way You Hold Your Yarn and Needles?
As a knitter, it’s great to learn different styles of knitting because some techniques help with specific knitting methods. One needle is held stationary and acts as a pivot. The yarn is held around the hand you use most and it moves back and forward to create the stitches.
How Difficult Is It to Learn Lever & Is It Faster?
To Learn lever isn’t that difficult, but, it’s hard at first. Once you get more familiar, you’ll be stitching easily. It’s all about the position of your needles, the way in which you hold the working yarn and the movement of your fingers.
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.
What Knitting Style Is It Similar To?
Lever knitting is like English knitting. The working yarn is flicked or wrapped around the tip to create the stitch.
Lever Knitting Vs. Continental – How Is It Different From Continental Knitting?
Lever is different from continental knitting as the working yarn is wrapped around the tip. In continental you pick the working yarn.
Lever Vs English Knitting
There are similarites between the Lever technique and English Technique. The yarn is “thrown” in both.
Are There Other Knitting Styles?
Other knitting styles include Portuguese knitting, English knitting, Continental knitting, and Irish cottage knitting.
What Is The Fastest Knitting Method?
Continental knitting requires the least hand movement, so the continental style is quick. Knitting Lever is speedy. Knit fast with any knitting method if you try hard enough.
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.