Have you ever dreamed of a way to knit that’s fast and has minimum hand movement? Enter Portuguese knitting! Learn what it is, and how to do it.
Have arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome? Learning this new way of knitting might lessen the strain on your fingers and hands. The best thing about this style is it requires minimal hand movement.
You only flick your thumb to wrap the working yarn around the needle. The strangest thing about it is when you work garter stitch; you purl every row! Working the purl stitch in this way is easier to do compared with the knit stitch.
I reviewed, fact checked and updated this post on May 18, 2023.
Table Of Contents
What Is Portuguese Knitting?
Portuguese knitting is a style of knitting that didn’t originate in Portugal, despite being a popular knitting style there. It’s one of the oldest styles of knitting, originating in the Middle East around 10 centuries ago! Aka Incan knitting, this style is used a lot in South American countries too.
One way to spot a Portuguese knitter is to look for the neck wrap or shirt pin. The knitter wraps the working yarn onto a pin attached to their shirt. Alternatively, they may wrap the yarn around their neck.
What are the knitting pins for? They maintain tension. Instead of holding the working strand in one hand, you feed the thread around your neck or through the pin and down to your needle. Here’s an excellent video by Andrea Wong Knits.
This handy technique makes it easy to work on the wrong side of your knitting. It’s also great for purling on a flat fair isle pattern!
Other names for this unique type of knitting include Bosnian, Andean (what it is commonly known as in South America), Turkish & Peruvian knitting. Also, around the neck knitting! It’s popular in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Latin America.
You can use any type of knitting needle with this method. For more, see this post.
How To Knit Portuguese Knitting Style
This knitting style is entirely different from the other techniques you may be used to. The hand movements and tension are totally unlike English and continental knitting.
Before you dive in, make sure you have one knitting pin, a pair of knitting needles, and a ball of wool. Don’t have a knitting pin? You can use a safety pin or loop the strand around the back of your neck.
An interesting difference in this method, has been used since ancient times. This is a wonderful technique to add to your list of fun knitting skills.
How To Tension The Yarn
- Pin a safety or knitting pin onto your shirt close to your left shoulder (the right shoulder if you’re left-handed).
- Wrap working yarn onto the pin, with the ball of wool on the opposite side to the pin. If you don’t have one of these, instead, you can place the strand over your neck.
- Wrap the left piece of yarn around your right middle finger.
How To The Hold Needles With Portuguese Style Knitting
Right-handed knitters: In your left hand, hold your work. On the right, hold the empty needle. Now you are ready to work on your next row.
Left-handed knitters: In your right hand, hold your work. In your left, hold the empty needle.
How To Cast On Portuguese Knitting Style With Videos
Watch Andrea Wong’s knitting videos for the cast on in Portuguese Knitting that starts at timestamp 2.09. This cast on method is like the long tail cast on. This method creates a sturdy and elastic cast on. Have a long enough yarn tail to work with so you create the number of stitches you need to start your project.
Here’s another style of Cast On Portuguese style using the cable cast on.
Want a great course to practice this technique? Try one by Andrea Wong Knits. I found her friendly teaching style so helpful. Andrea learnt this style from her mother. She teaches classes at different events in the United States and Canada.
The Knit Stitch
- Set up to knit by tensioning the yarn. (See above for how to do this.)
- Hold your work in your left hand and an empty needle in your right.
- Poke the right needle under the working yarn so it is over the top of your right hand needle.
- Insert the right needle into the front of the first stitch on your left needle.
- With your left thumb, flick the working yarn over the right needle.
- Push the tip of the right needle through the loop on the left needle and pull the stitch off.
The way Rosa Pomar does the knit stitch has the strand held at the back.
The Purl Stitch
- Set up to purl by tensioning the yarn (see above for how to achieve good tension).
- Keeping the working yarn under the right needle, insert the right needle into the first stitch on your left needle.
- Flick the working yarn over the right needle with your left thumb.
- Pull the stitch through by pulling the right needle through the loop on the left needle rightward.
- Take the stitch off the needle
The video by Ellen from Chilly Dog demonstrates the purl stitch.
In The Round
- Cast on the desired amount of stitches onto circular needles.
- Ensure the first stitch you cast on is on the left, and the last stitch you cast on (the stitch with the tail on it) is on the right. Also, check that all the stitches aren’t twisted.
- Tension the yarn. (see above)
Joining In The Round Method No. 1
- Cast on the desired amount of stitches, plus an extra stitch.
- Slip the extra stitch from your right needle to your left needle.
- Knit two stitches together.
Joining In The Round Method No. 2
- Cast on the desired number of stitches.
- Slip a stitch from the right needle to the left.
- Pass the second stitch over the first on the left-hand needle.
Now that you’ve joined in the round, you can continue knitting as your pattern or current project calls for. Andrea Wong highly recommends working in the round on the wrong side of the work when using this method.
It’s much easier to purl in the Portuguese style and with practice you get faster. Wearing a pin pair, one on each shoulder can be helpful for tensioning knitting stitches.
How To Yarn Over
How to yarn over on the knit side:
- Flick the working yarn to the front of your work (the purl position).
- Knit a stitch.
How to yarn over on the purl side:
- Flick the working yarn from the purl position to the back of the right needle.
- Purl a stitch.
Here is a video tutorial on increasing using an common increase stitch – yarn over. Increases and decreases are simple to do with practice.
If you’re a member of Craftsy, search for classes Andrea Wong. Some more advanced techniques such as colorwork is included.
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FAQS About Portuguese Knitting
What Is A Portuguese Knitting Pin?
Portuguese knitting pins are for tensioning yarn and creating even stitches. First, you fasten it onto your shirt. Wrap the working yarn from the ball, around the pin, to the needle. All tensioned and ready for knitting in the Portuguese style.
The pins include regular pins, magnetic and fancy ones with patterns.
How Do You Use A Portuguese Knitting Necklace?
Put on the necklace, and loop the yarn over the hook, just like you would do with a regular pin. These necklaces take regular knitting to fancy knitting. They come in different shapes and have one or more hooks.
How To Make A Portuguese Knitting Pin?
To make a Portuguese knitting pin use a safety pin/paper clip. Or tension by looping the working yarn over your neck.
It might make knitting easier, or just something new to experiment with. So many patterns out there to try out in this new style. Tried it? Tell me in the comments. Want to learn something else? Try the lever knitting style.
Does one need to “convert” a knitting pattern if they are taking up Portuguese knitting? Thanks
Hi Deb. I’m not an expert regarding Portuguese knitting but have reached out to Andrea Wong who is an expert and will get back to you.
Here’s the response from Andrea Wong –
Hi Deb! No, you do not need to “convert” or translate any pattern that you already own.
You simply follow the instructions, but use Portuguese Style to knit and purl, increase and decrease.
Sometimes I talk about “translating” a pattern, but that is IF I decide to work reverse stocking stitch and I just purl in the round.
Is that what you are asking me? I just released a new class on my website Mastering Portuguese Knitting and there is a chapter dedicated to that.
I hope that helps,
Rosa Pomar’s description of the Alternative Knit Stitch was so helpful. I now understand the use of the hooked knitting needle so that you don’t have to turn the work. Highly recommend.
Thanks so much for sharing your experience of Rosa Pomar’s knowledge. Great to hear you also recommend her. Cheers Jodie
Can’t seem to understand the Portuguese knitting please help thank u
Hi Gorie. I would highly recommend taking a video class from Andrea Wong who is an expert. Here is the link to her website which shows the courses she has available on Portuguese Knitting. Cheers Jodie
around the neck knitting is also the Greek style of knitting
Thanks for sharing this information Aleka.
Hi Gwendoline. I heard back from Andrea Wong who is an expert in the Portuguese Knitting Style. She said this What you have to do is to turn the work, make sure the colors cross (intertwine) at the end of the row, and start Knitting Portuguese Style with the yarns running on the back side. I did a review of Andrea’s course Stranded Knitting Portuguese Style Masterclass I learned so much. I’ve also emailed you. Cheers Jodie