Which is better: English or Continental Knitting?

Many yarn crafters are curious about English and Continental methods of knitting and wonder whether they should use one or the other. Let’s explore the differences between these two styles. The English method is done with yarn held in the right hand. Stitches are worked by “throwing” or wrapping the yarn around the needle. In

Many yarn crafters are curious about English and Continental methods of knitting and wonder whether they should use one or the other. Let’s explore the differences between these two styles. The English method is done with yarn held in the right hand. Stitches are worked by “throwing” or wrapping the yarn around the needle. In the Continental method, the working yarn is held in the left hand. The yarn for each stitch in this style is “picked up” by the needle as opposed to being thrown around it.

The English method has the advantage of being simpler for new knitters to learn. It also makes it easier to handle extremely large needles and bulky yarn. On the other hand, Continental knitting streamlines the motion of each stitch which can make the work flow a great deal faster. Still, it is important to point out that English knitters can increase their speed considerably with practice.

Is one form of knitting truly superior to the other? Not really. Both methods always produce the same stitches. Most knitters tend to stick with the style they were first taught, and there is generally little reason to switch. The main exception is for crocheters who tend to find Continental knitting more comfortable since they are already accustomed to working with yarn in their left hands. This was certainly the case for me. I was a crocheter for years before I learned to knit, but my first knitting instructor taught me the English method which I found awkward. When I was introduced to the Continental technique, my knitting instantly flowed more naturally and my speed greatly increased. However, this is not always the case because there are many crocheters who are also very good English knitters.

In the end, it comes down to personal preference. Try both methods and see which one feels right to you. Actually, there are three reasons you might want to go a bit further and develop a working familiarity with both techniques. First, alternating back and forth between English and Continental knitting will evenly distribute the work over both hands and minimize the risk of repetitive stress injury. Second, if you are frustrated by the slow pace of Fair Isle knitting, you can speed up these projects by holding one color in each hand. Finally, becoming proficient in both styles of knitting will only improve your overall skills and increase your knitting “street cred.”

 

 

Angelia Robinson is a knit and crochet designer residing in Los Angeles whose playful yet elegant designs explore the interplay of shape, texture, and style. Do you have a knitting question for Angelia? Write us (submissions@ilikeknitting.com) and include “Ask a Knitter” in the subject line.

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Comments
  • I knit continental. I purl English or Portuguese. Unlike most continental knitters, I cannot use my index finger, no matter how hard I try. I pick my yarn off my middle finger. I am a fast knitter either way, and only 2 things slow me down: crappy yarn and crappy needles.

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  • I learned Continental style 64 years ago as a 7-yr old. Observing English style, I’ve always been amazed how much faster Continental is.

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  • Thank you so much for such an enlightening article. I just started knitting again after years of no contact with knitting needles. I have crocheted for many years and always held the yarn in my left hand. When I started knitting again, I simply went back to the method that I learned as a child with the yarn in my right hand and throwing the yarn over for each stitch. I watched a few youtube videos on knitting and saw that some people held the yarn in their left hands. I really couldn’t quite understand how they were knitting this way and although I tried I just couldn’t make it work. I thought I was doing something wrong by throwing the yarn over and holding it in my right hand. Thanks to your article I now know that it is simply a difference in the way I learned to knit vs crochet.

    Kathy

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  • Oregon Y.

    I knit both ways and find working Brioche is MUCH faster when I knit continental.

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  • Beverly M.

    What do you know about combination knitting? I have recently discovered that is what I do.

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  • I crocheted before I knitted. But since I am left-handed and I mirrored my mother to learn to crochet, I held the yarn in my right hand. So when I learned to knit, it was natural for me to knit English style and knit right-handed. Since you use both hands in knitting, I’d recommend for everyone to knit right-handed . . . it surely saves a lot of deciphering of patterns that some lefties have to do.

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  • notmenoti

    I am left-handed and knit Continental that way. I originally learned how to knit right-handed English. I crochet left-handed. I agree with Janey Mae about the “deciphering” lefties have to do, but am more comfortable knitting left-handed.

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