Learn How to Knit in the Continental Style

knitting continental
The Spruce
  • 01 of 04

    Why You Should Try Continental Knitting

    Learn how to knit with the continental style of knitting.
    The Spruce / Sarah E. White

    Making a knit stitch in continental knitting isn't any more difficult than other methods of knitting. It is often a new concept for American knitters and others who learn the English method first.

    Continental vs. English Knitting

    The main difference between the two methods is that with English knitting you hold the yarn in your right hand and "throw" it over the needle. In continental knitting, you hold the yarn in your left hand and "pick" it as you form stitches.

    Tip: Picking and throwing are two other names that these two knitting styles go by. Continental is also sometimes called German knitting.

    Some people call it "left-handed knitting," but no matter which hand holds the yarn, you use both hands when you knit. It's worth learning both methods because it helps with stranded knitting and it allows you to determine which method you like better.

    It might be a little easier to teach someone who is left-handed to knit in continental. People with either a right or left dominant hand can knit either way.

    Proponents of continental knitting say it's faster. In general, it does use a smaller movement of the hands and arms than English knitting does. This can make it faster when you get the hang of it and it may be better for you if you have repetitive stress injuries.

    Holding the Yarn

    There are several different ways to hold the yarn when working a stitch. Some people wrap the yarn completely around their index finger while others wrap the yarn around the pinkie and then over the index finger. Experiment with different methods to find what's most comfortable for you.

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    Getting the Yarn in Place

    Making the stitch in continental knitting.
    The Spruce / Sarah E. White

    To begin continental knitting, cast on the number of stitches you need. It is now time to knit.

    • Hold the yarn in place at the back of the work with your left hand along with the needle that has the cast on stitches.
    • Slide the empty right-hand needle into the first stitch from front to back.
    • Bring your left index finger forward slightly so that the yarn is between the two needles.

    If you find it awkward to move the yarn using just your index finger, try nudging it from behind with your middle finger. This will get easier with practice and is the main movement needed for continental knitting success.

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    Forming the Knit Stitch

    Making a stitch in continental knitting.
    The Spruce / Sarah E. White

    Next, bring the right-hand needle down behind the working yarn and through the loop of the original stitch to form the new stitch.

    This works pretty much the same way it does in English knitting or any other style.

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Finishing the Knit Stitch

    Finishing a knit stitch in continental knitting.
    The Spruce / Sarah E. White

    Slide the old stitch off the left-hand needle. The new stitch is on the right-hand needle.

    Continue in this manner across the row. If you repeat this stitch over and over, every stitch of every row, you'll have Garter Stitch, the most basic knitting stitch. Once you learn how to purl continental, you can alternate rows of knitting and purling to make Stockinette Stitch, the most common knit fabric.

    Another Bonus to Continental Knitting 

    Many knitters struggle with crochet and one of the main reasons is because of how the yarn is held. Guess what? Crochet and continental knitting use the same yarn orientation!

    This means that if you learn continental knitting, you might have an easier time ​learning how to crochet. If you're a crocheter first, you might find continental knitting more natural than English knitting. It's all about holding the working yarn in the left hand.