Have you ever been sitting in a knitting group stitching away when you notice someone clipping along and knitting in a very different style than you? This is how I first learned about continental knitting. A woman in a knit group was cruising through her project and she didn't even seem to be moving her hands. Turns out she was knitting continental style!
What's the difference? Continental knitting uses your left hand as the one that handles the working yarn. The forefinger holds the yarn very close to the needle and in essence you are picking up the stitch, knitting the stitch and then sliding the new stitch off the needle in one small smooth movement. This as opposed to English knitting, or "throwing" as I will refer to it moving forward, in which you are using your right hand to handle the working yarn and you are "throwing" the yarn over the needle before you even get to work the knit stitch.
Here are 5 great reasons to add continental knitting to your skillset:
1. Faster. This is a biggie! Continental knitting is significantly faster than throwing. The reason being that there is less action taking place. Continental is a quick pick up and slide whereas throwing takes a wrapping motion, then the stitch, then the removal of the stitch. Now most of us aren't trying to run a marathon with our knitting but it doesn't hurt to be a little faster - quicker to get to the next cast on!
2. Ergonomics. Being able to use both hands to knit allows you to reduce overuse by switching between hands with different projects. Please note that I say "different" projects. You always want to pick one way and stick with it through a project as your gauge will likely be very different with the different techniques. Tip: Write notes on each pattern to remind yourself which style you were knitting just in case you put it aside and forget.
3. Left handed. Continental knitting uses the left hand as the dominant hand so if you are naturally a left handed person this technique will be much more intuitive than "throwing" your yarn.
4. Colorwork. Being able to knit with both hands is a game changer for knitting stranded colorwork. If you are a thrower you have to keep putting your yarn down and to switch colors. If you are able to knit with both hands you can have a color in each hand and go back and forth without stopping for color changes!
5. More Consistent Tension and gauge. The idea with continental knitting is that there is very little space between your forefinger and the needle which not only makes knitting faster it also leads to a more consistent tension that is created more by the needle than it is by you and the yarn. If the needles are determining tension vs. you the human, you will undoubtedly get more consistent gauge.
There you have it! A little of the what and why's to knitting continental. Are you ready to learn?
I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill. I create hand spinning fibers from locally sourced wool and teach others online how to hand spin their own yarn.