Have You Heard About the German Knitting Technique?

Posted by on May 22, 2013 in Knitting | Comments


After learning about all the different knitting techniques used throughout the world (like the Russian knitting technique, the Japanese knitting technique, and the Armenian knitting technique) are you beginning to be a little confused, wondering just how many ways there could possibly be to hold your yarn and work a knit stitch? Well, let’s take the confusion out of one of them: German knitting.

German knitting is just another name for Continental knitting. There is some evidence that this particular knitting style originated in Germany, hence it often being referred to as German knitting.

German knitting is all about how you hold the yarn. For German knitting, you hold the working yarn in your left hand. Start by wrapping the yarn around the pinkie finger on your left hand. With the yarn end that goes to the yarn ball coming on the palm side of your pinkie finger, then over it between the pinkie and ring finger. Then loop that yarn back under the pinkie finger. Like this:

German knitting

Next, pick up the yarn with your index finger so that it’s coming over the top of your finger. If you do it right, the yarn will be immediately behind your needle tips. Ideally, as you work your knit stitch, you won’t need to wrap your yarn around the right-hand needle, so much as you’ll flick the tip of that needle to pick up the yarn. Like so:

german knit

If you’re having trouble maintaining the tension the way you want it, you can also involve the middle finger on the left hand, letting the yarn go in and out over that finger as well. As always, the only wrong way to do it is the way that doesn’t work for you.

The yarn hold remains the same on the purl stitch, though there is more of a yarn wrap on that stitch. The yarn should still be close to the needle, and you should still use more of a repositioning of your hands to achieve the wrap.

The main purpose of the German knitting hold is to be efficient with the movement, which seems fitting. (I can say that because I’m part German and my German great-grandmother was the queen of no-nonsense efficiency!) Also, it does put less stress on the wrists.

I will confess, though, that I did not inherit that trait from her. I am an English knitter and have all kinds of trouble making German knitting work for me. The key seems to be in maintaining the proper yarn tension as it loops around the fingers on the left-hand, but I have not figured out how to make that tension remain consistent as I work through my stitches.

The purl stitch is also a bit of an exercise in faith. Getting the new yarn loop to stay on the right-hand needle as you pull it back through the stitch can be tricky. This video demonstrates the purl stitch in slow motion. It takes practice to do this stitch quickly. Nimble fingers don’t hurt, either. To get more practice with basic knitting techniques, you might enjoy Stefanie Japel’s online Craftsy class Knit Lab!

Come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow to learn thumb method cast-on knitting.

So, are you a German knitter? If you are, did you know you were knitting the German way?

 

Comments

  1. Sia says:

    I am Greek, but I knit the German way, as I learned knitting in school in Germany. Needless to say, my mother and grandmother knit a completely different way (holding the yarn in the left hand, but tensioning it around the neck down around the fingers of the right hand — seems awfully complicated to me). I’ve taught myself hot to knit English style (purling I cannot get the hang of) and feel there are many unnecessary movements involved.

    As to your tension problem: instead of having the yarn come over the top of your index finger, try wrapping the yarn once around the index finger and have the yarn come out from under it (that’s how I do it — I hope I explained it well enough)..

    When purling you can either keep the left index finger and the yarn very close to the needles, or, use your middle finger to push the yarn down in front of the left-hand needle so you can flick the right-hand needle around it much easier.

    German knitting to me seems so much easier than English (perhaps because I learned that as a kid).. give it another try!

  2. Lynn says:

    I learned this from a Norwegian friend, and always just called it “Continental” knitting. I am constantly confusing my friends who are “throwers.” Not too many of us around here.

  3. Roni says:

    Hmmm…. this is the style that felt the most natural to me when I started knitting. Guess that means my German heritage is showing. HaHa

  4. Christine says:

    I learned from my German grandmother and until just recently, tensioned the yarn just as described above. Then I saw a blog post suggesting that the yarn be wrapped around the ring finger instead of the pinkie. THIS WAS A REVELATION! Just moving one finger over allowed the yarn to move perfectly for my knitting speed and suddenly it became effortless!

  5. Catherine says:

    i am afraid i am a “thrower” i have tried all these different styles of knitting and find them very clumsy.
    i suppose what it really comes down to for us all, is .the way you have been taught as a child ha ha

  6. Lydia says:

    I learned continental from my mom in Germany. I never knew of any other knitting style until I moved to the U.S. Throwing it a lot of hand movement and you have to let go of the needle to do it. I wrap the yarn around my index finger twice for tension and just move the finger back and forth around the needle depending on if I need to knit or purl. and using my index finger I just wrap the yarn around the needle grab it with my right thumb and pull it through and off the left needle.

    1. Carol says:

      Thanks for this great suggestion about wrapping the yarn around the ring finger. I knit the German way but always had trouble controlling the yarn and gauge. I just tried wrapping the yarn twice around my index finger and then around my ring finger, as you suggested, and I can’t believe the difference it makes! My hands feel so much more comfortable and I can knit without constantly stopping to adjust the yarn tension.

  7. Ewenique says:

    My mother in law, who was an ethnic German living in what used to be Yugoslavia, taught me to knit this way. I find it quick and fairly effortless. Maintaining the proper tension is a matter of finding what works for you and practice. She would wrap the yarn several times around her left index finger. I only wrap it once and let the yarn “feed” around my finger as I knit and purl.

  8. Pam O-Kremer says:

    I learned how to knit Continental from my Swedish grandmother and aunt when I was 8. I’ve tried English and am hopeless at it. I don’t have any trouble with the tension, nor with knit vs. purl. One thing they taught me was to always slip the first stitch, then start the knit or purl. That gives a smoother edge.

  9. Iryna says:

    Silly to call this technique German – it is Continental!
    We call it Russian knittin.
    And we too slip the first stitch, it neatens up the salvage

  10. Annette says:

    Hi. My mum was German and taught me to knit. It is really easy. Also she taught me the thumb method for casting on x

  11. Barbie says:

    I was taught to, “pick” from the very beginning. I don’t get why people throw the yarn over…

    1. Di says:

      And I don’t know why people can’t just be content with their own choice of knitting method instead of questioning why other knitters prefer other methods.

  12. Ernie says:

    Just a comment on slipping the first stitch, I have found that there is no need to do this in order to neaten up the selve edges if you make a concience effort to tighten the last few and the first few stitches every time. It does not effect the overall tention of the piece
    as it naturally wants to even itself out.

  13. carmen says:

    I’m from Spain and we “throw” here (English method). I always wonder why, being on the Continent, in Spain we knit English style instead of Continental. I guess the influence probably comes from Portugal. Portuguese sailors traded extensively with Great Britain and probably learned how to knit from them to keep themselves busy during long, quiet days of navigation. And from Portugal the technique must have passed to us, rather than from Central Europe.

  14. Gail says:

    I think that if you wind the yarn twice around your index finger the tension is more even. I always had a problem with loose purls until I did this

  15. Lydia Hofmann says:

    Having watched my mom, who grew up in Germany, knit, I knew no other way. Since then, I have taken classes to learn new methods and stitches, but always use the German, or continental style of knitting. Members of knitting classes always seem amazed at the speed at which I can knit or purl. I am sure it is because of the extra hand movements used in knitting the American way.

  16. Dawn says:

    I’ve always knit this way. I think it’s because I learned to crochet first and held the yarn in my left hand for that. It just felt right to hold it that way for knitting too!

  17. Crafty Gal says:

    I agree- this is Continental Knitting. Fortunately is the way I learned, yes from my German Oma. Just about Every knitter I know knits English/ Throwing and I so be it…. Once upon a time I asked to join a local Knitting Guild and they told the only qualification was a willingness to learn Continental! I learned from them that it is much easier on the hands and I know it is much faster too.Unfortunately it takes quite the effort to change one’a style of knitting. This one is worth the overall effort. Happy Knitting Everyone!

  18. Debbie says:

    I taught myself to knit a long time after learning how to crochet, so holding my yarn in my left hand just seemed right. I leard later that this

  19. Di Childs says:

    I use a version of English style. It’s very comfortable and suits me. I tried Continental/German style and found it aggravated my Carpal Tunnel problem. However, I would never criticise other knitters for their choice of knitting method or say that they should use the same method as I do. I think to do so would be narrow-minded and arrogant.

    1. Linda says:

      Your comment about carpal problems is my concern also. My fingers get numb. If you have a way to help me I would like to learn it. I learned the English style also and am left-handed. If not, switching to Continental might be my alternative.

      1. ZoeOB says:

        Linda, you might want to try Andrea Wong’s Portuguese Style of knitting. I discovered it when a fractured elbow threatened to end my knitting. You can find the basics by entering her name in Google.

        I’m a self taught knitter and have my own way of knitting that looks a little like Irish knitters (i.e., long needle under the arm or with a knitting belt). I’ve tried almost every knitting style out there and can say there is room for everyone! As long as your resulting stitches and patterns are the same, the road to get there is your choice.

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  21. Betina Juchem says:

    I descend from germans… and that’s why my grandmother taught me how to knit like this. It’s so much easier than the english way!

  22. Renate S. says:

    I am originally from Germany and have been knitting for over 60 years. I learned from my mother. The funny thing is she always called it “French” knitting. Who knows how it came about.

  23. Anna says:

    My mother was Slovenian and I learnt to knit this way even though I have lived in English speaking countries all my life where most people are ‘throwers’. (Massively embarrassing at school!) The first person I met who also knitted this way was a Norwegian friend. I keep correct tension by wrapping the yarn right around my little finger of my left hand (rather than just ‘passing through’). I do this for crochet as well. It is a very fast way to knit with minimal movement and is often used by professional knitters. And if you master both techniques you can do fairisle with two colors by effectively using both techniques at the same time – one for each color.

  24. Chris says:

    I learned to knit this way as a kid from my German grandmother and my mom. I never realized what a minority I was until wanted to make a few quick projects a couple of years ago and picked up knitting again. After many years away from it, I went looking for a few online videos and tutorials for a refresher on some of the more complicated stitches. Most of them are done by “throwers” so I have to adjust what I’m seeing to my “Continental” habits. I find the Continental style very fast and have no problem adjusting tension in my yarn through my left hand. I tried once to knit English, but it was too clumsy for me.