Have you ever been a creeper and stared at other people knitting, maybe in the airport or in a park? I have. Usually I’m staring at them because I’m checking out their awesome yarn or admiring the pattern they’re working on. But that wasn’t the case one day in a New York City park.
The yarn was beautiful, sure. And the pattern was lovely, too. But what I couldn’t stop staring at was the way the knitter was feeding the yarn. The skein was lumped in her lap, like most knitters’ yarns, but it wasn’t going straight to the needle. Instead, it was wrapping around a pin that was attached to the knitter’s neck. Rather than be even creepier and approach the knitter, I went home and looked it up. Turns out, I was witnessing the Portuguese knitting technique.
Knitting pin via Andrea Wong Knits
What is Portuguese knitting?
Portuguese knitting — or maybe you’ve heard it called Andean, Peruvian or Bosnian — is a knitting style that involves more than just attaching a pretty pin to your shirt. It’s a style that also involves movements that are totally different from the usual Continental and English styles we’re so accustomed to seeing.
What makes Portuguese knitting so unique is the tension of the yarn. You’ll be able to spot a Portuguese knitting technique a mile away if you check out where that yarn is coming from. In addition to a pin, the yarn could also be wrapped behind the knitter’s neck.
Portuguese knitting pins
First things first. I love a good knitting notion, and knitting pins are no exception. You could totally just wrap the yarn around your neck and call it a day, but what fun is that?
Andrea Wong’s knitting pin pictured above is made specifically for Portuguese knitting. Andrea also sells some pretty silver knitting pins with crystal beads that are just as fashionable as they are functional to your knitting.
If you’re not sure whether you’ll like the Portuguese knitting style, upcyle old earrings and run the yarn through those. If you find that you love the Portuguese style, then you can invest in a nicer pin.
If you’re enrolled in Improve Your Knitting with Patty Lyons, you’ve already become obsessed with knitting pins. In the class, Patty discusses several options for knitting pins and will show you a spoon-and-magnet pin that is incredible and works well for knitters who don’t want to pierce their shirt. Is it weird that I’d wear one of those even when I’m not knitting?
Patty Lyons demonstrating the Portuguese knitting technique in Improve Your Knitting
3 reasons why you should try Portuguese knitting
1. It makes stranded colorwork easier
Stranded colorwork can be a real pain when the skeins of yarn get all tangled. With Portuguese knitting, you can run your yarn through two (or more!) knitting pins to keep the strands from tangling while you work.
2. It’s great for arthritis and carpal tunnel
Portuguese knitting involves very small movements, including a flicking motion with your thumb. For this reason, it’s a great style for people who have arthritis or carpal tunnel and don’t have a big range of motion. You can knit even with these limitations!
3. It helps give an even tension
Running the yarn through the pin or around your neck combined with the motions of Portuguese-style knitting will help give your knitting an even tension throughout. This is great news for those of us who start out knitting with loose stitches and end up with tiny, tight stitches by the end of the project.
Things to be aware of
While Portuguese knitting has plenty of benefits, it also has a few things you should look out for. First of all, the yarn might feel funny wrapped around your neck or even attached to a pin on your shirt. You may need a while to adjust to that feeling.
Also, increases and decreases look a bit different when knitted Portuguese style. If you’re really into this style and want to perfect those increases and decreases, Patty Lyons gives an in-depth look at both in her class Improve Your Knitting.
Portuguese-style knitting creates a tight stitch, which is great for those knitters who tend to knit too loosely. However, tight knitters might have issues with gauge when using this technique. Take note, tight knitters! You may need to adjust your needle sizes before trying Portuguese style.