The Battle of English vs. Continental Knitting

Whether you’ve realized it or not, knitters do not all knit in the same way. I’m not just talking about how you hold your needles. Think about which hand you hold the yarn in, the tension you use when knitting, and where your yarn is coming from. Do your knitting friends knit in this same way? Probably not!

All these little things — from how you wrap your yarn around the needle to which hand the yarn is in — help determine  your knitting style. You can read more about all the knitting styles and methods in other Craftsy articles, but let’s focus solely on English vs. Continental knitting styles for a second.

Continental Knitting Technique

Taking care of knitting business — Continental style

Some knitters are fiercely believe in one style over the other, but there’s no need to choose one style over the other for the rest of your knitting life. In fact, learning to use both of these styles interchangeably can actually be very beneficial to you!

Why should you care about knitting style?

The main difference in English vs. Continental knitting is the way the yarn is wrapped around the right needle before its pull through to knit a stitch. In English-style knitting the action is throwing the yarn, while in Continental-style knitting the action is picking the yarn.

The differences do not seem like a big deal at first, but here are a few reasons you should become familiar with both styles:

Relieving pain

Why might you want to know the difference in English vs. Continental knitting? First and most importantly, changing up your knitting style can relieve your wrists. Have you ever spent long hours knitting, only to have pain in your fingers and wrists? Switching up your style halfway through that long knitting session can ease that pain. English style, sometimes referred to as throwing, requires a different hand-and-wrist action than Continental, which is the style that picks the yarn. Repetition of either of these for long periods of time will cause pain, so switch your style and see if you notice the difference.

Changing tension to get gauge

I’m usually a Continental knitter, but I decided to change it up and try English style to see what it feels like. I made a couple of discoveries, but the most obvious thing I noticed is that my tension is a little different when knitting English style — and I’m thinking that this could save me next time I’m having issues getting gauge.

Have I convinced you to change up your knitting style yet? Here’s a little list about each knitting style that will help you determine when to use each one:

English-style knitting

  • Holds yarn in the right hand
  • Throws the yarn when wrapping
  • Easier with chunky-weight yarns

Continental-style knitting

  • Holds yarn in the left hand
  • Picks the yarn when wrapping
  • Faster when you are knitting the knit stitch, but the purl stitch can slow you down a bit
  • Alternating between knits and purls is easier with this style; great for seed stitch and ribbing that alternate between the two
  • Easier for crocheters to learn

If you’re as intrigued about Continental knitting, be sure to enroll in Knit Faster With Continental Knitting with Lorilee Beltman. Lorilee demonstrates the picking style and how it can make your knitting easier, faster and all-around less painful — perfect if you’re an avid knitter who’s experiencing some arm or wrist pain.

Do you knit Continental or English style? Have you ever tried to alternate between the two styles?

Knit Continental — knit more efficiently!

Learn Continental Knitting on Bluprint

Learn to increase speed, bolster efficiency and ditch hand strain as you conquer Continental knitting in our most popular online knitting class. Enroll Now »

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2 Responses to “The Battle of English vs. Continental Knitting”

  1. Janine

    I was wondering how to make the fabric the same between the two styles. I started a pattern in English and then learned Continental and feel like it's so much faster but there is a noticeable difference in the stitches. Maybe I'm doing it wrong but if you start out knitting a pattern in English and then switched mid pattern is there a way to make the stitches the same? They look twisted in the fabric and I'm wondering do I frog back to the beginning or can I make a slight adjustment to correct?

  2. BeagleMom

    well i guess i just march to a different drum!!! i hold the yarn in my left hand, but i throw it over the needle!! so does that make me an english continental?! plus i let the yarn hang.....yup, no tension at all, but my stitches are uniform because i always do it like that.....i started as a crocheter. the lady who runs our LYS goes nuts every time she sees me knit!!!! but hey, it works!! thanks for explaining this!!