How To Continental Knit: Learn Techniques And Guide!

If you’re asking “What is continental knitting?” the answer is simply, how to continental knit and purl with the yarn in your left hand. This can speed up your work and help prevent RSI too. Jen Arnall-Culliford explains how continental-style knitting works in this free masterclass.

Continental Knitting: A Journey of Discovery

Trying something new is a theme that runs through my life. Whether it’s a new knitting technique, unusual food, or a completely new craft, I love any journey of discovery.

And so it was that I decided to try to learn a new method of knitting around five years ago. I’d been struggling with wrist and finger pain following a project involving acres of 1×1 ribbing and decided that a change in my normal knitting movements was in order.

I had tried holding the yarn in my left hand a few times in the past, but never took to it quickly enough to overcome the frustration.

This time, with the motivation for learning, I took it slowly but surely, and gradually the movements became less alien. When you can already do a skill well, it’s harder to learn a new method for that same skill, since you know that you can already do it. It’s all too easy to swap back to the old, comfortable method. Don’t be discouraged though!

There are some really good reasons to push past the learning barrier and to become comfortable in more than one way of knitting.

Reasons to Learn Continental-Style Knitting

Injury Prevention

Being able to knit with more than one method leads to more varied movements which decreases the chances of developing RSI or other related fatigue injuries.

Technique Compatibility

Some knitting techniques are particularly well suited to one method of knitting or another.

Tension Control

Changing your knitting method can subtly affect the tension with which you hold your yarn. You may be able to put this effect to good use, and swap methods to fine-tune your gauge.

Brain Benefits

The general brain benefits of learning a new skill are well documented, and we could all use some extra neural pathways!

Also Read: How To Knit in The Round With Circular Needles

Choosing the Right Project

First, I needed a suitable project to work on. I didn’t want to learn a new method while working on a complex lace or cable project! I chose my Still Light tunic, a pattern by Veera Valimaki that involves rounds and rounds of stocking stitch something that is particularly suited to knitting with the yarn in your left hand.

Gradual Progress

Having chosen my project, I took my time and built it up slowly. For the first week or so, I concentrated on changing my technique for just 10-15 minutes at a time. I didn’t watch TV and knit, but instead focused on my movements and tried to remember that it would take a while to become second nature.

It was a pleasant surprise that after a couple of weeks, I would automatically pick up my work ready to knit in the new method.

The Versatility of Continental Knitting

As it happens, I’ve not become a total convert to holding the yarn on my left. I’m quite dominantly right-handed, and given the choice, I feel most comfortable knitting with the yarn on that side. I certainly prefer purring that way!

The benefit comes when I have a lot of time to knit, or a deadline looming, and I can mix things up, switching to and fro to give my hands some variety. That said, a project with a large swathe of stocking stitch in the round is very pleasant to work the other way around, so it’s great to be able to mix and match.

How to Continental Knit: Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Hold the Needles

  • Hold the needles with your palms facing down over the top of the needles, just two or three centimeters from the tips.
  • Use your right index finger to hold any stitches on your needle. The right needle tip does most of the movement, so stitches can slide around if not kept in check.

Step 2: Tension the Yarn

  • Tension the yarn in your left hand as you wish many people wrap it around their ring and little fingers and then it passes over the index finger to the stitches.

Step 3: Insert the Needle

  • With the yarn behind the work, insert the right needle tip into the first stitch knitwise.

Step 4: Pick Up a Loop

  • Push the right needle tip across the yarn from right to left and pick up a loop.

Step 5: Pull the Loop Through

  • Continue to pull the loop through the stitch.
  • Slip the stitch off the needle, catching the new stitch with your right index finger.

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.

Get the Yarn in Place

  • To begin continental knitting, cast on the number of stitches you need.
  • Hold the yarn in place at the back of the work with your left hand and the needle with 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.

From the Knit Stitch

  • 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.

Finishing the Knit Stitch

  • 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.


In conclusion, learning continental knitting is a valuable skill for any knitter. It not only offers ergonomic benefits but also adds versatility to your knitting repertoire. So, don’t hesitate to embark on this knitting journey and discover the world of continental knitting for yourself!

Also Read: How To Knit Socks on Circular Needles

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