On The Other Hand: English vs. Continental Knitting

Good morning, knitters!

Think for a moment about the last time you watched someone else knit. You’ve probably noticed by now that no two knitters are exactly alike; we each have our own style. But generally speaking most of us fall into one of two categories: we either knit English or Continental. If you’re reading this, you are almost definitely one or the other and you might even know which. But in case you’re wondering what in the world we’re talking about, let’s take a closer look at the two most common ways of knitting.


First let’s get one thing straight: neither the English nor Continental ways of knitting is right or wrong. They’re simply two different ways of making the same stitch, and while each has its pros and cons (depending on who you ask), in the end it’s a matter of personal preference.

The small difference that distinguishes English from Continental knitting is which hand holds your working yarn. English knitters hold their working yarn in their right hand and “throw” the yarn around the right needle to create each new stitch. Continental knitters hold their working yarn in their left hand and “pick” or catch the yarn with the right needle tip to create each new stitch.

1. English Knit Stitch. 2. English Purl Stitch.

3. Continental Knit Stitch. 4. Continental Purl Stitch


Though both English and Continental knitting produce normal stitches, the difference in technique can have a major impact on your knitting experience and your finished product. Let’s consider a few of the advantages and drawbacks of both methods. Keep in mind, though, these are only generalizations; they are not true for all knitters and the only thing that really matters is your satisfaction with your own knitting!

English knitting is said to offer better control, especially when purling. Because the yarn pulls snugly against the needle when held in the right hand, English knitters feel they can easily get a comfortable, consistent tension. This also makes it very easy for beginners to learn. However, the exaggerated motion of “throwing” can make English a little slower.

Continental knitting has a reputation for being faster. Because the yarn, held in the left hand, is already in position at the tips of the needles, the stitch can be worked in one smooth motion. It is also simpler to transition from a knit to a purl, a treat when working patterns like ribbing or seed stitch. Though Continental knitting is NOT the same as left-handed knitting, it can be easier to learn for lefties as well as crocheters. However, the lack of resistance can make tension less natural, particularly for purls.


Good question! The best answer is, “Whatever way you want!” If you learned one way and it’s second nature to you now, knit on! Like we said before, the “best” way to knit is the way that you enjoy.

With that said, we’d encourage you to experiment with both English and Continental knitting. There are definitely advantages to being skilled in both methods. For example, using both hands (one to control each strand of yarn) makes techniques like Fair Isle colorwork faster and easier.  Perhaps you’ve experienced minor hand or wrist aches due to the repetitive motions of knitting- this strain can be relieved by changing your technique. Or maybe you just want to challenge yourself to expand your skills a knitter.

Whatever the reason, we’d love to hear about your experiences with English AND Continental knitting. And if you’d like to learn more about either method, visit us in the shop for a lesson. There’s always something new to try!

Happy Knitting!







8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Judith Miller
    Apr 27, 2016 @ 14:00:46

    To the Wonderful Ladies—at the Yarn Patch—How fortunate we are to have you all, and the nicest yarn store anywhere!. judy m.



  2. Gail
    Apr 27, 2016 @ 15:42:19

    I do continental knitting but I do have trouble with the purling and tension. I constantly strive to make my knit stitches and purl stitches have equal tension but still am not there yet.



  3. Sandra David
    Apr 27, 2016 @ 15:47:57

    How right you are – there are as many right ways to knit as there are knitters!

    I taught myself English style from a book . When I took my first class, the teacher INSISTED that Continental was the only right way to knit, and I was forced to learn it. I resented it at the time, but I stuck with it, and it became my preferred method.

    When I developed an interest in Fair Isle, I realized that using both hands worked very well (I unvented that, since the helpful person teaching me stranded knitting insisted that I had to twist my yarns around each other at every color change and I knew I had to do something different or give up). Later I found that using 2 hands is one of the established methods of knitting stranded colorwork.

    I suppose I was lucky to run into the knitting police early, but I’m thankful that the staff at The Yarn Patch are MUCH more knitter friendly!



  4. Chrissie Reese
    Apr 27, 2016 @ 15:48:40

    I agree it is a lovely friendly atmosphere and it’s always such fun to learn new tricks and tips when knitting a project.I really enjoy all the sharing with the Ladies at the knitting circle, and very happy to be accepted into the group. 😄🌺



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