This One Switch Can Help You KNIT FASTER | How to Knit Faster with Continental Knitting

by | Jan 26, 2019

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Have you ever wanted to knit faster?  Continental Knitting just might be the solution!

You’ve probably been there. You realize you have a project that’s far from finished, but it needs to be done tomorrow. Maybe it’s supposed to be given as a gift or shipped off to an Etsy shop customer. Regardless of why you need to finish it, you need to finish it NOW. Under pressure and stress, you scramble to get it done as fast as possible, desperately wishing your fingers could move just a little faster so you could finish in time.

Well, believe it or not, the key to faster knitting isn’t moving your fingers faster.  It’s all about moving them more efficiently.

You see, there are many different methods of knitting. Every style is a bit different. They all produce the same stitches, but use different methods and motions to do so.

Let’s look at one of the main knitting methods used by many knitters in North America.

What is knitting English style?

Like many North American knitters, I learned to knit with the English method. This is the method generally taught in most “teach yourself to knit” pamphlets. The yarn is held and tensioned in the right hand, and is “thrown” around the tip of the right-hand needle before pulling the needle through to make a stitch.

The problem with English knitting when you’re trying to knit faster is the position of the yarn.  When the yarn is in the right hand, it is at the right of the right needle.  For each stitch, the yarn needs to go to behind the needle tip to the left, and then back to the front of the needle tip to the right.  So your hand has to move with the yarn to get it wrapped around the needle.

English Style Knitting

The English Style requires three separate motions to make a stitch:

  1. Insert the right needle into the first stitch that is sitting on the left needle
  2. Lift the right hand (with the yarn tensioned in it) or extend the right index finger to “throw” the yarn around the tip of the right needle in a counterclockwise direction.
  3. Place the right hand back on the right needle and use the needle tip to pull the new stitch through.

hands showing how to knit english style

Before we go any further, let me point out one very important thought:

As long as you are making the stitches correctly, there is no wrong way to knit. There is nothing wrong with English knitting. Every knitter’s preference will be different. There are many English Style knitters who can knit pretty fast, because they’ve had plenty of practice and have become good at it. If you love the English Style, use it!

The most important thing is that you use the style that works best for you.  However, there are other knitting styles out there that may be more efficient. 

What is continental knitting?

The continental method of knitting originally came from continental Europe.  A continental knitter holds and tensions the working yarn in the left hand. With the yarn in the left hand, it takes less motion to get the yarn around the tip of the right needle and pull the new stitch through. The right needle just “picks” the yarn up to grab it. I like the speed and efficiency I can get with this method, without using a knitting pin or putting the yarn behind my neck.

Holding the Yarn and Needles for Continental Knitting

For the continental method of knitting, you’ll hold and tension the yarn in your left hand, with your left index finger lifted slightly above the needle tip.  Then, grasp the left needle in the left hand, and the right needle in the right hand.  You’ll want to use a gentle grasp, so don’t grip the needles too tightly.

hands holding yarn and knitting continental style

There are many ways to wrap the yarn between or around the fingers of the left hand. Some people even like to wrap the yarn around the wrist. However you choose to tension your yarn, the important thing is that the yarn comes over your left index finger towards the knitting, and that the amount of tension is right for you.

I like to weave the yarn under and over my fingers so it comes over the top of my index finger towards the knitting, but you may find a different method that works better for you.  Check out this post for my 5 best tips to correct tension problems in your knitting.

how I like to tension the yarn in Continental Knitting

How to Knit Faster with Continental Knitting

The video below will show you several ways to work the Knit stitch and the Purl stitch in the Continental Style. These basic methods can be modified to suit each knitter. As long as you form the stitches correctly, it’s OK if you use slightly different motions to form them.

I recommend trying a new knitting style on an entire small-ish project before deciding whether it is right for you. It may take more than a small swatch for your hands to get comfortable with a new knitting style. Feel free to modify how you hold the needles or tension your yarn to make it work best for you.


Have you tried Continental Knitting yet?  How did you like it?


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This One Switch can help you Knit Faster - Continental Knitting Tutorial

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  1. Violeta

    I learned the Portuguese knitting method from my mom and grandmother when I was a kid and only recently found out that most people use another method. Your tutorial is incredibly helpful, and now I’m trying to learn continental knitting to see if it’s faster than the first method I learned. I must say, though, that wrapping the yarn around the neck does provide some good, consistent tension, so I’m not sure if I’ll change my style completely. Even though I think the Portuguese method might just be the least glamorous method out there, lol. Anyway, I also wanted to drop a quick message to let you know that today I’ve featured your post on Crafts on Display, a thriving community of fellow crafting enthusiasts. I hope you enjoy it, and keep up the fantastic work!

  2. Julie

    Thank you for sharing how to knit continental! I’m a beginner and started knitting English style then came across your easiest hat to knit video and noticed you were knitting differently. I went to the how to knit continental video and was amazed at how much easier and quicker I was knitting. I was also amazed at how much more even my stitches were coming out. Needless to say, I’ve subscribed and I’m a huge fan of all your tutorials. THANK YOU!!

    • sandra mays

      you are a wonderful teacher.
      i must try your way and hope i can do it
      thank you honey very much.

  3. bubba

    Being a diabetic I get sore finger tips when knitting. I’ve tried numerous items to cushion my finger tips. The best item I found is called Mole Skin. It’s used for blisters on your feet, etc. I cut a section off the sheet of Mole Skin to fit my finger tip. Take the sticky backing off and apply it to your finger tip. Most stores like Walmart or pharmacies should carry the product. I can use the product once or twice before it loses its tacky adhesive quality and I have to cut another piece.

  4. Timeflies54

    I am over 65. I knit before I was in high school. ? Mom taught me her way. I hold the yarn in my right hand, inserts the right needle in the stitch on the left needle, then— I grab the yarn with my left pointer finger. This only works well when I stockinette stitch. I have never seen a video or anyone else knit this way. I have had other knitters ask me what type of knitting I am doing. I don’t know. It’s just the way mom taught me. I have taught myself to purl backwards when I need to.
    Do you know if my way of knitting has an actual name?

    • Yay for Yarn

      Hi! I don’t know what that method would be called. I have not seen anyone knit like that before. Perhaps she invented her own technique 🙂

  5. Connie Schilke

    Thank you for the 6 tips to knit more comfortably. I use a wrist support rather than a compression glove when knitting and crocheting that really helps. But my finger tips take a lot of abuse and are sore. there does not seem to be any product made that can be used to prevent this soreness. I can cover the finger tips, but then can’t feel what I am doing. Any thoughts on this problem. I can’t be the only one who has this problem. BTW, I am trying to practice continental knitting, but I have been knitting English so long (60 years) that it is faster at the moment. The tension is the problem.

    • Yay for Yarn

      Hi Connie! If you’re having trouble with Continental tension, I have a blog post on that here. As for your fingertips hurting, that could be caused by gripping the needles too tightly, or by pressing on the needle points with your fingers to slide the needle out of a stitch. If you’re gripping tightly, I would suggest trying to grasp the needles loosely, with a light grip. Or, if you’re pressing on the needle points, try to avoid doing that. That seems to be a common motion, but it can hurt your fingers, as you are essentially poking the fingers with each stitch. I hope this helps!

  6. Corinne

    Hi I was taught the English throwing method. I was finding I wanted to knit faster and easier. I taught myself Combination style from utube. I really enjoy this way though it did make my hands ache at first but worth persevering.

  7. Hilda Green

    I have knit to Continental way since I was 12 I am now 83 years old. I see my friends knitting the other way and I don’t know how they can do it. I thought it was the German way because we were German.

  8. Dawn carrier

    I never knew any other method of knitting except continental though my Grandmother from Germany called it “European”. I could never figure out how others were knitting, it seemed like too much movement. My Grandmother taught my mother and she taught me. I’m privileged and blessed to be taught by two wonderful and talented women.

  9. Michelle

    I really like your method of knitting. It’s fast and efficientcy.

  10. CIndy

    This is amazing. When trying to teach myself to knit years ago, I failed miserably until I gave up on the instructions and just figured it out for myself. Now I know that I have been knitting Continental style. All this time, I thought I was just doing it “wrong”. Thanks for the great video.

  11. Marti Wright

    Best video I’ve ever seen for learning to knit continental style. I think I might actually be able to do this!
    BUT…why do all the instruction booklets teach English style?! And STILL do. That’s how I learned it, and countless folks still are. I didn’t know there was any other way.

  12. RC

    Thank you for your tutorial. Most tutorials show how to do the stitch once or twice, then they just speed knit through the rest of the video. I appreciate you showing how to do the stitch over and over, THEN showing how it is faster. It’s also nice to know the different ways to keep the tension and the various styles of different cultures and why they knit/purl that way. I agree that continental style is faster and wish I learned that style when I first started! I believe you can knit English style in one fluid motion without moving your right hand from the needle, but you’re still trying to do too much with one hand. I believe it’s a case of where your brain is focused. I’m finding that if the movement of the right hand that is picking is really the focus/doing the work, and the left hand is simply holding the yarn, the repetitive knitting motion is faster. Your brain is focusing almost totally on the movement of the right hand. If I’m straight knitting, I don’t have to think about moving the left hand and just simply “hold the yarn” there at the right tension. If you’re very right-handed like I am, the less I have to think about what the left hand is doing, the better! Switching from p-k and vice verse is more of a struggle for me. The yarn gets caught on the left needle when I move it forward and I’m more likely to drop a stitch. Still practicing . . . . One of the issues I have with knitting style tutorials is they spend a LOT of time saying “you do it the way that feels most comfortable and that’s okay”, essentially saying, “but, this way is faster/better”. That’s the whole reason someone is watching a tutorial is to find a faster way to knit and NOT the way they’ve been taught. Don’t apologize for the way you knit. We know it’s faster/better, and let’s face it . . . . . prettier! THAT’S why I watched yours. Thank you! Now . . . back to practicing!

    • Yay for Yarn

      You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed the video!

  13. BAlison

    I taught myself to knit Continental by watching others at my local yarn shop. My tension is a little looser, thou. Never could figure out how to purl that way, so I learned how to knit backwards so I didn’t have to turn my work when doing a stockinette sideways scarf. Maybe it’s time to finally add purling Continental to my bag of tricks!

  14. Jitka West

    I agree! Years ago, I remember being very confused after learning to knit (barely) from one person and then taking a technique class from someone else. I didn’t even realize it was because one instructor was using Continental and the other was using English style. Now I appreciate knowing how to use both techniques since it makes Fair Isle knitting faster and more enjoyable. I’d like to think that the surge in the popularity of knitting in the US will open our eyes to the various style and techniques used around the world. It is so enriching!

    • Sue Suplicki

      Thank you so much because I have so much trouble with my hands .

      • Yay for Yarn

        You’re very welcome, Sue! I hope Continental Knitting works well for you!

        • Pati Ramirez

          Hello, I am a left handed knitter and I taught myself how to knit 8 years ago by watching YouTube videos. I knit continental style I’ve gotten use to ignoring when people say right needle or left needle for me it’s the opposite. I will be trying your way to see if I can get more speed. Thank you for the video.

  15. SKj

    I’ve always wondered why anyone would knit English Style. In my opinion it seems to be like the Norwegian saying “To cross the stream to fetch water”. In Norway we learn continental knitting.

    • Yay for Yarn

      Well, I think most people in the US don’t realize how many other ways there are to knit. The English style is most commonly taught here. I think the Continental Style is mostly taught in Europe. Until I watched some videos of someone else knitting Continental Style, I didn’t realize there was another way, either.

  16. Tina

    Please send me cheat sheet for continental knitting.

    • Yay for Yarn

      Hi Tina! To get the free cheat sheet, you’ll just need to sign up for my email list via the link above the photo of the cheat sheet (or right here: ). Once you’re signed up, you’ll be sent the download link and instructions to download. Hope this helps! Thanks!


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