English Versus Continental: Which Knitting Style Should You Learn?

Know the main differences between these two techniques in terms of stitches, tension, and projects.

Close up on woman's hands knitting
Photo: LukaTDB / Getty Images

In knitting, there are two basic styles of technique: the English method and the German or Continental method. The only real difference lies in how the yarn is held. With the English method, the working yarn is held in the right hand; with the Continental method, it is held in the left. While both methods produce equally fine results, they are different enough that it's worth understanding both and how each could benefit your knitting. It's worth mentioning that, in our tutorials, we use the Continental method to teach you how to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off.

English Knitting

English knitting, sometimes also called American knitting or "throwing," is the most popular method in England, parts of Europe, and elsewhere. It involves holding the yarn in your right hand and throwing it over the needle to form a stitch.

Continental Knitting

Continental knitting, also known as German knitting or picking, is popular in northern and eastern Europe as well as other parts of the world. In this method, the yarn is in the left hand and a subtler movement of the left index finger (and, sometimes, other fingers as well) is used to help the needle pick up the yarn and form a new stitch.

Which Method Should You Choose?

As mentioned, the main difference between each has to do with the way a stitch is made—by "throwing" in English-style knitting, or "picking" in Continental-style, and each produces slightly different results in order to suit different sorts of knitters. Some people find it easier to work English knitting with chunky-weight yarns, while others think Continental is simpler once you've learned how to crochet. It may be worth it to try your hand at both styles to see which one is more comfortable and natural for you.

Even if you've been happily knitting in English or Continental style for a long time, it's worth learning the other method or trying one of the lesser-known styles. For one thing, you can alternate stitches for a different hand-and-wrist action on the same project, thereby reducing hand and arm strain if that's a problem for you. Being able to knit both methods also comes in handy when you're working with two colors of yarn in the same row. You can knit with one color in your right hand and one in your left, then speed through the process without hassle. Plus, it's just fun to learn more techniques and have them in your arsenal, even if you typically knit one way most of the time.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles