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Knitting: the Difference between Continental and British Style

I wrote this post a few years ago for a blog called Craft Candy (which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore). So, I thought why shouldn’t I share it on here?

As knitting seems to have become more popular, with avid knitters taking their projects on ‘trains, planes and automobiles’ it’s also becoming apparent that there are two distinct knitting styles: Continental (or German) knitting and English knitting.

Continental Knitting British Knitting – ©

I was taught continental knitting by my aunt and in school when growing up in Germany. Only when I came to England in 1996 did I notice the English knitting style, which immediately struck me as being much more complicated and taking longer to complete projects.

I always believed that the way I knit (continental) was much faster and much more time efficient. And in fact, it actually is. Not only according to Wikipedia which states that: “Continental knitting can be done at a greater rate than English knitting, as the stitches are formed closer to the needle points and the yarn has a shorter travel.” But also according to STV Scotland, which interviewed Hazel Tindall, who won an international knitting competition to become the World’s Fastest Knitter. She completed 262 stitches in 3 minutes!

Continental knitting/German knitting or picking as it’s sometimes also called is mostly used in Northern and Eastern Europe. The yarn is held in the left hand and a movement of the left index finger (or other fingers) helps the needle to pick up the yarn and form a new stitch.

Important to remember with this style of knitting is the position of the yarn, it always needs to end up behind the needles after any stitch has been completed. The yarn is held over the forefinger of the left hand, achieving tension of the yarn in many different ways. Either by wrapping the yarn around the little finger, wrapping it around the forefinger or holding the yarn against the left hand needle with the middle finger to keep it as taut as needed.

People that have previously crochet find learning the continental style of knitting easier as the yarn is held in a similar way, in the left hand, and the right hand motion is pretty much the same for both knitting and crocheting.

English knitting, which is also sometimes referred to as American knitting or throwing, is mostly used in England and America, according to Knitting. It involves holding the yarn in your right hand and ‘throwing’ it over the needle to form a stitch.

Making a knit stitch the right needle is inserted into the left side of the first loop on the left needle. The yarn is then wrapped counter-clockwise around the right needle, and this new loop is pulled with the right needle through the old one.

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The Difference Between Continental and British Knitting?

I’ve always wondered about the differences between continental / German knitting (left-handed) and English knitting (right-handed). I was taught continental / German knitting (being German that obviously makes a lot of sense). It was only when I came to England in 1996 I noticed that there are other ways of knitting, including what seemed to me a rather more complicated way of knitting, which involved rather a lot of moving around.

Naively, I always believed that my way of knitting (German / continental) was quicker and much more time efficient. So, imagine my surprise when I found out that apparently it is, Wikipedia states: “Continental knitting is preferred by professional hand knitters, as it is the more efficient method, requiring the shortest number of specific hand-motions per stitch.” Over on Ackwood’s YouTube channel is a great video demonstrating the continental technique:  

English knitting on the other hand, according to Wikipedia is sometimes referred to as picking as “the yarn is held in the left hand and the motion of bringing the yarn forward with a needle held in the other hand” seems like picking it through. And over on LindsayLew’s YouTube channel a good example of British knitting:

I can’t say that I’ve ever tried using anything else than my German knitting technique, especially as it is so easy to learn. Just check out how easy it is in on TECHknitting. Now it would be interesting to hear what your thoughts are about the different kinds of knitting. Which one do you favour?