When you get into any craft there seem to be a whole load of tricky terms to learn and understand. Knitting is no exception – after all, what the heck is a niddy noddy?! As you’ve investigated the world of knitting, you may have heard the term ‘continental knitting’ and wondered what it is – and if it’s different to what you’re doing.

Well, it’s quite simple really – if you hold your yarn in the opposite hand to the working needle (ie in the left hand if you’re right handed) then you are a ‘continental’ knitter; if you hold the yarn in the same hand as the working needle then you are an ‘English’ knitter. Both terms have alternative names – continental knitting is also known as ‘German’, ‘European’ and left-hand knitting; English knitting is also known as right-hand knitting.

‘Continental Knitting’

However, it’s the terms ‘throwing’ and ‘picking’ that give you a clue as to the chief difference between the two knitting styles. If you use the ‘throwing’ technique – English knitting – then the hand holding the working needle ‘throws’ the working yarn over the needle tip. If you are ‘picking’ – doing continental knitting – then the tip of the working needle picks up the yarn held in the opposite hand.

Most people start out with one method or the other and it can be very difficult to master the opposite style if you’ve been knitting one way for a long time. However, there are advantages to both styles. Continental knitting is good if you’ve moved to knitting after mastering crochet – in crochet the yarn is held in the hand opposite the hook. It’s also a lot quicker to do the knit stitch in continental knitting  – while purl is quicker if you use the English method.

‘English Knitting’

If you can switch from one style to the other then you will be able to knit stocking stitch far more speedily – one row knit in continental style, one row purl in English style. And if you are doing Fair Isle knitting then you will be able to hold the two different colours of yarn in different hands – much easier than holding them both in one hand.

If you’re keen to expand your knitting knowledge then check our posts for features on techniques and know how. You never know, we might even tell you what a niddy noddy is…!