You’ve probably heard of English and continental knitting, well there’s another style to add to the list – Portuguese knitting. Also known as Andean knitting, Incan knitting and ‘around the neck’ knitting (more on that later), this style is popular in Spain, Portugal and Latin American countries.
The difference between English and continental knitting styles lies in how the working yarn is handled and the same can be said about Portuguese knitting. However, the technique used in Portuguese knitting is a really distinctive one. Assuming the knitter is right handed, the work is held in the left hand and the yarn is passed over the left shoulder, around the neck and is then looped over a finger on the right hand. (Alternatively, the yarn is passed through a special Portuguese knitting pin, attached to the knitter’s clothes, and then is held by the right hand.) As the stitches are worked, the knitter flicks the yarn around the needles with the left thumb.
• To work knit stitch, insert the right needle into your stitch as usual, from left to right, but keep the right needle in front of the left needle – not behind, as you usually would. Use the left thumb to hook the working yarn over the top of the right needle, then use the right needle to draw the yarn through and form a stitch; slip this off the left needle as usual.
• To work purl stitch, insert the needle as usual for purl (from right to left) and then use the left thumb to hook the working yarn over the top of the right needle. Use the right needle to draw the yarn through and make a stitch, then slip if off the left needle.
So why is it a useful technique to master? Well, it can be much quicker to work using the Portuguese knitting style and purl stitches are a lot easier to do than in the English and continental styles. It’s also a great technique to use when doing colourwork – if you use two Portuguese knitting pins it’s a lot easier to stop your yarns getting tangled up. And, because your hands make fewer movements as you work, it’s a great technique to use if you have any pain in your hands or problems such as arthritis or carpel tunnel syndrome. You can also combine the style with either English or continental knitting in order to give your hands a rest.