Put A Ring On It {A Trick for Mastering Continental Knitting}

Hi. My name is Nikki, and I used to be a thrower.

Yes, I used to “throw” my yarn when knitting (and purling) but those days are long gone.

I’ve seen the error of my ways.

In all seriousness, I used to knit in the traditional style, where you “throw” your yarn (really just wrap it with your right hand around your needle…there’s not really any “throwing” involved), but after a few recommendations from yarn loving friends, I decided to give continental knitting a try…and I’ve never looked back.

Continental knitting is much faster. That right there was reason enough for me to make the switch, but I also liked that it helped me “loosen up a bit.” In traditional knitting, my stitches were tight…too tight. I often had to adjust my needle to size to get the correct gauge. With continental knitting that was never a problem.

The actual creating of the stitches is exactly the same in continental knitting, you just hold the yarn in your left hand, and by doing so, the entire action of knitting (or purling) is much smoother…and quicker.

I get a lot of questions though from people just starting out with continental knitting  because obviously the first time you switch over the whole set up feels very weird in your hands…kind of like driving on the left side of the street. It takes practice, but honestly, not that much. Grab a ball of your favorite yarn (something smooth that will slide easily off your needles, and won’t split…make this practice easy on yourself!) and make a swatch. (Tip: Cast on about 15 to 20 stitches. Give yourself enough stitches to be able to get into a rhythm by the end of each row.) By the time you have about 4 or 5 inches, you’ll be loving continental knitting.

If you’re tried it and are struggling with tension:

Keeping the yarn at a consistent tension on your left hand, and keeping it from sliding around your fingers is the hardest part. Here’s where my “couldn’t be easier and looks cute, too” trick comes on…put a ring on it!

Yup! Grab your favorite chunky ring and slip it on your left ring finger. Make sure that when you wrap the yarn over your left hand, it falls between the ring and the base of your finger…just like in the picture at the top of this post. The ring will help keep it from sliding up too high on your finger, towards your knuckles. Couldn’t be easier, right?

If you’ve never tried it but want to knit faster than ever before:

Here’s a video I made a few years ago that walks you through step-by-step how to hold the yarn and the movement to create each stitch…both knits and purls. If you have any questions…you know where to find me! (If you can’t see the video below because you’re reading this in your email inbox, click here to watch it right on the Nikki, In Stitches site!)


Nikki, In Stitches

PS…Yes, that blanket in the picture at the top of this post is one of my patterns! It’s an Entrelac knit blanket that you can find here! Happy Continental Knitting!

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35 Responses to Put A Ring On It {A Trick for Mastering Continental Knitting}

  1. LOVED the video! Apparently I have always been a “continental knitter” – but never knew about it! *lol*
    I did not even know that there is another kind of knitting and the “traditional” way looks really strange to me. I have seen it once in a video I think – it totally threw me. I have never seen it in person. Here in Germany the continental way is how people knit.

    But I actually do it a bit differently. I wrap my yarn around the index-finger of my left hand, kinda like when you crochet. (I hope there is not different kinds of crocheting as well. *lol*) It makes it easier for me to control the tension of the thread, however, I have to re-wrap the yarn after a couple stitches … so there is a drawback as well. (With you method you can just go on and on and on … I kinda have to stop to wrap yarn around my finger every once in a while.) But this is the way I learned it and it feels most comfortable to me. Sometimes I also just leave it wrapped around my index fingere twice or once and let it slide – like you do with your pinky – but that depends alot on the yarn and does not always work.



    • Nikki says:

      Continental knitting is often times referred to as European knitting, so it makes sense that that is how you learned! You’re lucky. In my opinion, you learned the easy way!
      I’m sure there are probably so many ways to wrap the yarn in your left hand to help with tension. As I’ve said so many times (especially to beginners), as long as you’re consistent, do what works! For me, it’s the pinky. For you, it’s the index finger. And they’re both right! 😉

  2. tanya says:

    Hi Nikki

    A few things here. First, Continental is the traditional style of knitting–at least in my world. So the Throw technique should not be referred to as Traditional.

    Actually, according to my info, Americans began to Throw knit during the Nazi era when people were very anti-German. How silly, as if the style of knitting supported any political regime! Eastern Europeans knit more Continental style and those of us who learned from that tradition do it that way.
    And many people did not know the Continental style had a special name, they just did it.

    Second, your style of holding the yarn seems so unique to me. I learned to wind it around my index finger and found wrapping it around the fingers unusual altho I have tried to do it. I tend to weave the yarn thru my fingers with the last wrap around my index finger. Since the advent of Youtube I have been intrigued with the many ways that knitters wrap their yarn for working. Watch Euny Jang on Knitting Daily sometime or just go thru YOUtube to watch other styles.

    Knitting is so individual and there are so many styles of handling the yarn and holding the needles. Have you looked at the Peruvian style or Portugese style where they wrap the yarn around the neck! There is no right or wrong way is the point. What feels comfortable to each knitter is the right way.
    I try to vary my knitting techniques in order to avoid repetitive stress syndrome on my hands. That is a great value to diversifying one’s techniques.

    So hope you like these notes and that they shed some more perspective on how we work.

    • Nikki says:

      As I said in the previous comment on this post, continental knitting is also often referred to European knitting, so if you are from that area, or learned from someone that was, it makes sense that that was the norm.
      And I agree. There is no right or wrong way to hold your yarn. As long as you are consistent, and your tension is even throughout your work, do what feels comfortable!
      Thanks for sharing your technique. I hope it encourages more people to give this style of knitting a try!

  3. Gloria says:

    Your video is wonderful. It’s extremely clear and I am so happy that you are seating the purl stitches correctly.

    Many beginning continental knitters pick the purl stitch, in reverse of the pick of the knit stitch, which can lead to twisted stitches and others problems when following a more complicated stitch combination.

    I will recommend your video(s) to all my fellow knitters.

    • Nikki says:

      Thank you so very much for your sweet words about my video, technique, and for offering to share my work!
      You’ve made my day!

  4. maureen says:

    Thanks so much for this video Nikki. I have always had problems tensioning my yarn for continental style knitting. Now i dont have that problem. Continental is so much easier on my hands as i have neuropathy AND carpal tunnel syndrome.
    I can knit for a lot longer time than i can with English knitting, when i could only knit for a bout five minutes before my hands would be so numb i would have to stop.
    Thanks a bunch for making this so much easier.

    • Nikki says:

      That is definitely something I should have mentioned! I don’t have anything diagnosed as you do, but I can absolutely agree that this method is easier on my hands. The whole motion just seems to flow better and seem more natural. And yes, I can knit for quite awhile longer with this method, too!
      So happy you liked the video!!

  5. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for the wonderful video!!! Very helpful!!!!

  6. Val says:

    What a great post! I have dabbled in knitting. Then I attempted crocheting but tension is a problem for me, hence causing much frustration. I have too much ADD for counting too. Someday I hope to try these crafts again with patience. 🙂

    • Nikki says:

      So happy you like this post, Val!
      Maybe it will give you the motivation you need to jump back into knitting!?!?!

    • Marny CA says:

      I’ve also got the symptoms commonly referred to as ADD but I look at this as a gift. It means I can hyperfocus on things that are important to me (not cleaning and decluttering, of course!) and doing repetitive things makes it fun for me.

      Counting up to 7 during learning how to crochet a ripple afghan gave both the teacher(friend) and me a lot of laughs! BTW, I made my living as a statistical typist and typing numbers all day was fun for me! I do, however, remember the typing teacher telling me I would ‘never make a living as a typist’ – well, pooh on her dead cold body! 125 word per minute meant I was an excellent stat typist. Only 95 wpm on typing words.

  7. Sara says:

    Glad I came across your post because I’ve been wanting to learn how to knit forever and I definitely want to learn it the easy way right off the bat! I crochet, but I really like the detail and different patterns that you can do with knitting. Great video, thanks!

    • Marny CA says:

      Some folks who crochet but don’t knit have been trying Knooking – it’s knitting with a crochet hook.

      You can look it up on YouTube.

      For knitters, it’s a different way of knitting, which they might not enjoy.

  8. Marny CA says:

    Well, you’re just going to force me to try again … actually, after all the intense knitting for an Aran-style afghan my right pinkie, ring finger are ouchy.

    A different way of knitting will work other muscles and fingers and that is definitely a good thing — especially for me – since I’ve always been ambidextrous yet not with knitting or crocheting.

    Thank you for all your sharings! {{{Nikki}}}

  9. Katie DeCosse says:

    I hadn’t knit for years and when I picked it up again, I went straight to the continental method. It took awhile to get the hang of it but now I love it! Especially when doing any pattern that requires switching between knit and purl, such as for the rib stitch. The purl stitch was very difficult until I figured out how to use my right needle to grab the stitch rather than move my left pointer finger back and forth. If you would like to see how I do it, I will try to upload a video for you. Thanks for the video and the ring idea! I am struggling with my tension and have some very long stitches. I am looking forward to using a ring!

    • Nikki says:

      Thanks so much for offering to make a video for us!
      Please send it my way!
      And let us know how things go with using a ring. I always have my favorite one tucked in my knitting bag!

  10. sheila says:

    I like the Continental style of knitting also and I use it as often As possible. my problem starts when I have a pattern where there are a lot of Cables ( like your hooded Scarf ) I tend to get in my own way with the yarn in my left hand. So I use it on those rows where there is only knitting and purling and switch back to traditional on the LPC , RPC, and cable rows. would love to see a video on how you Accomplish that.

  11. Kay says:

    Thank you for your video. I spend a lot of time knitting and crocheting, and recently have had pain, especially in my left hand. It’s not painful while I knit/crochet, but with other movements. I think it’s from so much repetitive motion. Have any ideas? I don’t want to give up my hobby!

  12. Randy says:

    Ugh!!! I just cant wrap my fingers around knitting with the working yarn in my left hand!! I’m ok with a row of knits or purls, but throw anything else in the mix and I’m done for!! I have to say, though, I really don’t throw the yarn around the needle. It might look a bit odd. Depending on the stitch, my left thumb or forefinger causes the right needle to kick back and grab the yarn.

    Best regards,

  13. Kim Matthews says:

    Where did you get the great yarn guide? All the ones I’ve found are so dreary. Yours is great.

  14. Hannah says:

    I’ve watched a couple of videos of the continental technique. It always looks so easy. I’ve done some (minimal) crochet in the past. Should be a simple…. I do not understand how to pick up the stitch. At all. What’s the magic that goes from a straight piece of thread to a stitch without a crochet hook? After 15 minutes and not a single stitch I’ve gone back to ‘throwing’. Maybe I just need to spend more time but 0 stitches is incredibly frustrating. How do you keep the stitch on the needle when pulling it out of the stitch? Why is this not even a problem in any beginners guide to continental knitting? What am I doing wrong? Help.

  15. Wendy says:

    Hi Nikki,
    I just watched your video as I was curious about the continental knit . I throw knit but I don’t lift my hand off the needles. All I do is lift my pointer finger up and down to wrap the yarn. If I knew how to do a video I would send you one, but I don’t. It is as fast as the continental. I love your videos. Keep up the good work.

  16. Angella says:

    OMIGOD. THANK YOU! Finally the tension problem solved!!!

  17. Kathy says:

    I Have spend the last 2 days attempting to knit this way. It’s been so frustrating.The way you tension the yarn is perfect for me. It’s amazing how much more efficient this style of knitting is. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Sally says:

    When knitting Continental (doing just a row of knitting, no purling as in a sweater) how many stitches do you “pile” up on your needle before pushing more towards the point of the left needle? Hope this makes sense? This is where my tension issues begin? If I’m doing a long line of knit stitches some are looser than others. How can I correct this? Thanks, Sally

  19. Rosie Kessler says:

    Just wondering if you have seen or tried Portuguese Knitting ? I am an English knitter but always wanted to learn Continental knitting and failed over and over . Once I found Portuguese knitting I was shocked at how easy it is and I no longer dread knitting in stockinette , because the purl stitch is actually easier than the knit .

  20. Pingback: Continental Style Knitting For Beginners (Video Tutorials)

  21. Maria says:

    Great idea! I was ready to give up on learning to knit because of tension issues then I saw your post! Excited to try again! One question… does the yarn go through the rings band or does the chunkiness of the flower keep it in place! Thanks!

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