An American Learns Continental-Style Knitting

Europeans have used their own fast, efficient "continental-style" knitting technique for generations. Here's how it works.

| September/October 1984

The first time I saw someone knitting the continental way, I was utterly astounded. What was that woman doing? And how?

I learned the answers to these questions only recently, thanks to a kind neighbor who learned to knit as a schoolchild in Switzerland. "All our children are taught this method," she told me, her needles clicking and flashing rhythmically. As I watched row after row of beautiful work cascade from her fingers, I wondered why on earth our children aren't taught the European method, too.

Efficiency's the Key

Continental-style knitting (CSK) is faster than the American style knitting (ASK) because it's more efficient. In CSK, the yarn is held in the left hand, and the right needle simply scoops the yarn through the left needle stitch to make a new stitch. In ASK, as you may know, the yarn is held in the right hand and is then passed around the point of the right needle after it's been inserted through the left needle stitch. For the ASK novice, this means that every time the yarn needs to pass around the needle point, the needle itself must be dropped, the yarn wrapped around, and the needle picked up again.

Of course, as an ASK knitter gets more proficient, he or she learns to hold onto the needle with the fingertips of the left hand while the yarn is being wrapped; or, in another technique, with the tips of the right thumb and two middle fingers while the right forefinger flips forward like a shuttle to throw the yarn around the point of the needle. However, for the majority of knitters, CSK will still be faster simply because it's easier to scoop a piece of yarn through a stitch than it is to pass that yarn around the point of a needle.

In CSK the knitting is somewhat looser; consequently, the knitter will tend to be more relaxed (but not at the beginning, when trying to learn the skill!). The final product, however, is virtually indistinguishable from the ASK version.

Another facet of CSK's efficiency is that the yarn stays on the left hand, even when an empty needle is exchanged for a full one. In ASK, the yarn is usually dropped as the needles are exchanged, and is picked up again when the new row is started. The amount of time involved is small, but it adds up in the course of a large project.

Diane Latour
11/27/2010 2:34:43 PM

Does any one have a copy of the knitting pattern for the "Nitty Gritty Afghan" knitted on about a 10.5 needle published by Mother Earth 25 years ago or so? It was a wonderful pattern for using scrap yarn and I can't locate my copy. Thanks. Diane

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