Knitting: Continental Style- a beginner’s thoughts

For the past two years, I have identified a word to guide me through the year. The word for 2019 is ‘challenge’, and a challenge it has been! I have set several intentions for the year, activities or goals for the year that are new and revisited that I find challenging. One of these intentions has been learning how to knit! Knitting is not totally new to me, having participated in a project to knit scarves for underprivileged children in university, but after that project ended, I set down my needles. Read below to find out how I fared, and the benefits of continental style knitting.

The First Project

For my first knitting project, I chose the Greenpoint Cowl (and Hat) pattern from Lion Brand. This pattern has two main sections, one that works with a combination of knitting and purling, and a second section with strictly garter stitch (using knit stitch for every row). It is worked in one long piece and then sewn together at the end. It utilizes size 8 (5mm) needles and calls for Lion Brand Touch of Alpaca, though I used Vanna’s Choice in Dusty Blue. I needed two skeins to complete the cowl. It is a beginner friendly pattern, but I would recommend practicing the repeating rows a few times. If this stitch count is off even by one, it will through the whole design off. This was a very pleasurable first pattern to make, and I am very pleased with the results (see final photo near the end of the post!)

Vanna’s Choice in Dusty Blue, using Clover Bamboo Needles-Size 8

I started my project using the long-tail cast on method (casting on creates the first row of stitches on your needle), which secures the tail end of your yarn to the start of the project. I would highly recommend this form of casting on! Wool and the Gang has a good tutorial for long-tail casting on, but there are plenty of videos online explaining the process.

English/ American Knitting

Initially, I started knitting as I had learned before, using the English or American way of knitting. Knitting English style requires you to hold your yarn in your right hand, and throwing it over the needle. Many people knit this way, and find it successful. For myself though, I found I kept accidentally dropping stitches, and my tension was often uneven. I soldiered though though, and made it through the first half of my cowl. I was however not pleased with the results, and knew that in its current state, I would never wear it!

Continental Knitting

At the recommendation of a few crochet friends who are also knitters, I pulled out the entire cowl and started to look at continental knitting. In continental knitting, you hold your yarn with your left hand and use your left index finger to create the stitch. It is a much subtler movement than using your right hand, and for those who suffer from repetitive stress injuries, is much easier on the hands and wrists.

It took a few goes to get a feel for continental style knitting, but I have found it to be easier, and faster than English . I don’t know if it is because I am left-handed, but I find carrying the yarn in my left hand to be much more natural. I also stopped dropping stitches using this method, and my tension improved drastically! When I was knitting English style, I also noticed I had to brace the base of my right needle against a table or my leg to be able to complete purl stitches. When switching to continental I was able to complete all of the required stitches while holding my needles in the air. As I want to be able to work on projects that require circular needs, being able to complete stitches without bracing is important!

The Final Product

I’m really pleased with the cowl that I made, though I wish I started continental knitting sooner! It is warm enough outside now that a winter cowl is totally impractical. I’ll look forward to wearing it in the fall, but it can hold off for a few months yet! I’m a patient person.

Other Forms of Knitting

When researching continental knitting, I have learned that there are quite a few ways to knit, beyond English and Continental! Allfreeknitting.com has an interesting introductory article on the various ways that people knit throughout the world that is worth a read! Who knew that there were so many ways to knit!

-Cozy Out

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