Portuguese Knitting

Knitting around Your Neck

Knitting needles with balls of yarn, close-up
Kristin Duvall / Getty Images

Most people know about the common methods of knitting known as English and continental styles, but there are other ways to get stitches on the needle, and one of those is often called Portuguese knitting.

It's also sometimes called Incan or Andean knitting since this is the style that's commonly used in South America. You might also hear it referred to as Turkish knitting, or simply "around the neck knitting."

How to Work Portuguese Knitting

That last name gives you a good idea of why this style of knitting is unique: the yarn is often tensioned around the neck (a knitting pin attached to the left shoulder can also be used).

If using a knitting pin, the pin is attached to your left shoulder, and the yarn is passed through the pin from the work in your left hand to the yarn ball, which is kept lower than the hands and may even be worked from the floor. The yarn is tensioned with the right hand, but the action of forming the stitch happens with a flick of the left thumb bringing the yarn up to form the new stitch.

How to Learn Portuguese Knitting

The main proponent of this style of knitting in the United States is Andrea Wong, who has a DVD outlining the method and demonstrating its use for knitting, purling, ribbing, increases, decreases and more. She's also demonstrated the basics for a segment on Knitting Daily TV.

There's also a great Craftsy class, "Improve Your Knitting: Alternative Methods and Styles" by Patty Lyons that looks at a bunch of different knitting methods and includes a 40-minute lesson on Portuguese knitting. This class is great for getting a chance to see all the major styles in one place, with step-by-step instructions so you can practice and lots of tips for changing patterns if you need to, shaping knitting in different methods and tips to make them easier.

Why Try Portuguese Knitting?

Wong says that Portuguese knitting is a good choice for people with carpal tunnel, arthritis, and joint pain because little movement is needed to form the stitches. In fact, purling is easier than knitting, and you'll often see South American knitters who use this method working from the wrong side of the fabric because purling is easier for them, even when doing complex colorwork.

It's also easier to work colorwork with this method because you can strand each color through a different knitting pin if you like, which keeps them from getting so tangled as they do when you tension them on your fingers.

It's easy to keep a nice tension on the work, even for beginners, and it's a great way for blind or visually impaired people to knit because the working yarn stays put and you can always find it easily.

Where to Get Knitting Pins

Andrea Wong sells a few styles of knitting pins direct on her website.

There are knitting pins available on Etsy and elsewhere, or check out this tip from Chappy Trails on making your knitting pin out of a pin you already own.

I have practiced this method a bit, and I used a tiny binder clip stuck through a safety pin to make my knitting pin.

It's not elegant or pretty, but it worked for practicing. Though we knitters love our accessories, and it's worth it to buy a real knitting pin if this is a method you think you'll use often.