Should I Learn English or Continental Knitting? Or Both?

Different knitting styles are good for different people and situations.
The beginning of the knit stitch in English and continental knitting. Sarah E. White, licensed to About.com, Inc.

If you're trying to teach yourself how to knit or looking around for a knitting teacher you might wonder whether you should be learning the English or continental method of knitting.

Knitters who learned one form might also be curious to learn the other or wonder whether there's any reason to learn English vs. continental or vice versa if you already know one style of knitting.

Here are the major differences between the two styles and why I think it's helpful to know how to knit both ways, or indeed as many different ways as you can learn.

First of all, let's get it out there that there are no right or wrong ways to knit. One of the perpetual arguments among knitters seems to surround the relative merits of continental versus English knitting. Most people tend to think the way they learned is the right way and steadfastly refuse to think about learning the other method.

The truth, though, is that both methods (as well as other, less widely taught methods, like combination or Portuguese, or even lever knitting) have merit and whatever works for you is exactly the right way to do it.

Having said that, lets take a quick look at the two major styles of knitting you're likely to encounter.

English Knitting

English knitting, sometimes also called American knitting or throwing, is the most popular method in England, parts of Europe and elsewhere. It involves holding the yarn in your right hand and "throwing" it over the needle to form the stitch.

Continental Knitting

Continental knitting is also known as German knitting or picking and is popular in northern and eastern Europe as well as other parts of the world where people from those locations have settled.

In this method the yarn is in the left hand and a subtler movement of the left index finger (and sometimes other fingers as well) is used to help the needle pick up the yarn and form a new stitch.

Pros and Cons of Different Knitting Styles

Some people say that knitting continental style is faster than knitting English style, though I have seen people knit very quickly using both methods. Many of the fastest knitters in the world use the continental style, and it makes sense that it would be faster, given that you're making a lot less movement to form the stitch.

Of course speed isn't everything and it certainly isn't the only reason to choose a particular knitting style. Because of the smaller arm and hand movements, however, continental knitting is also prized by people with repetitive stress problems.

It's worth noting that, while some people think of continental style as knitting for lefties, both methods are possible for people with either dominant hand (as I've heard many people say through the years, you knit with both hands, not just the one holding the yarn).

Which Method Should You Choose?

Some people find it easier to learn English knitting, while others think continental is simpler.

It may be worth it to try both styles in the beginning just to see which one is more comfortable and natural for you.

Even if you've been happily knitting in English or continental style for a long time, it's worth it to learn the other method or to try one of the lesser-known styles.

For one thing, you can alternate knitting different ways on different projects, reducing hand and arm strain, if that's a problem for you.

Being able to knit both ways is also really handy when you're working with two colors of yarn in the same row. You can knit with one color in your right hand and one in your left and speed through the process without having the swap out yarns or deal with a big twisted mess at the back of the work.

Plus, it's just fun to learn more techniques and have them in your arsenal, even if you typically knit one way most of the time.

I highly recommend the Craftsy course on knitting styles from Patty Lyons, which covers the basic techniques and lots of others, so you can practice them all at once and find the ones you like.