English versus Continental Knitting

Category: Yarn School

So, what’s the deal with English versus Continental knitting? It’s all to do with which hand you hold the working yarn in – left or right. There are infinite personal flavors of knitting style, but these are the two categories. One or the other knitting style tends to be predominant based on your geographical location. Most of us living in the United States are English-style knitters. Supposedly, (disclaimer: I learned this on the internet) Continental knitting fell out of favor in the United States during World War II due to its association with Germany.

English knitting is most common in North America and Western Europe. English knitters are often called “throwers” because they hold the working yarn in their right hand and “throw” it around the right needle in order to make a new stitch. Throwing requires a whole-hand movement, and typically involves letting go of the right needle for a brief second in order to throw the yarn.

These terms all mean the same thing:

  • English Knitting
  • American Knitting
  • Throwing

Left: Kim knitting English-style at Maine’s Fastest Knitter Race. Right: Andi knitting Continental-style at Maine’s Fastest Knitter Race.

Continental knitting is most common in Eastern Europe, Northern Europe and South America. Continental knitters are often called “pickers” because they hold the working yarn in their left hand, and “pick” it with their right needle in order to make a new stitch. It requires more finger motion and less hand motion. Among masters of this technique, Continental knitting is often considered faster than English knitting because it requires smaller, more efficient hand movements. (It makes a certain logical sense, but the video below begs to differ.) Continental knitting also may be easier to learn for new knitters with crocheting experience because the motion is more similar to crochet. 

These terms all mean the same thing:

  • Continental Knitting
  • German Knitting
  • Picking

Knowing both styles can be beneficial for several reasons:

  • If you ever suffer from hand and wrist fatigue, switching back and forth periodically will relieve the stress caused by the alternate technique.
  • If you’re doing stranded color work, you can use both techniques at one time by holding one color in each hand.
  • The two techniques will usually result in different levels of tension. You can use this to your advantage if you’re trying to achieve a specific stitch gauge!
  • Personal enlightenment – the more things you know, the better, right?

Now, let me clear up a few misconceptions about English and Continental knitting.

First, neither style is particularly better for left-handed knitters. Nor is there any reason for lefties to favor knitting backwards, as in moving stitches from the right needle to the left as they’re worked. If you like to knit that way, then I salute you – expect confusion over pattern comprehension and inter-knitter communication, but never feel constrained! Both English and Continental knitting styles and the usual left-to-right direction work just as well for people of either dominant hand persuasion. I promise. I’m a lefty and I’ve met and taught a lot of fellow lefties.

Second, some people believe that English or Continental knitting is the best way, the correct way, the fastest way, or otherwise objectively better than the other way, but of course there’s no wrong way when all paths lead to knitting satisfaction!

Third, whether you choose English or Continental style has no impact on the actual structure of the knitted fabric. You can not tell which technique was used by looking at the work. However, there is a whole other blog post that Mim already wrote about stitch mount and yarn wrap direction, which do impact the structure of the fabric! If you’ve ever heard of “Eastern Knitting”, that refers to a knitted fabric in which all of the stitches are twisted.

I’m sure you will enjoy this video – in 2008 Hazel Tindall, an English-style knitter, was declared the world’s fastest knitter by the Guinness Book of World Records!

If you want to learn whichever technique you don’t know yet, we’ve got a class coming up this Sunday! Mim is planning on teaching the English knitters how to knit Continental and the Continental knitters how to knit English. Just like when you were a brand new knitter, trying out the other method may feel completely awkward at first. Having a teacher to show you exactly what to do with your hands will probably help!

 

An Introduction to Ravelry

Category: Yarn School

Ravelry.com has been a revolution in the fiber crafting world since its launch in 2007. There are SO MANY ways it can be helpful to you! This is the tip of the iceberg for very beginners. Think of it as a social network for knitters and crocheters, an organizing tool, and the ultimate pattern database.

1) Go to Ravelry.com. You will have to make an account before you can explore. It’s simple and free! Just click the “Join Now!” button. Follow the instructions for logging in.

2) After logging in, you’ll find yourself on the home page. You will see the featured blog post of the day in the middle of the page. These usually describe popular patterns, happenings in the yarn world, or tips for using Ravelry. You will see navigational tabs at the top of the page. This is how you get around the site.

3) Click on the “Yarns” tab. Here, you can type in the name of a yarn that you have in your stash (perhaps one that you don’t know what to do with, or one you want to know more about).

4) Once you’ve selected a particular yarn, you’ll see a second set of navigational tabs across the top.

  • Want to look for patterns designed for this yarn? Click on “pattern ideas” 
  • Want to read reviews about this yarn? Click on “comments”.
  • Want to know where to buy this yarn online? Click on “buying options”.
  • Want to see photos of what other people have made with this yarn? Click on “projects”.

5) Next, try clicking on the “Patterns” tab. The #1 thing that Ravelry.com can do for you is broaden your search for the perfect pattern to include countless thousands of patterns published by independent designers as well as large publishers and yarn companies. Basically every pattern that has ever been written is catalogued on Ravelry, whether or not you can purchase it on Ravelry.

6) In the top left corner, you will see a search bar. Below it, you will see the word “Personalize”. This is where you can select whether you want to see knit patterns, crochet patterns, or both. Click whichever one you want. If you want to see what the hottest patterns of the moment are, there’s a Top 20 list right below the search bar as well – it’s updated several times per day!

7) Then, use the search bar to search for something. Maybe try searching for “shawl”. You will find hundreds of pages of shawl patterns to browse through.

8) You might want to limit your search at this point. Click on any of the attributes in the column on the left side of the page. You can select as many search-limiting criteria as you want to. For example, you can search only for patterns which are designed for women, using sport-weight yarn, using alpaca fiber, with colorwork techniques, and only up to 600 yards of yarn. If you find you limited the search too much, just click the check boxes again to un-select them. If you are looking for patterns which you can actually purchase or download immediately from Ravelry, then start by selecting “Free” and “Ravelry download”. This eliminates patterns that are catalogued from other sources like books and magazines.

9) Click on any pattern with an appealing photo. You’ll see more details posted by the designer about this particular pattern, yarn, gauge, size, cost, et cetera.

10) At the top of the page, you’ll see another navigation bar. Click on “Projects” to see photos that other Ravelry users have posted of their project using this pattern. This feature is amazing for giving you an idea of what the finished product will look like!

11) On the individual pattern page, there will typically be a box on the right side of the page. If you want to buy this pattern, go ahead and click on “Buy on Ravelry”. You will be given a link to download a PDF file containing the pattern, which you can view digitally or print!

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what you can do with Ravelry.com, but that should be enough to get you started and convince you that it’s a priceless tool for knitters and crocheters! You can also use Ravelry to participate on message boards, join clubs, make friends, send comments or questions to any user or any designer, archive your personal yarn stash, and share photographs of your finished projects.

P.S. If you don’t use Ravelry at home, we’re always delighted to help you find patterns or information using Ravelry here at the shop. We will also buy and print Ravelry patterns for you, any time!

Snow Day Knitting and the Jogless Jog

Category: Yarn School

The Jogless Jog: Somehow I haven’t had the occasion to use this delightful technique until yesterday, when I found myself without a project to knit during the epic Winter Storm Stella. We had to close the shop early, and there I was with all kinds of time on my hands and a warm, fuzzy feeling resulting from the gratitude I always feel to have a roof over my head when the weather is bad (and also from the space heater that I practically snuggle with in my living room). We’re lucky to be knitters on snowy days, because knitting is the natural thing for a knitter to do while hunkering down at home.

I’ve been on a bright and cheery color kick. I just finished the Hanasaku Cowl in a rainbow of purples, greens, blues and pinks and the Rainbow Warrior Shawl in hot pink and speckled turquoise. I was in the mood for this Malabrigo Worsted skein in bright plum purple. But never one to be satisfied with one single color, I decided to combine it with a bit of leftover cream-toned Cascade Eco-Duo I had lying around. Who knows where inspiration comes from? I just cast on some stitches and began knitting a hat with a hemmed edge and skinny stripes and hopefully a beret-like fit.

The only trouble with stripes in a circular-knit project is that they typically don’t line up at the beginning of the round. There’s a visible jog in the pattern. When you’re knitting around in a spiral and you switch colors, the very last stitch of the row will be basically on top of the very first stitch. One solution, of course, would be to knit all striped objects flat, then seam them with the mattress stitch. This can result in perfectly aligned stripes. But, my friends, there is a better way!

This is how it looks when you lift the stitch below up and put it onto the left needle.

Here’s how to do the Jogless Jog. It could hardly be simpler.

First, Introduce your new color and knit all the way around. No funny business. Just knit a round.

Second, when you are ready to knit the first stitch of the next row, use your right needle to lift the stitch below (which you knit in the previous color) up onto the left needle and then knit it together with the stitch.

Do this every time you switch to a new color. Not every row, just every first row of a new color.

This is how it looks on the inside. See how the end of the row shifts?

 

That’s it! it’s like a miracle – you can’t even tell where the end of the row is. By the way, the end of the row will naturally shift one stitch to the left every time you do this. It’s ok. Just go with it. You never need to hesitate about knitting stripes in the round again!

Some other things that might interest you: