View Full Version : Continental Tension

06-22-2007, 05:41 PM
I've been using the English method since I started knitting (or at least attempting to knit :rofling:) but was curious about Continental as it's supposed to be faster.

I was just trying it. Of course it was very slow as I am not used to it and it felt awkward, but my main problem was with the tension.

I find it easy to control the tension with my right hand using the English method, but with the other way I found it impossible to get any tension at all. Very loose. Holding the yarn with the same hand as the needle and not moving it I just couldn't get any tension control.

So, for Conti knitters out there, what's the deal? The trick? The skinny?

06-22-2007, 05:47 PM
Mason, I am no help, But when I tried Coni knitting. I had the same problem. so I will wait with you on the secret.

06-22-2007, 05:55 PM
Mason, I am no help, But when I tried Coni knitting. I had the same problem. so I will wait with you on the secret.

I feel better knowing it's not just me :rofling:

06-22-2007, 05:59 PM
This may not be a help, but my continental tension is definitely looser than my English ever was....but I was a TIGHT knitter English style (anal-retentive much? is that hyphenated?:lol:)

My tension was uneven at first, but just like English after some practice and figuring out how I like to hold things....it evened up quite nicely on its own. And for me, the change allowed me to relax and loosen up my knitting. No more bleeding fingertips and teeth grinding!

06-22-2007, 06:01 PM
So conti tends to be looser then? That may not be a bad thing really.

maybe I just need to practice it and figure out how to hold the yarn so that it works for me. I tried both ways Amy shows in her video but neither one allows me any tension control at all.

06-22-2007, 06:21 PM

Did you see Madametj's Continental KAL? I've been wanting to learn this method too, and even gave it a go a few months ago but gave up. I'm thinking of doing the KAL. There's already some good information that's been posted.

06-22-2007, 06:24 PM
No I haven't but will look for it. Thanks.

06-22-2007, 06:33 PM
Should have posted the link (http://www.knittinghelp.com/knitting/forum/showthread.php?t=60594) the first time. Sorry!

06-22-2007, 06:41 PM
Should have posted the link (http://www.knittinghelp.com/knitting/forum/showthread.php?t=60594) the first time. Sorry!

Great, thanks. I did find the answer I was looking for. I think I'll stick to English as I like being able to have more control over the tension.

06-22-2007, 06:42 PM
So conti tends to be looser then? That may not be a bad thing really.

maybe I just need to practice it and figure out how to hold the yarn so that it works for me. I tried both ways Amy shows in her video but neither one allows me any tension control at all.

It is for me :shrug:

FWIW, I don't hold my yarn the way Amy does either. It just didn't work for me. I stumbled upon my own way to hold things through trial and error.

I don't purl the way Amy does either, it was just awful and awkward for me--not sure why. If I'm doing stockinette or almost anything but lace, I knit/purl combined and I love it. If I need to purl in a fancy stitch pattern that I don't want to deal with watching stitch orientation, I do the Norwegian method that Amy has under "alternative methods" for purling. It looks fiddily, but it was smoother, faster and easier for me.

Trial and error baby, good luck!

06-22-2007, 07:19 PM
Continental is awkward for the first few weeks you start doing it. But, if you stick to it, you will get better.

As for the tension, it is definately looser than English, due to the fact that the wrap of the next stitch tightens up the previous one. With Continental, there is no wrap to tighten up the stitches, so your gauge will be looser.

It took me a while to get my tension straight, I had loose stitches and tight stitches, but, eventually I got more comfortable with it. The most important thing is do not knit English while you're making the switch, and for some time after! You will completely throw off what you learned. Ask me how I know. But, just stick with it, and you'll get it!

06-22-2007, 07:26 PM
Thanks Conti. I'll give it a go at some point. Since I've started my current project English I'll stick with it for now. I'll try a whole project conti on the next one.

06-22-2007, 07:34 PM
All right, Conti, I'm a sucker, how do you know that it'll throw off what you've learned when switching? I have thought about knitting this way, tried it a couple of times, but without much luck, so yeah, Mason, yer not the only knitter out there having this problem.


06-22-2007, 07:37 PM
Because just as I was getting comfortable with the Continental, I knit English for a few rounds, and then when I went back to Continental, it was almost like learning it all over again. But, once you've gotten better at it, you can comfortably switch back and forth (like for fair isle sweaters). When I'm knitting Fair Isle, though, I carry both colors in my left hand. It just seems more comfortable that way to me.

06-22-2007, 07:39 PM
Hehe, I figured I'd be the sacrificial lamb to ask the stoopid question (I know there are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots)

06-22-2007, 07:40 PM

06-22-2007, 07:42 PM
inquisitive idiots

been one all my life :rofling:

06-22-2007, 07:46 PM
Me too. :rofl:

06-22-2007, 07:55 PM
hehe, well I'd have to say that'd be me too.:roflhard:

06-22-2007, 11:03 PM
I had the opposite problem most have with trying continental (knitting anyway). It's too tight. So I just hold the yarn, no wrapping around fingers and it's better. Still tighter than my english knit...


06-23-2007, 12:16 AM
My continental knitting is a little tighter than my English ~ but, my continental and english styles of knitting are a little different than the way Amy demonstrates in her video. [I switched from continental to english when I was in Brownies because I remember thinking it was modern - go figure!]


06-23-2007, 12:38 AM
FWIW...I have the opposite problem...I learned continental, and I can knit English if I absolutely have to, but it's sooo loose and I have no control. :shrug: Maybe you just have better control with the method you learned first? :mrgreen:

06-23-2007, 01:43 AM
I would think that would be the case, Julie. Considering that the english method is considered to be the easiest (IMHO at least) to learn, most people pick that one up first, but on the other hand, those that picked up Continental first, find it difficult to do English.

06-23-2007, 02:16 AM
I tried English, knit that way for a week. One week. Then, I tried Continental, and that's what I've stuck with. So, you could say that I really learned the Continental, but then I learned English just for the heck of it. :shrug:

06-23-2007, 03:05 AM
I was a crocheter many years before learning to knit and since when
you crochet you hold the yarn in your left hand it was the most
natural thing to knit continental. When I try english my brain sends
the message to my right hand but it sits there not understanding and decides to do it's own flippy moves! :D

Maybe if you try crocheting, just long chains if you don't like crochet
otherwise, it would get you used to the feel of the yarn on your
left hand.


06-23-2007, 07:14 AM
Absolutely, the method you learned first and longest will feel easiest. Remember Mason when you learned to knit you probably had problems with tension? You might have had to pinch the wool between thumb and first finger because you couldn't tension it: it would either run through your fingers and you had no control, or you'd wrap it around your fingers extra times to get more control and it would stick and not run free. Until your right hand got better at controlling the wool between fingers... it will take just as long for your left hand to learn this as it did your right hand. Maybe a bit longer.
I knit English for a quite while before switching. I love being able to do both for stranded colourwork, and still do a stitch English now and then: especially at the start of rows, or when doing a decrease. I find it difficult to fluidly 'pick' a stitch when knitting through 2 stitches, as in a k2tog, so I do keep the wool in my left hand as usual, but use my right forefinger to hook things around/keep the wool in place around the right needle.
I was a tight knitter in English, and I think I am a bit looser in Continental. Also, regardless of being tight or loose (ahem), I think tension is more consistent in Conti (maybe just me, maybe for many).
Remember the initial awkwardness of Conti if you learned English is no more awkward than the initial awkwardness of knitting English as a beginner.
Check out the video Amy links to for purling, I think it's described as 'an interesting take on purling by a Finnish knitter' or something. I simply could not get the hang of using the left fingers to push the wool down and this way seems MUCH more efficient and fast to me. It looks awkward but I have osteoarthritis and experience no extra pain in my wrists from doing lots of purling this way (or a similar way).
I also find it much easier to 'pick' if I use my right pointer finger to hold the last-knitted stitch on the right needle in place, or push it down the needle very slightly: it kind of stretches the stitch open so the right needle can pop right in and pick out the strand.
It's also no extra effort to do single ribbing/seed stitch in Conti, where English-style ribbing/seed stitch requires twice the work: for every k or p, you have to move the wool from front to back or v.v., which is just as much work as the actual k or p. I think after just a few minutes practising in Conti, you will already be able to do ribbing faster than in English.

06-23-2007, 09:44 AM
Find a way to hold the yarn that works for you. About the only deviation I see between my knitting and the way Amy does it in the video is that I warp the yarn twice (loosely) around my left index finger for tension. I just can't do it around my pinkie like Amy shows in the video. I totally :heart: the way she shows how to purl. Purls were my arch nemesis when I was trying to learn to knit English, now I find them as easy to do as the knit stitch.

I really want to do some stranded color work, so if I want to do that I'll have to get better at English knitting so I can carry the yarn in both hands.


06-23-2007, 10:02 AM
Ditto to what Gargoylelib said. I wrap my yarn the same way, whether I'm crocheting or knitting continental. Since it's been 30 years since I learned to crochet, I can't remember how I finally got the hang of it. But I do remember a whole stack of wonky dishcloths! (I'm sure they're still at my parents house somewhere....) :lol:

Anyhow, continental knitting isn't for everybody. Lots of people create lovely knits who never do it continental style. Knit the way you enjoy knitting!

06-23-2007, 03:33 PM
I can only knit continental - english feels ... cumbersome, I guess. But I have had to play around a bit with holding the yarn to get the right tension/speed combo. Let's see if I can be of any help here ...
If I'm looking at the palm of my left hand, I loop the yarn over then around my pinky, over the outside of my other fingers and over and down over my index finger so I can do the quick down movement for purling. However, and this might be the only helpful bit here - when the yarn is a fast moving one, I bring the yarn around my pinky, over my ring finger, under my middle, and over again on my index. Gives me more control that way.
Hope that helped!

06-23-2007, 08:08 PM
Sounds like I may just have to experiment with different ways of holding the yarn until I find one that works best for me.

It most likely is as suggested, having a lot to do with which style one learns first.

I'll attempt to do my next project conti style as I would like to be able to do both.

06-23-2007, 08:46 PM
There are hundreds of ways you could wrap the wool: how many fingers wrapped around, which ones, in which directions, one of them will give you a comfortable tension. I have been known to change to a grip with a far looser hold when working with a sticky wool. Don't be afraid to change your grip every 5 minutes if you find one you like better: eventually you'll figure out your favourite.

06-23-2007, 10:14 PM
I hold my yarn the way threesmom does, except that most of the time, I don't wrap it around my pinky. I just have it coming over my ring finger, under my middle finger, and over my index finger. Let me post a picture of how I hold my yarn.

06-23-2007, 11:29 PM
Mason, check out combination knitting - http://anniemodesitt.com/knit.html - That's how I do it, too awkward to have the index finger sticking up like Conti shows. I just have my yarn over the first finger and hold it with my other fingers curled around it, and scoop the stitch like she shows. Also know that this style has you knitting through the back loop, which is actually the forward leg on the needle to counter the purl stitches which are also scooped and end up being wrapped the wrong way.

06-24-2007, 05:20 AM
I find my tension is far more even with Continental than it ever was with the Throw method.

Don't give up. It took me 3 weeks to get to a 'good' place. You didn't learn to knit overnight, so you can't expect to relearn to knit in any less time :D

My finger doesn't stick up at all.. I should make a video... hmm... :D

06-24-2007, 02:40 PM
I'll make a video, too. Hey, that would be a good idea if we all made videos of our knitting styles, to help the beginning knitters that join!

06-24-2007, 03:20 PM
I find my continantal knitting is tighter than english style ( which I never use) I always do a double wrap over the index finger as if I were crocheting, my tension always seems to come out to the guage suggested on the pattern. I kind of pivot the finger with the yarn and then scoop it up with the right hand needle. On the purl side I wrap the yarn over the left needle and scoop with the rightneedle. I usually have all my fingers grasping the needles except for that 1 left hand index finger which is up nd bent . hope I haven't confused you too much t needle.

06-24-2007, 09:23 PM
I'm a continental knitter and I actually having the problem of kniting too tight. When I attempted English, it seemed really awkward and my needles slid right out of my work. I wrap the yarn around my pinky and then my middle finger and even have indentations where the yarn usually sits because I hold the yarn so tightly!

06-24-2007, 09:42 PM
Continental method works for me. Except for the pinkie wrap, I knit just like Amy.

I also have a tendency to knit (and crochet) tight. For some reason, my tension gets tighter and tighter as I work. Getting used to the pattern stitch allows me to go faster ... maybe? :shrug:

I consciously have to tell myself to relax. Sometimes, I even switch to bigger needles (or hook).

06-25-2007, 02:20 PM
I hold my yarn like contiknitter except it gets wrapped around my pinky twice. My continental is more even than my english. I don't think I ever learned to wrap the yarn and just held it between my thumb and forefinger and there was no tensioning. I'm really glad I taught myself continental. I'm a much happier knitter. Things tend to look better than my work done english. However, I can't say I knit faster one way or the other.

06-25-2007, 04:15 PM
My continental tension is way looser than my english tension. When I knit english I usually have to go up one needle size to get gauge. When I knit continental I have to go down two needle sizes. The thing about gauge though is that as long as its predictable its generally fine. In fact, I find that looser knitting makes stuff like cabling and knitting multiple stitches into one stitch a lot easier to do. Knitting continental is like anything else though, you have to stick with it. It took a while but I knit equally well with both methods. But it did take a while. You probably don't want to do your first sweater knitting continental cause your gauge is going to be all over the place.

06-25-2007, 04:30 PM
I learned English first, but like you Mason, I wanted to expand my skills and taught myself continental as well. I had a lot of trouble with tension to start with but just tried different things until I found a method I could work with. I can now knit english and continental with nearly the same tension.... after LOTS and LOTS of practicing.

06-25-2007, 06:06 PM
I tried to teach myself continental a couple of years ago, but never stuck with it long enough to get used to it. perhaps I need to try again. thanks everyone for the tips, and thanks to the one who are asking questions. :cheering:

06-25-2007, 07:24 PM
Thanks again everyone. I'll give it a go soon.

06-25-2007, 07:36 PM
I knit just like ContiKnitter. I started out English, but I switched to Continental because it just felt better to me. I'm faster and my stitches are more even this way. I'm a combined knitter and I bless Annie Modesett for her advocacy of this way of knitting. There is no wrong way to knit! ^_^

07-13-2011, 12:20 PM
I have long, skinny fingers, so getting the hang of tension in Conti was an issue for me. I figured that the whole concept of tension control is different when knitting Conti rather than English: in Conti you have 2 tension sources, ball-side (typically pinky and ring fingers) and needle-side (index or middle, depending on your method). The latter side is easiest to master, by extending your index finger upward/outward to increase tension, but it requires a balance between the two.

After trial and error, I have found this works for me as a wrap for Conti:
1) Needle pointing to your left, and left palm facing you (needle in your right hand), drape yarn from front to back over your ring finger (between ring and middle)
2) With the ball-end left hanging in front of pinky and ring fingers, bring needle-end yarn forward between pinky and ring fingers, back up behind pinky, and in front of ring, forming a figure of 8 over ring and pinky.
3) Still with palm facing, take needle end up BEHIND middle AND index fingers together, and over index to front (palm side).
4) Swing needle around toward you and into the heel of your hand, grasp needle between thumb and middle finger, using your index finger to adjust needle-side tension, and you're ready to start.

By spacing out your pinky and ring fingers, you can bring in more slack from the ball, and by extending the reach of your index finger you can take up this slack. If you end up with too much slack, simply use the fingers of your right hand to tug the yarn conveniently hanging down at your left palm.

Note: this wrap requires you to use your index finger to push the yarn down when purling.