Have any of you tried knitting stranded colourwork with these devices? Variously called knitting thimbles, strickfinghuts or yarn guides, they come in several varieties and I’ve recently been experimenting with a couple. Despite being taught to knit the ‘English’ way, I am a much speedier ‘picker’ than I am a ‘thrower’. I currently find myself in an odd kind of limbo: I can perform all knitterly tasks when working the English way, but when working Continental I can currently only knit and decrease – purling seems a total bear, and, never having tried it, I have no idea how I might execute a yarnover. Yet in ways I can’t really define – and certainly since teaching myself to knit again after my stroke – picking the yarn rather than throwing it feels more ‘natural’ to me. And it is certainly much faster. So, in a bid to shift all my yarn-carrying duties to my left hand, I thought I’d give these devices a try.

The spring-shaped one (which one finds variously described as a “Norweigan” knitting thimble, or “Norvege” strickfingerhut), is probably my favourite. While the blue plastic version in the top photo separates the yarns, this “Norweigan” thimble also allows them to be positioned above and below each other. I found that this made the task of dividing and scooping a little easier, and also had a positive effect on the yarn dominance. It is a little large for my finger, but I fixed this by wearing a small elastic band underneath. Having persevered with it for a couple of days, here are my conclusions:

PROS:
1) Once you have got the hang of it, it, the knitting feels smooth and easy.
2) Definitely speedier than two handed knitting – at least for me (my throwing technique is annoyingly – and apparently intractably – cumbersome).

CONS:
1) After two days use, I developed pain in my right wrist (perhaps from the extra effort / tension initially required to divide and scoop the yarns with the right needle)
2) Tension is much looser (though this can, of course, be easily adjusted).
2) Getting the thing set up is a bit fiddly – and once you are, as it were, at one with the machine, it is an onerous task to disentangle oneself. Because of this, I reckon this device is best suited to projects where only two colours are ever in play: if one was working a complex, multicoloured fairisle design, with multiple yarn-changes, I imagine things would get a bit annoying.

Happily, my current project only involves two colours.

Yes, this is a new design which I hope to have finished by the weekend. You’ll hear more about it then, but here’s another peek for now:

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on 1) your experience of knitting with strickfingerhuts and other such devices 2) your experiences of Continental and English knitting. Which feels most ‘natural’ to you and why? Have any of you switched sides, as it were, after many years of knitting?

In other news

I can confirm that I will be at two very exciting events this year:
1) I’ll be at WOOLFEST as a vendor for the first time in June! Do you want to see the Rams and Yowes blanket? It will be there too!
2) I’ll be in Shetland for the whole of Wool Week and shall be covering all events here for those who can’t be there (though I encourage you all to come! It’s going to be fantastic!) You can expect a flurry of excited blog posts in October!

In rather less exciting, but for me, very important news, I’ve now received an appointment to see a specialist about my seizures. My neurologist initially felt that they were migraine-related one-offs, but then, after several months without any, I had a spate of rather hideous (and very frightening) “events” over the Christmas break. I really need to sort it out as both the seizures, and the threat of them, impact on all sorts of things in my life. Anyway, now I get to have my head examined! Good news!

162 thoughts on “devices and designs

  1. My Noni taught me to knit when I was about 7. I didn’t pick up again for 30 years. She taught me English style. The movements annoyed me and rhythm eluded me. Watching my Israeli friends knit Continental style, it looked easier, so I taught myself. And then taught myself again when I realized I was twisting my stitches when purling. It makes it a lot easier to knit two handed, if you know both styles. When my hands or wrists hurt, because I’m also an accountant, I switch or sometimes even crochet.

    I love your blog. I send links to non-knitters for the photos.

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  2. Hi… Living in eastern Europe I learned to knit continental, or somekind of weird combo of continental, combination, or eastern, whatever… I pick, and do the purls with a downward motion which is just as easy and fast as the knit stitch for me. Later when I started to teach knitting, and getting really interested in fair isle I thaught myself the English way. Now I knit fair isle with one color in each hand…which works just great for me.
    I don’t use any gadget, but I rarely use stich markers and other stuff like that.

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  3. Hi, I’m English and knit English style because that’s the way I was taught, but when I’m doing colourwork I pick. I have tried knitting continental style but find my tension gets all messed up and it doesn’t feel right as I am so used to throwing the yarn. I have a knitting thimble very similar to the one in your first photograph and I do use it. I found that I spent a lot of time untangling the yarns before I got the thimble, but the thimble keeps everything neat and orderly :-)

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  4. This is my very last comment on this topic, I promise :- ) Kate, you just have to check this out: http://loritimesfive.blogspot.com/2012/01/knitting-color.html
    It’s a post by my friend Lori with a video showing how she does color work with no bobbins, or thimbles. She uses short pieces of yarn (no more than a yard or two) which she splices together. In the end she has very few ends to weave. (You probably already know all about this method, but I thought I would share it just in case.)

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  5. Thank you, Kate, for causing this very interesting discussion. It’s very interesting and amusing to see how dogmatic some people can be about knitting. I’m pretty sure speed with any method is mostly a matter of individual skill and – it’s not a race !
    I taught myself the Swiss-German method – in France most people knit English, really, though they do not name it that way. I used a Reader’s Digest comprehensive needlework book that showed all methods (English / Continental, left / right hand) and the continental was the one that made most sense to me. I suppose it’s due to the fact that it was the one my Swiss grandmother had taught her daughters and I had seen used by my Swiss great-aunts. I can also knit English and use both hands for colorwork, but to paraphrase one of the early commenters I find the English purl quite cumbersome and counterintuitive (of course she said it about the Continental purl, which means I am probably doing something wrong with my English purls and she is certainly doing something wrong with her Continental ones since purling is faster for me ; it all goes to show how habit and muscle memory influence our perceptions). The embedded video above shows the technique I use, except I tension my yarn differently. For my Bohus sweaters, I chose which colour went in which hand depending on how many stitches I would need to do in either (the colour that had to be woven in because the carries were long went in the left hand because weaving that strand requires only to lift or lower the strand while knitting with the right strand under or above it), or whether purling was required, in which case I chose the left hand too because it was so much easier for me to move the yarn back and forth that way. Now that I have learned the Norwegian purl, I may proceed differently.
    Incidentally, I’d like to know when France adopted the English method, and why we call the other one either Swiss or German. I’m pretty sure it has to do with one of our frequent wars with Germany – 1870 ? WWI ? WWII ? – but it would probably be very hard to document. I suppose it is one of the reasons why people get so dogmatic about the best method – the fact that so many of those techniques have national names shows how knitting is associated with identity in a very strong and subterranean way.

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  6. I learned to knit English style, and I have tried the Continental style, but I haven’t tried it enough to get the speed going. My theory is that continental style might be faster on circular needles, especially the knit stitch. I also think it might cause more repetitive fine motions with the wrist and might lead to more strain over the long haul. For me, I prefer knitting sweaters in pieces using long straight needles. I rest the right needle end over my forearm so that it remains level. As a result, throwing the yarn does not shift my needle and I can knit and purl at the same speed, and I have no issues with ribbing or seed stitch. I don’t like to do color work knitting, mainly because it’s too fussy to deal with more than one skein of yarn at a time.

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  7. I learned to knit English, but while living in Edinburgh (I was a CSV at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital after I finished college — a late version of “study abroad”) I learned the Continental method from a Danish co-worker and now knit exclusively this way. Except when doing stranded knitting — I have to do one color on each hand. I never managed to handle doing both from one side. What I especially love about knitting Continental is being able to knit in the dark or without looking at my needles all the time (unless I’m doing something complex, of course). Knowing both methods does, as someone pointed out, come in handy when teaching knitting.

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  8. I’m sure that someone probably already mentioned this, but have you tried purling the Norwegian way with the yarn held to the back of your work, rather than to the front? I just learned how to do it myself, and it’s a lot of fun–I like it. It produces very even tension (I’ve always had tension issues with Continental purling). I can see that Norwegian purling will make knitting ribbing and seed stitch a pleasure. I’ve been practicing all week, and I’m beginning to pick up speed :- ) There are some good tutorial videos on the Ravelry group: Norwegian Purling. Here’s the url: http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/norwegian-purling/1030219/1-25

    Happiest wishes!

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  9. I am a continental knitter from Denmark, but tried a few years ago to teach myself to knit English, and I am a newbie at knitting stranded colourwork. Since Continental was the way I have learned knitting as a child, this feels natural to me, and though I would like to be able to knit stranded colourwork with one colour in each hand, I just cannot make it work with throwing the yarn.It is way to slow. So I knit with two yarns on my left hand, both carried by the same finger, because that is where I can keep my tension. This works fine, and is very quick, but the yarn keeps tangling with each other at some point. So I tried the Norwegian knitting thimble, and it separates the yarns just fine and makes it real easy to knit with two colours. But I have problems keeping the tension with the device, because I have not yet found a way to hold the two yarns with the same tension using it. So my problem is: do I choose the tangling or correcting the tension every few stitches by arranging the yarns in my hand? I find it very difficult and hope, that this is just a matter of practice ?

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  10. Learned throwing as a wee child. Never knit though had the muscle memory. Much later I taught myself Continental. I hold both yarns in my left hand with pattern color farthest to the left. I love how the gadgets look but dislike using them, I change colors too frequently. I don’t like feeling tethered either.

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  11. I spent years crocheting left-handed before I learned to knit. Knitting right-handed, English-style seemed natural because I was so accustomed to feeding the yarn with my right hand. I tried and failed to knit Continental, not because the needles were a struggle, but because I couldn’t switch the hand that I feed yarn with. Then I learned to knit backwards for short rows and entrelac and started doing it for entire rows instead of purling because it is so much faster. Knitting backwards from right-handed English-style is actually left-handed Continental-style. I’ve purchased the various yarn guides because carrying yarn in my left hand seems to be impossible, but haven’t spent enough time with colorwork to have an opinion.
    It was really interesting reading the other comments. Thanks for generating this discussion!

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  12. I taught myself to knit from a book when I was a child, so never really had any ‘throwing technique’. I’d revisited my technique after hearing about continental knitting, but never got anywhere with purling, dispute watching a lot of YouTube clips, and getting the excellent book you recommended by Montserrat Stanley. It was only in May that my Norwegian Aunty spotted my clumsy style and took things in hand, so I’m now a continental knitter, that reverts back for fiddly stuff. Very recently I’ve been showing a friend how to knit, and think that Montse is right in saying you should try both styles, then choose the one you like. The book is in storage at the minute, but when it comes out I want to unlearn my inefficient English technique. I’d be really interested in how you manage more than one colour on your fingers as I’ve just started my first colour work sweater.

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  13. I knit continental because that’s the way my mother knits, and I’m left handed so doing most of the work with my left hand works well. I recently started using two hands for colorwork. I can use my right hand and still wrap the yarn (instead of throwing) but only if I thread the yarn between my fingers and wrap it around my pinky to keep the yarn taught. I feel clumsy doing it this way, but the tension is actually much more even than holding both yarns in my left hand like I used to.

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  14. Hi Kate, I knit continental and use two different purl techniques: what I call the classic one, where my index goes down and up in front of the needle to wrap the yarn on it (the closest video I could find showing this is the one from ‘How to Knit and Purl, Continental-Style For Dummies’, and the Norwegian one, which I was taught recently and has been really helpful for a pattern that uses tweed stitch, with rows alternating purl and ‘slip with the yarn in the back’ stitches. That last one has been really useful for this stitch by reducing the tension in my knitting and not having to constantly swap the yarn between the back and the front of the needle. Otherwise, it’s the other method that I use the most. I have taught myself to knit the English way either to teach UK persons for whom it seems more natural or to use two different colours but I am definitely more comfortable with the continental.
    On a different note, I am currently flying through the owl and enjoying every bit of it: I can see I’ll be able to finish it before the end of the Scottish winter, which makes me really happy!

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  15. Interesting questions and answers ! I learned knitting the Continental way and picked up English knitting along the way when living in the UK and US. I can knit much faster in Continental and purl faster in English. I find Continental less tiring in my wrists and especially in my right arm and shoulder than throwing English style. I learned English style in the UK when I was 18 (and had done a lit of knitting Continental style already) but it was always second cousin to Continental style (speed!).
    I used Strickfingerhüte (German plural vor Strickfingerhut) for intarsia quite a bit until Horst Schulz invented his ingenious short yarn method over thirty years ago (later used by Kaffe Fasset). I still use a Strickfingerhut occasionally for smaller two-color knits with many color changes.

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  16. I learned to knit and purl English style as a girl. I don’t remember who taught me to knit continental style, but when I tried to purl that way, the stitches were backwards. So for a long time, I just “scooped” (continental) my knitting, when I had a lot of knit stitches in a row (as in circular stockinette), and I “threw” (English) my purl stitches. And if I had purls and knits together, I just “threw” both.

    Then, one day, when I was on the bus, doing some flat stockinette, “scooping” the knit rows and “throwing” the purl rows, a woman asked me why I was doing it that way. I told her about the backwards purl stitches, and she showed me how to “scoop” purls correctly. It isn’t that hard, but it’s slow.

    Continental style is definitely a different way to use the hand muscles, and I still don’t purl that way very much (my stitches tend to be too loose, even with tension), and it also tends to make my hand hurt. My hand has gotten used to switching between English and continental for knitting, though, so I’ll just have to keep at it until it’s used to continental purling as well.

    By the way, I can knit much faster continental style, and I’ve seen someone do both knit and purl in continental style who does it so quickly you can’t even see what she’s doing. Very impressive.

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  17. I knit English, but use both hands for colorwork. The one piece of advice that made all the difference was to hold the yarn (ie where you wrap for tension) the same way in both hands. Once I matched that (as oppposed to following whatever instruction I was looking at) it worked.

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  18. I taught myself to knit by reading a book — there’s an English major for you — and I am a thrower and very fast. I always teach people to knit Continental style (because I think it is faster), and I use both systems for colorwork with one or two colors in each hand. Several years ago I knit an entire gansey Continental style because I was sure that with practice it would be faster than my throwing. I was wrong. So, a thrower I remain.

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  19. When I knit with two colors, I use both hands. I learned to knit as a thrower, then learned to pick. To me, picking is easier and faster. That said, I’ve used the metal spring type device with 2-color knitting and it’s worked out great. However, today when I saw it in your post I had a little epiphany: it would be a grand tool if one was knitting with a carry-along yarn. I think it might help keep the tension between the two yarns more even. I knit a sweater with a KidSilk carry-along and this would have been the way to go if I would have only thought of it then.

    Hope the doctors are helpful.

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  20. Thank you Kate for hosting such an interesting discussion. I have long wondered about whether I was a “picker” or a “thrower”. It all makes sense now. I’m neither. It turns out that I have spent more than forty years practising Annie Modesitt’s combination method….I was certainly taught “In, Over, Through and Off” as a child in 1960’s Scotland, but the first proper jumper I knitted came out uniformly twisted. By the second jumper I had sorted the twist out.
    It also explains why my half German friend’s claims that her Continental method was faster didn’t seem to be the actual reality.

    It doesn’t explain, however, why my sister seemed to knit the Continental way. Perhaps we were just thrawn? or maybe I somehow interfered with her understanding of the IOTO mantra?

    Recently, inspired by your pattern Caller Herrin’ and your footage of Hazel Tindall knitting, I buckled down and retrained my brain to knit with a yarn in each hand. It was exhilarating – and slow at first. I kept having to stop my right hand from taking over and could feel what I would like to think were new pathways and connections being made. Since then I’ve only been using one colour at a time, so it will be interesting to see in the future if the connections are permanent.

    My feelings therefore, are that there are a finite number of things that are happening when you are creating knit stitches;

    1 The stitch can be angled towards either your right or your left shoulder
    2 The yarn can be tensioned by either your right or your left hand
    3 The yarn can be wrapped around either clockwise or anti clockwise

    There is no right or wrong, just a combination that doesn’t twist the stitch (unless that’s the desired effect), and that the knitter feels comfortable with.

    Good luck with the head examination…..

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  21. In France I learned to throw. But it was not a happy experience, in great part because my grandmother hoped knitting would shut me up :-). I dimly remember endless sessions of dropping the needles on the floor. As a young adult, I learned continental, and then I was off for good. After a while, I wanted to do fairisle, and came to realize that a color in each hand would work best (especially as I’m ambidextrous). So now I hold the second color in my right hand, and I can actually function well that way. But Continental is me, all the way.
    I’ve never used a device, as two-handed works so well..

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  22. While I knit Contintental (and always have!), I couldn’t understand why people called it ‘picking’ until I saw some videos. I don’t ‘pick’ at all, but use my left forefinger to wrap the yarn around the right needle. It is the same motion for both the knit stitch and the yarnover, and almost the same for purling – just a little different because of the angle of the needle.

    I have a quick video of it if you’re interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cB2HnYB_xCM

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  23. I’m Norwegian too, and knit continental. I have never tried any of those devices, and don’t think I ever will. I also learnt to hold the yarn as knitspiration describes, but I now have both colours over my left index finger. I feel that’s more comfotable. I had never heard of dominant colour before I discovered knitting blogs a few years ago. I don’t think it’s common in Norway to pay attention to that. Both my grandmother and my mother have knitted a lot, and neither has ever mentioned anything about that. I tried once to pay attention to dominant colour, but I felt knitting was not agreable that way, and for the moment, I have gone back to my usual way, just picking up the yarn where I find it on my index finger. My point beeing – if you don’t bother about dominant colour, I don’t think these devices are useful. If you do, maybe they are.
    I had a look at the Wool Week link, and I would really like to go! I’m not sure I’ll be able to this year, though.
    Looking forwards to seeing your new design!

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  24. Interesting post, and surprising to learn that the knitting devices are “norwegian”. Here in Norway nobody I know use those things (but it would be interesting to try them). Norwegians use the continental method, and I was taught to hold one colour over one finger and the second colour over two fingers, that makes it easier to pick and you can also easily weave in the yarn if you knit many stitches with one colour. Tension can be reculated with the rest of the hand, and is mostly no problem.
    Thank you for the interesting blog, I hope to be able to have my summer holiday in the lake district to attend woolfest.

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  25. I was taught to knit by a lovely British lady, and as such I learned to knit in the English method, which I did for 9 years! But since I work at a computer all day, knit a LOT, and ride my bike a lot, I put a lot of pressure/strain on my wrists, and it’s beginning to take its toll, even though I’m only 27. A friend told me that knitting Continental style can actually help with that because the ‘picking’ motion is much less wrist-strainy than the English method, so I took a class from my LYS from a lovely Danish lady who showed me how to knit, purl, YO, and k2tog in Continental and that’s what I’ve been using since! I’ve found that my gauge is usually more accurate to what patterns say it should be for the yarn/needle size, and it’s a lot faster, which is a nice surprise. I also am experiencing less wrist soreness/numbness (I’ve not spoken to a doctor about English v. Continental methods but in my limited observations, it seems to be helping).

    Purling was hard for me at first! I found that purls and knit stitches in the English method seem like the same stitch on different sides, but with Continental, they seem almost like two different stitches entirely because of the way they’re executed! But I picked up a project with seed stitch in it, and just forcing myself to do it over and over again (and getting used to switching back and forth) helped a lot.

    I’ve never used one of the strickfinghuts (knitting finger hat! cute!) for colorwork, but the most strands I’ve ever used at once was three, and I’ve only just started venturing into colorwork, so we’ll see how that goes.

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  26. I recently learned my knitting style is officially known as Eastern Style – purls don’t require the yarn to be brought forward, ribbing is a breeze and the stitches are more even. Norwegian purling seems like a good option for continental knitters.

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  27. I am a thrower. I am good at throwing, consistent, get gauge (most of the time), and like the feel of what I am knitting when I throw.

    When I pick I have a completely different fabric, loose, and I can never get the right gauge or like the feel of the knitted fabric.

    When working with color I throw main color and pick contrasting color and depending on the yarn it usually comes out with an end result I like.

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  28. My mother and grandmother taught me to knit when I was 12, and their method of choice was English knitting. Because of this, throwing is more natural for me and better for paying attention to movies and/ or my husband, as I don’t have to look down at my work as much. That being said, I have been making efforts as of late to knit Continental. I use both hands for stranded knitting, and I can appreciate how much smoother the Continental motion is. Once in a rhythm I can move along quite speedily, but it is still not natural, and I must keep my eyes on my work at all times. I’ve been practicing on long stretches of knitting in-the-round, especially on the body of sweaters. I also have the spring-style knitting thimble, but have never taken it out of the packaging. I have no explanation for that!

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  29. Hi I learned a method of stranded continental knitting from a teacher at a Norwegian knitting workshop a few years ago and I’ve used it ever since. I carry both strands across my index finger. The strands form an x between the second and third knuckles and the yarns are tensioned around the pinky finger. It was awkward to learn how to cross the strands (you stick your index finger from above between the strands then lift your finger catching the second strand over the back of your finger then insert your thumb from below between the strands catching the other strand (the one closer to you) and flip it over your index finger. done properly it forms an x on the back of your finger. I then always reach over the closest strand to catch the second strand unless I need to secure a float then I reach under with the needle. I’m not sure I do it exactly like I was taught but I’ve worked out a way that I like and I think looks pretty good. If I’m consistent then the yarn doesn’t tangle and the tension is very even. I had to fiddle around a bit to figure out how to secure long floats with the dominant color so that the knitted stitch wasn’t knitted on backwards.

    This year, I was looking at a sock tutorial online (can’t remember which) and sew a method of continental purling that felt natural to me. Basically, when purling I use my left thumb to throw and tension the yarn. It’s been an improvement for my knitting.

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  30. I’m also bewildered by the number of times I have been told that the “English” (I’m Scots) or throwing method of knitting is slow. I don’t consider myself a particularly fast knitter compared, say, to my grandmother but I am still faster than almost every continental style knitter I know. With stranded colour work I can work with one yarn in each hand and, yes, I tried it that way because, yet again, I was told/advised/instructed that it was faster and more efficient. Even having persevered doggedly – I don’t give up easily – I didn’t find it faster and I certainly found that my tension suffered. Result: back to carrying both yarns in my right hand.

    I’m not sure if anyone else has mentioned this as I did skim many of the comments, but there’s no problem with either dpns or circulars knitting this way. The right needle is simply balanced in the crook of my thumb and, no, that does NOT mean I hold the needle like a pencil.

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  31. Hi Kate, I have been finding the labelling of “English” style as slow really confusing…that is until I checked out the tutorials on youtube, I cannot figure out how they make something so simple seem SO clunky and cumbersome? I have struggled with continental style, but being very right handed I found it hard to adjust tension and did not enjoy it. However nibnitter mentioned portuguese style – a new one to me so I looked it up and found it to be simpler than continental and far more fun, although I do still really love what I shall henceforth refer to as efficient english to distinguish it from the travesty that is literally “throwing” the yarn around the needle. Hope all is well in the noggin department, and I wish you good health in abundance x.

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  32. Oh the wrist and hand pain! I’ve can knit but not purl continentally because my left hand is so much weaker than my right. This works fine for colorwork as I hold one color in each hand and most colorwork is in the round. I do remember how much it hurt to build up my hand muscles when I first learned how to knit english style. There is really a lot of muscle strengthening involved (surprise bonus: I’m now able to open almost any jam jar). Being so right hand dominant, I have trouble with tensioning on my left hand — just picking up the yarn feels awkward. I haven’t had the patience to treat continental knitting as an exercise program and slowly build up the hand strength but I really would like to do so this year.

    I’m not a very fast knitter but I do wonder about the people who are able to knit quickly for long periods of time without wearing out their hands. I’m in my twenties and have seen too many people my age with repetitive stress injuries. I really try to be gentle on my hands (I want to be able to knit when I’m 80) so being able to switch off knitting techniques seems like a good idea. As much as I love to see you rolling out new designs, I hope you’re taking care of your hands too (and especially best of luck with the seizure specialist!).

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  33. I was taught to knit English style when I was in college and I would knit occasionally. After about 7 years, I joined a knitting group and saw a woman knitting Continental. She taught me how to do the knit stitch Continental so I thought I would give it a go. It took about 3 or 4 dishcloth projects to re-train my hands but then I was off and running. I broke my right wrist 3 times when I was younger so English style can make my wrist ache from projects with very small stitches (I like lace weight and sock weight yarn projects best). I do have an easy time with two handed colorwork knowing both styles but I only ever do it in the round. I purl in a way that makes sense to me but I am not sure if it is the correct way. I only took 2 knitting lessons when I started learning and having been learning from old knitting books from the thrift store or from videos online ever since.

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  34. May I make one more comment? One thing I noticed about the Continental Method is that the purl side is looser than the knit side. (this is because of the way you have to wrap the purl stitch; it uses slightly more yarn). If you are not really careful you can end up with an uneven fabric that has a stripey effect. When I learned the Continental Method, I had to consciously purl tight and knit loose. The Portuguese Method produces a nice even fabric without any inherent tension problems.

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    1. One more comment from me too :) As I told earlier, I purl more or less the Continental way but the purl side isn’t looser than the knit side and the fabric isn’t uneven. I suppose this is because I don’t wrap the stich, I make the purl stich exactly the opposite way compared to the knit stich (this is hard to explain). The yarn is in front of the left needle as in the video by dw but one does’t have to move the left index finger if one keeps the finger closer to the needle. Then the yarn just waits there ready to be picked by the right needle. I find this very handy and wrist friendly, I haven’t had any knitting related aches in my life. I also make fairisle on the purl side, there is no problem at all. There may be a mess with the yarns but the actual purling and alternating yarns (I hold them in my left hand and use the index and middle fingers to alternate between them) is fairly easy. I haven’t tried any yarn guides so I have no opinion on whether they might be useful.

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  35. This conversation is so interesting. I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments :- ) I learned how to knit using the Combination Method (Annie Modesitt), which I would not recommend, although it is by far the easiest way to purl. I later switched to the Continental Method, which I have been using for years. However, in the past six months I have developed pain in my right hand/thumb, and have had to (gasp!) stop knitting for awhile :- (. I am now knitting again using the Portuguese method. It was very easy to learn, and my hand doesn’t hurt. Here is a url that will take you to a Knitting Help Forum that has a list of links to good YouTube videos for learning the Portuguese method. It literally took me about fifteen minutes to learn how to knit and purl Portuguese style. Purling is fast and easy the Portuguese way, and is very similar to the Combination Method that I started out with seventeen years ago.
    http://www.knittinghelp.com/forum/showthread.php?t=78791

    I hope your doctors will have some answers for you soon.

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  36. Admittedly, I have not read all of the comments (there are so many)(!). I just wanted to show you this. Have you seen this video re: Continental purling?

    It really does work – purling is suddenly not a chore! (I knitted the English way from the time I was 5 years old until I was 30, so it was a major adjustment – it made me feel like I was learning to knit all over again.)

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  37. As others have said give Portuguese a try! I recently the method from some lovely girls at the UK Knit Camp in Stirling in 2010 and found it fantastic for two colour knitting. You have one colour going around the left side of your neck and the other going around the right (or you have two knitting pins on your left and right shoulders) which keeps the yarns nicely separated and then it’s easy to hook whichever you need with your thumb and flick it over the needle.

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  38. Hi Kate,
    Years ago, I quit knitting and gave my stash away after a whiplash / upper back + lumbar vertebral fractures left me unable to knit more than a few minutes without significant pain. A decade later, my eleven-year-old stepdaughter showed me her Swedish grandmother’s hold, i.e. Continental. (Of the English hold, she said “That looks like going to the gym.”) Although I could knit much longer using Continental, I still found the purling action awkward. Once I tried Annie Modesitt’s “Combination Knitting”, I could knit at length with no difficulty. Because this method requires the knitter to really understand how stitches are formed, and why each action performed on a stitch yields a particular result, I was able to adapt to carry a yarn in each hand for short stretches. Annie’s website has enough info for self-instruction in the basics of the combination method, and for those times when I prefer not to think the process through, I have found the conversion chart posted by Grumperina to be very helpful: http://www.grumperina.com/comboknit.htm
    By the way, I find your site quite inspirational. I discovered it fairly recently, and am reading it in chronological order. My husband recently wondered whether I should start a blog for “knitters who love whisky”, and was surprised to hear it had been done… And given your relative ease of access to the source of my prefered Islay offerings, I was delighted to find you had done so!
    Best of luck with specialist consultation!
    -Marie

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  39. Amazing coincidence; I have been teaching myself continental knitting this week knitting a sheep heid! I was taught to knit in the English style by my mother when I was a teenager so have been knitting that way for about 10-12 years. I am struggling to maintain tension in the wool I am holding in my left hand but am getting there and the knitting looks fine. Obviously my ‘thrown’ knitting is faster and I don’t imagine I will ever change to continental knitting for everything.

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    1. I got so much faster as I worked through the hat and finished it (including sewing in all the ends) today! It is blocking waiting to be worn tomorrow :-D

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  40. I tried one of these yarn thimbles, but did not feel comfortable with it. Even though new to stranded knitting and working with 3 yarns, I felt more comfortable holding the yarns over my left pointer finger. My sense of the tension needed the touch of the yarn. Still it was challenging and not as fast as I might have liked. I think my knitting style is a mixed one, though not sure. The active needle is in my right hand, with the left holding the yarn. I never “throw” the yarn either knitting or purling, but just sort of grab it through. I’m told this style makes for a more even stitching as both knit and purl stitch take the same amount of yarn. The only time I wanted to learn to knit with the left hand was doing the stranded work I just mentioned. I have heard you can hold yarns in both hands and go quicker by combining the two styles. But in the end I found most comfort in sticking with the way I was used to.

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  41. good news on your upcoming specialst visit. i hope it goes well!
    i learned English style, but took to Continental after my father made an observation that it made more sense overall (sort of an economical movement).
    i like Continental and can pretty much do it all that way, but find that when knitting complicated lace (and when starting socks, especially on double points) i invaribly fall back to English. :)

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  42. I’ve always been a “thrower” and my throwing, is, apparently, quite vigorous! I’ve never been able to get the hang of wrapping the yarn around my fingers for tension and simply flicking my finger so I actually move my whole hand/wrist/arm (depending on the yarn and the stitch). Unfortunately, this means I have to be very careful to hold my wrist straight or the repetitive flexing gives me a bit of tendonitis :-(
    I usually knit using circular needles now since I find them more portable for knitting on public transit and stuffing in my purse, but it took ages to get comfortable with circulars because I learned on straights and I used to prop the right-hand needle up on my leg while knitting. I’ve recently been teaching a lot of kids to knit and I use a shorter pair of straight needles when I’m teaching. I noticed this week that I’m now able to knit with them up in the air instead of propped on my leg! Progress!
    I had a little boy in one of my grade one classes who had epilepsy and every time he had a seizure he used to experience an aura before-hand. He told me it sounded like a train was coming in his head and that was his cue to lie down. He used to just get up out of his chair and go lie down on the carpet to prepare and wait for it to pass. I thought he was quite the composed little gentleman the way he handled it ;-) I hope all goes well with the neurologist and that whatever is happening in your brain is sorted very soon. I imagine that having unexplained seizures really would be frightening, frustrating, and difficult to plan a life around.
    I am still in awe of your ability to just keep getting on with things and not letting all the roadblocks that are thrown in your way dampen your enthusiasm for walking and all things wooly!

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  43. I’ve only been knitting for about five years and was taught by my daughter. She learned to knit in first grade at her Montessori school. She must have been taught by a continental knitter, so that is how she and I both learned. I have tried to work two-handed for colorwork, but find that the throwing action is difficult for me to control and achieve the same tension as I do when picking. I’m not sure what my purling technique is called, but it does not slow me down at all The my left hand is moving slightly to push the yarn down over the right hand needle.

    I have tried both of the tools you have shown. The metal thimble was too difficult for me. My yarn definitely tangled. However, the plastic tool works perfectly as all I really need is for the yarn strands to be separate, then I can “pick” the appropriate one. When using it my colorwork is back to non-stranded speed.

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  44. I’m a continental knitter but have never used those stranding devices. I knit with both/all colours in my left hand as I’ve found this to be easiest. I can’t say it is super speedy, but as a personal preference it feels right. Then again, I’m not a super speedy knitter to begin with.

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  45. I was taught the English method by my mom. But we had a Norwegian friend who did beautiful stranded sweaters with wool she ordered from Norway. She would custom knit sweaters and asked that the pay go to relief work. When I was about 13 she saw me stranded knitting English style on a sweater sleeve and said, ” here is how I knit…” I had about three inches of funny tension and never went back to to throwing the yarn (except for that pesky purl stitch). I hold both strands over my left fingers and if I need a third color I will use my right hand but it better not be more then one row and the design must be pretty special to be worth the extra effort. In my old age I did learn to purl Continental when faced with knitting 1×1 ribbing in fingering yarn for 8″ by 36″ part of a scarf. Old dogs can learn new tricks! I sometimes do use my English purl mostly when doing cables and I want a tight stitch. It is very useful to know different ways to knit and to realize that there is no knitting police, just sometimes very opinionated knitters. Good luck with finding a way to recovery.

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  46. Hi Kate, your blanket is absolutely wonderful, I think it is too advanced for me though and dont know what you mean when you talk about a streek??? I have never tried any of the devices to knit with more than one color, I usually grab a plastic shopping bag make two holes in it, put the two balls of wool inside the bag and thread the wool of each ball through each of the wholes, this stops tangles and keeps the wool clean too.
    I´m not sure what kind of a knitter i am, my aunt taught me when i was about 8 years old, in Beverley, east yorks, I hold my needles almost on my knee and people here in Argentina say i knit in the air and find it very histerical:) here they seem to hold the needles under the arms.
    I get pretty homesick when i hear you talk about knitting, the wool and wool fairs… wish i could be there!!!!!

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  47. I, too, knit the English style, having learned that way from my English grandmother 70 or so years ago. This way I do not have to look at it unless there is a pattern change so I can talk with my knitting friends, watch TV, or whatever at the same time. I can knit using the Continental style but, like you, find purling very difficult. And I have to look at the next stitch instead of “feeling” it with my left hand. Plus i have more trouble getting the tension right with the Continental style. I suppose I could practice but …….

    But more important than my knitting style is my admiration for your fortitude in recovering from your stroke. Your knitting and writing are fabulous but your spirit in challenging your challenges is spectacular. Best of luck.

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  48. I learned how to knit as a child in the 1960s, and I can remember my instructor taking me off to the side for extra help because I am left-handed. When we moved to Germany in the early 1980s my mother sent me knitting supplies along with a left-handed knitting book. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was knitting English style! I taught myself continental style knitting from a Pam Dawson book. I like using both styles when I work stranded knitting because it’s more comfortable using both hands (less stress).
    As a teacher, it helps to know many knitting techniques. In all my years of teaching, I’ve had what I think of as two truly left-handed knitters. Not only did they knit continental style, they knitted “backwards” (and quite beautifully, I might add).
    I’ve never tried the helper devices, although the spring would be interesting to try.

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  49. Well, as to the knitting, I only use continental when knitting fairisle, and my tension is very loose on that side. I have no idea how to purl continental and am actually quite happy with that. I think I will always be more comfortable knitting English as I was taught that way when I was 4.
    Good luck with your appointments, I take it it will be the EFG first (I have epilepsy), which is boring but not stressful (and means you have to wash your hair afterwards), and I hope they get you on appropriate medication soon.

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  50. Hi, I am a danisk knitter who was taught to knit by my mother 40 years ago when i was 6 years old. My mother is now 72 years old – and still knitting faster than me. I knit continental and have tried the english style. I prefere the – for me – much faster continental danish style which is similar to the norwegian style. A few advises when knitting continantal style (fast and relaxed) keep your indeksfingers on the knitting needles, hold the yarn in your left hand over your indeks finger, and if your knitting gets to loose djust tension by wrapping the yarn around your little finger on your left hand. The danish/norwegian purl is almost as fast as the knit stitch. When you knit continental style always think “picking the yarn” never cast the yarn. Beth Brown-Reinsel has a very good tutorial om you-tube for norwegian purl. Think: twist the right hand knitting needle slighty forewards while twisting the left hand knitting needle slightly backwards – pick the yarn backwards and below the yarn – twist the right hand knitting needle backwards while twisting the left hand knitting needle forewards. The right hand knitting needle is now between you an the left hand knitting needle. Then the tip of the right hand knitting needle (with the pulled yarn on) is moved back aganist you a bit, down a bit and forewards through the stitch you are knitting and in the samt movement the stitch is lifted off the left knitting needle. When practicing in the beginning you can use a crochet hook instead of the right needle. I hope this will be a little help and if i can be of any help with explaining stitches the continental way, you are were welcome to contact me.

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  51. I knit Continental, with a Finnish purl (working yarn on top of the left needle). This is what I was taught at school (here in Finland) as well as by my mother. In fact, until very recently I had not even thought about it, much less realized that there were any other ways. The only variation I ever tried is the Norwegian purl (working yarn behind the left needle), but I find the Finnish purl much faster and more efficient, so this is what I taught my daughter as well. The trick is just to learn to make that little upward movement with your left index finger holding the working yarn to lift the yarn to the front.

    In stranded colourwork, I have mostly been holding both yarns in my left hand without any extra tools. It is slow, yes, so perhaps I should try and find a knitting thimble and give it a try.

    By the way, my parents, born in the 1940’s, tell me that in their childhood in Western Finland (Osthrobothnia), old women used to knit by “throwing” the yarn. I find this very interesting, because later this style seems to have completely disappeared, at least I have never seen anyone do it.

    All the best of luck to you with your visit to the specialist. I hope they take it really seriously and dig out the cause of the problem.

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  52. Hi Kate
    Interesting topic indeed. Like so many others, I was taught to knit on straights, with yarn in the right hand – throwing. While on a business trip in Belgium in the mid 80’s – riding the buses and watching women knit – I ‘discovered’ the continental method. On my return home – I determinedly taught myself this ‘new’ method – there was no Internet then! I was amazed at the speed. It took me many tries to figure out purling – to not twist my stitches. What fun to see the video by Tuija – that is how I have knit now for almost 30 years! As for the ‘devices’ – NOT for me. Tension is a problem. I use one strand in each hand and thus have perfect control of tension, while still maintaining speed.

    Godspeed on your physician appt. Many thanks for your interesting blog!

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  53. I am new to your blog and am enjoying it very much. I have to say WHAT? I am now off to youtube to see what on earth you are all talking about. I have been knitting for 34 years and now I have this morning discovered there is “English”, “Continental”, “picking” and “throwing”. Wow, although I have to say I am not the adventurous knitter that the other ladies in my family are. Got to, Got to, Got to find out what you are all talking about. :)

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  54. I learned/was taught ‘English’ knitting as a child at school. I hated knitting, spent several lifetimes (that’s what it felt like) producing a 2′ length of stockinette for the class, then knitted nothing at all until I was 17, the first summer I worked away from home. I lived in a tiny town, saving for University fees, so had no money to spend; there was no TV reception, the library allowed me to borrow only one book per week (to be fair it was a single room in a house). So I started knitting an aran out of acrylic and desperation. Still English, not fast. With grim determination and Rowan yarn I knitted big boxy aran sweaters through the 1980s until I realised I never actually *wore* the things and started gardening instead. When I picked up the needles again c. 2006, I decided to learn continental because it was said to be faster. After such a long break it wasn’t that difficult to do, and it is certainly much faster than my old ‘drop the needle’ English style. Having said that, a friend has given me her knitting belt and a set of straight pins, so that will be an interesting contrast.

    When knitting 2-colour stranded I carry both colours on my left forefinger. I tried a Norwegian *strickfingerhut* for stranded knitting, but couldn’t find a way to use it that was comfortable and/or faster than my usual. For three colours I put the third on my right forefinger and then things get very, very complicated.

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  55. I learned to knit English style, but my Mum thought that as I was left handed she ought to teach me by having me mirror what she did, so I think at first that’s how I knitted. Then later on I taught myself how to knit right-handed English. Knitting is a two-handed activity, I always tell my students – such a myth that left-handers can’t knit. In actual fact I’m not left handed anyway – I’m right-handed with everything but writing, which I do with either hand but I’m faster (and messier) with my left.

    After reading about Continental knitting I thought that sounded better, so I gave it a go and it stuck quite quickly. I find my tension is more even between knits and purls with Continental, although I do have some issues as in 1×1 rib my knits are always bigger.

    I bought one of those plastic gadgets a while back and completely forgot about it the next time I had to do fairisle. I’ve taught myself to knit two-handed fairisle quite well though. I might try and get hold of one of those spring ones though – where did you get yours from?

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  56. Good luck with the neurologist Kate.

    It should be an initial examination (full of neurological tests) which will take about an hour to an hour and a half (take your knitting at least for the waiting room), and s/he will probably order some tests. 30 years ago it would have been an EEG (electroencephalogram), where you have a cap fitted over your head and small wires record the electrical activity in your brain (alpha, beta, delta and theta waves) and you are asked to do several things, mental arithmetic, have a flashing light (photic stimulation), a quiet period when you are asked to think. You may also be asked to have other sorts of tests (CT scan, maybe an MRI) at a later date, these other tests – the EEG, CT etc are made after the inital neurological examination. I am sure you will find some information on the internet, though be careful of your sources. Medication may help in the long term. I used to type in a neurophysiology department, mostly EEG reports.

    My FIL had seizures after a stroke, which he found frightening (as did the rest of the family), the medication he was on also meant he had to have regular blood tests to check the blood levels.

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  57. I knit as most other Scandinavians by “picking” all the stitches. I’ve never tried those devices, but just taught myself to hold both yarns (or all three yarns, if working with 3 colours) in my left hand. I’ve tried to learn knitting the English way to be able to do colourwork with one strand in each hand, but so far I haven’t had much success. I think I’ll need to hunker down and focus a lot more, but somehow it is annoying to be so slow suddenly (I guess you must know all about that feeling, so I shouldn’t really complain). I’ve heard that doing colourwork with a strand in each hand makes tensioning much easier.

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  58. I’m glad for the good news! I taught myself Continental knitting partly because I knew how to crochet first and I held the yarn in my left hand doing that and partly because I think all the YouTube videos I used to teach myself happened to be by Continental knitters. Now that I work at a yarn shop and teach people to knit, I also knit English. Because my gauge is looser as an English knitter, I use it for lace. I haven’t quite mastered two-handed stranding, but I’m getting there. It feels surprisingly natural to knit with both hands at the same time. Sometimes I forget which way I’m knitting and do both! :)

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  59. I was taught to throw as a child and when I picked knitting up again as an adult, I found it cumbersome and slow. I taught myself to knit Continental using the internet and love the speed of pickin’. You really should try to purl. It is so fast to go from knit to purl and back again in Continental.

    The finger huts have always intrigued me…but I haven’t had the patience to sit and make my tension work with it. Your post has inspired me to try again. Thanks!

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  60. I learned to knit the English way, which puzzled my Swiss mom and aunt (“Why would you do that? It’s so slow and inefficient. Show me that again. That’s BIZARRE.”) and learned Continental a year later when my carpal tunnel acted up. I was slow and clunky at it at first, so I forced myself to only knit left-handed until I had the hang of it. (Turns out I learn pretty quickly when there are no alternatives.) Now I knit almost entirely Continental, except for certain multiple decreases where keeping the yarn on the right keeps the stitches from sliding around — much like the way my mom and aunt don’t bother to translate certain computer terms from English when they speak in French, since the words in English are shorter and more convenient.

    The plastic thimble is OK, if you can get it to fit, but I prefer the metal strickfingerhut. It can be a bear to keep the tension of the two yarns consistent when you’re using the colors at different rates, but they’re fantastic in two-color double knitting, where the color ratio is exactly 1:1.

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  61. I knit English, throwing with my right hand. I can do two colors very easily with my right hand. With my index finger I carry one color over it, and when it comes to the second color, I curl my index finger under the color and loop it around. Been doing it for ages, so it is very comfortable.

    Picking / continental knitting is not at all comfortable for me. Purling is especially difficult. However, I did come across a video for what is called “Norwegian Purl” which makes for a bit of a longer purling process, but it is very easy to do. Check out this link – it may prove to be useful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DkwcejowiI

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  62. Gosh, I see lots of people were as keen as I am to talk about my preferred knitting technique. I learned to knit English style but felt that it was very slow. I made many efforts to improve my throwing technique without success, so I decided to teach myself continental style and I do find it much faster and more comfortable for knitting. I never got as comfortable with continental purling.

    My favourite and fastest technique for back and forth stockinette or ribbing is combined knitting, with the twisted purl that is untwisted on the next row. If I’m knitting something like lace where it is a hassle to have twisted stitches I knit continental and purl English.

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  63. I knit Continental. My mother taught me that when I was little. As an adult, I took a knitting class that taught English style, but I couldn’t do it. My hands just froze when I paid attention, and they switched back to Continental if I wasn’t paying attention. The teacher, who could knit both, advised me to stick with the Continental. It is a bit strange, as I have a great deal of dexterity, and I have successfully done things like play the violin which requires doing different things with each hand/arm at the same time.

    Because of the single-handedness of my knitting, I have not tried stranded knitting, as everyone I know who does it, uses both hands. Perhaps I should try out the gadgets you blog about here.

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  64. Hello Kate,
    I love your blog and wish you the very best with your tests, and hope that your seizures, migraines, and rough days become fewer and fewer.
    I’m left-handed, was raised in a family of right-handers, and have had to fend for myself when it comes to devising ways to do things(as an illustrator, I have good hand/eye coordination). I knit the English way with the yarn tensioned over my right hand and index finger; I can move along fairly quickly in this manner. I took a class in Continental knitting and like the knitting and not the purling in this technique(I have tried to mimic the way I loop the yarn on my right hand/English knitting for the left-handed/Continental, with limited success). When working in 2 colors, I use two hands(I do not have much experience in color work. I have timid plans to knit your Boreal when I have finished up my current projects. It is a little daunting, and I so love your design!).
    Looking forward to your next chef-d’œuvre!
    Good luck! You’ll be in my thoughts!

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  65. How interesting, I just took a class on knitting Continental from Lorilee Beltman. I learned lots of techniques, but am still struggling. I’ll keep practicing and hopefully I’ll get the hang of it. My husband and I are going to be in Scotland towards the end of June. We’re looking at our schedule and I hope to meet you at Woolfest. How exciting, to be in Scotland (for the 1st time) and a chance to attend a wool festival.
    I hope your specialist appointment has the outcome you want.

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  66. Due to hand pain and lack of speed I taught myself to knit Continental (having been raised English-style). But I agree that the purling does not come easily, and my Continental purling is much slower than my English. So now I have this terrible habit of swapping the yarn between hands at the end of each row. Probably cancelling out any speed gains from knitting Continental. Ah well. Just means that I am pleased by patterns with lots of stocking stitch in the round.

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  67. I learned the English knitting method from my Grandmother and Mother; I’ve taught myself to knit Continental as well so I can do 2 handed colourwork, but haven’t managed to work out the purl thing at all. I suspect I am faster using Continental, but it doesn’t feel as natural to me so despite telling myself I’m going to do an entire item using Continental, I keep finding I’m not doing it!

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  68. I learned to knit both English and Continental styles as a child: the women in my family knit English, my crafts teacher in grade school knit Continental. I’m ambidextrous so either way is fine, but I do tend to gravitate toward English style, probably because my right hand is a wee bit more dominant than my left. I don’t throw my yarn, but hold it in a way so that I can flick it off my finger with a minimum of effort so it’s not tiring.

    Good luck with your appointment!

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  69. Hi Kate,
    I taught myself to knit English-style, but six or so years later decided to give Continental a try to gain more speed. Picking felt very natural right away, but it took me quite awhile to adapt to purling. It’s been about a year and a half now, and I’ve pretty much completely switched over to Continental: I can purl, do ssks, y/os, etc. and not break my pace too much. But I do suspect that even though picking feels very easy and natural purling will never be quite the same, and every so often I switch hands and do some purling English-style. I think the key is persistence, if you really want to make the switch. I’m glad I did: I’m much faster now and my hands hurt less.

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  70. I taught myself to knit English as a preteen using the green “how to” book. A few years later I read an article about Continental and gave it a try. But could never get the purls to match the knit tension. So I started doing my own purl method, which caused the stitches on the needle for the next row to be mounted backwards. But I learned to deal with that by knitting the stitches through the back of the stitch. I only learned in the last few years that this is called Combined knitting. I find it very fast and get a very even finished project. Just read my work and know whether to knit/purl in the leading or back leg of each stitch. When I do color work, I hold both yarns in my left hand. I also do not have my left index finger stuck straight up and away from the left needle….I have the finger resting right on the left needle for even less movement as I work. I have also found that if my right hand or arm gets tired, I automatically begin to hold the right needle still and do the “work” with the left needle for a while.

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  71. Hi Kate. I have for only a year or so learned the two-handed method of stranded work (having been a ‘thrower’ all my knitting years) , but I must say, before I discovered traditional Fair Isle, I use to knit stranded color improvisationally, two or more colors , and devised … (laughs)… this odd way of poising two, and sometimes three fingers with yarns and ‘threw’ the yarns as if from three right hands in one. I *much* prefer the two handed method.. but those gadgets look very interesting, always wanted to try one.

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  72. During my 6th decade after many years of sporadic knitting-English style only-I became a devoted, daily, pretty much non-stop
    knitter. My tight knitting and poor mechanics caught up with me in a matter of months and I had to convert to continental to spare my hands, arms, shoulders–you name it.–or quit knitting!! Unthinkable!! The switch was about the hardest clumisiest thing I have ever attempted. After a week of really cruel concentration I could pick enough to proceed with simple projects. I would lapse back to throwing when my various aches subsided but have now-eight years later- alternated enough times that both methods are equally fluent and I will even change off row by row for speed and comfort’s sake

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  73. I can’t say much about your new implements as I am scared of colourwork knitting but I tried to switching from being a ‘thrower’ to a ‘picker’ and it has never stuck. I have read about how much quicker it is and how it makes some things simpler but I have never found a guide or video that converted me. I’m open to new resources if anyone has any they swear by.

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  74. Hi Kate,
    these are much discussed subjects! Knitting continental / english and using those devices.

    Having just moved to Australia I saw english style knitting for the first time in real life (not online) at the stich’n’bitch and it is strange. Although I think I could see the advantage of using it for stranded colour work combined with continental. Everyone seems to have trouble with purls in continental knitting. I haven’t figured out why yet. All you have to do is move the yarn to the front of your work and pull it through the stitch from there inserting the needle from the top into the stitch. Just like a knit stitch. Most important is to stay relaxed!

    I have (had) both the plastic and the metal devices (until I lend them to a collegue to try out and now left the job and will never see them again). I don’t like the plastic for the simple reason that my index finger gets really sweaty under it. Feels weird. I really like the metal one although it only holds two strands. But it does separate the yarns nicely. Tension is a bit of a problem but with practise I found it got better. I actually once did a four colour work with it having two strands through the loops and one above and one under the metal thing. I think anything with more than two colours is a bit of a fuzz. I guess to go really crazy you could actually use two metal things! ;)

    I liked the question someone had up here of how you pick up your cup of tea or the phone or make notes. I have my right hand free for all these things.

    Enjoy
    Eva

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  75. I knit continental (I learned English-style, and I switched at some point, but I don’t remember exactly why). The first time I did stranded knitting, I held one color in each hand. But the next time I had a stranded project, too much time had passed since I switched knitting styles, and I found that I was unable to hold the yarn in my right hand to stitch in the English style. So now, for stranded color work, I hold both yarns in my left hand (yarn goes under pinky, over ring, under middle, over pointer), with the MC closer to my knuckle and the CC (or the dominant color) closer to the tip of my finger. I use my normal picking motion for knitting. The only problem is that the tension of the yarns can get messed up (they’re on the same fingers, so they feed at equal rates, even though they’re usually used at different rates), so I use my right hand to pull on them even pretty frequently. I’ve never used one of the strickfingerhuts, though I have one of the plastic ones somewhere. My method isn’t perfect (having to tug the yarns even is quite annoying), but it’s the best way I’ve tried. As far as purling continental style goes, I do it by inserting my right needle into the stitch as if to purl, then I swing my left pointer finger down in front of both needles, which wraps the yarn around the right needle, and then I complete the purl stitch.

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  76. My Grandmother was from Yorkshire and so my Mother must have learnt to knit with the needle held under her right arm and pencil hold from her, or so I believe and my Mother was the fastest knitter you can imagine – add to this that she could read and watch television whilst knitting and you get the picture. Despite all this I did my own thing and taught myself to knit when tiny using what I believe is called the English throwing method, holding the needles from the top. I have thought about changing but my hands just seem happier – Doing The English Throw – Hah!

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  77. First, I read with interest your experience with your stroke(s). Horrible, but so glad that you have recovered enough to get on with the important things in life. On the subject of “aids” to stranded knitting, yes, I have tried them, but quickly rejected them. I am mostly a thrower, having learned to knit while a child in Canada. I normally hold my needles underhand, like a pencil, but for stranded knitting I perch on top and work with two hands for large projects. For stranded work on dpns, I revert to the underhand one-handed method (right-handed) and carry the yarn forward alternately with my first two fingers. I have no idea why I use all these different methods in different situations, but I’ve tried other things, including the “aids” on today’s post, and discovered, for better or for worse, what works best for my hands and my brain.
    P.S. Just spent the day working on my second Trellis Vest–stranded colourwork is definitely on my mind.

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  78. I started knitting English style about 15 years ago. About 3 years ago I switched to Continental. I was working on an OpArt baby blanket at the time, so there were long rows of both knitting and purling, and the gauge didn’t matter much. So, I gradually learned to both knit and purl on that project. I definitely had a harder time learning to purl than knit Continental, but it was worth it, since after getting the hang of it, I can now knit at least 2 or 3 times as fast.

    Gaping with much admiration at those “strickfingerhut” devices and trying to picture a time when I could do colorwork well enough to need one! So far have only tried 2 color projects with one color in each hand.

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  79. Dear Kate,
    I learned to knit from my mother (in Wales, way too many years ago). Of course it was ‘english’ style aka ‘throwing’ but English Lever style, with the right hand needle held as if it were a pencil in the crook of the thumb and the index finger, not under the arm. This way you don’t let go of the righthand needle so knitting is faster. Many years later I learned Continental aka “picking’ through books and YouTube videos specifically to knit faster and to knit stranded. I can purl Continental but not too well and with lousy tension (this seems to be a theme among Continental converted knitters).

    Several years ago a member of my knitting guild taught me to “flick” which is a style of throwing where the right needle is held from the top, supported by the thumb and the third (middle) finger, with the yarn tensioned around the little finger and the index finger. The index finger ‘flicks’ the yarn around the right needle (the hand also moves very slightly forward with each flick). It was a revelation! Purling is easier than knitting, if you can believe it! I move as fast as pickers and my tension is so much better. I recommend it at every turn (there are few youtube videos like these http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y547Q5Hjcuo and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke39g0AxjgI , and neither of these seem to also tension the yarn around the little finger as I was taught to do). Anyway, there you have it, albeit it’s a longwinded explanation. I’ve never used any of the stranding devices preferring to use, and not having any trouble using, yarn in both hands.

    (What I have discovered is that getting people to try another way of knitting makes them really, really, cranky! so try it at your own risk!)

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    1. Thanks for this! I taught myself how to knit from a diagram on the internet when I was in college, and eventually my style evolved into that type of “flicking”: English style with a very limited range of motion, tensioning with my right pinky and using just my index finger to whip the yarn ’round. My needles aren’t tucked anywhere and I never take them out of my hands unless I’m doing something to adjust the whole piece. I’m no world record contender, but I’m quite quick! I do my colorwork two-handed, and also crochet holding the yarn in my left hand, and both feel quite natural and easy :)

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  80. I learned to knit in school I think it was in Junior high or so maybe 8 or 9 th grade they say here in the US. They taught me the English way as I am a right handed.
    I stopped and started and then put to much strain over the years as to carpal tunnel issues.
    I just moved on the Continental way and never looked back. I use the 1 hand for holding the 2 colors and the right hand to work the tension. It works out good. I tried those thimbles and yarn guides I just could not incorporate them to work with my style of stranding so I gave up.

    Much luck to you at the doctor and I hope you are able to progress your health I. A good way. :-)

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  81. I learned to knit Portuguese way, with the yarn around the neck. For me it’s the ‘natural’ way, with which I work faster and my tension is very even.
    Afterwards I learned to knit English way but I find it too slow, with all the right hand movements. Finally I learned the Continental style, very simple to knit but not to purl.
    I always go back the original, I can knit st st mindlessly if that is required!
    For colourwork I knit with each yarn in one hand, both yarns behind my neck!, and I haven’t tried any of those devices.

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  82. I “throw” left-handed. It was how my mother taught me. (…incidentally, I really can’t crochet much, and learned after)
    My left hand feels clenched and uncomfortable when trying to maintain the tension required to “pick”.
    Even though I’m right handed, I just cannot hold the yarn on the right and perform the same actions!
    I would be tempted to try one of these tools for colourwork.

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  83. Hi, I am German, so I am knitting continental, and I do not find purling a problem. But trying to explain how I do it definitly is a problem. As for the tools, I have tried the Strickfingerhut, the second one, but I find that it is easier for me to have the yarns on different fingers, instead of using a tool.

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  84. I learned to knit continental, and have never seen any reason to change that, even if I tried learning to knit two handed for stranded knitting. That was to slow for my impatient self, and I didn’t like the look of those knitfingerwhatevers you can buy – basically because they looked like I would have to keep my index finger very high and static and I thought that would cause cramping.

    So I made my own version, you can see it here (blog’s in Norwegian…): http://husetimidten.blogspot.com/2011/09/knappekvaler-2-og-en.html

    I have perfected it slightly since I wrote about it, tightening the loops so the yarn can’t jump out. I like this a lot, and my (usually loose) tension is nice and tight. Long floats are an issue, though. I will place the strands between different fingers, so they run independent of each other, but securing floats are somewhat troublesome.

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  85. Continental. Taught myself as a very young girl after perusing library “how to” books. Didn’t understand the illustrations and ended up “inventing” the continental style. Had no idea this was a common method until an adult and reading more abut knitting, discovered “my” method had a name. Was so happy to discover this. However, I wasn’t doing it quite correctly. My knitwork looked good – nice even stitches, good tension, etc. – but I discovered it had an unfortunate tendency to slant. A knitting aquaintanced noticed what I was doing and corrected my technique. Happy days ever since. Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books taught me that there was an easier method of purling continental. Have tried English throwing, and cannot for the LIFE of me understand how anyone would choose to knit that way when continental is so very quick and easy. Childhood habits die hard. Best of luck with your specialist appts, Kate. I do so hope they are able to help you with this.

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  86. I knit Continental because that’s how I taught myself. I crocheted first, so Continental seemed most natural, as I was already used to having the yarn in the left hand. Though I am right-handed, my right hand is only good for manipulating tools, it seems.

    I have tried to learn English, mostly for the fun of knowing. But it wasn’t fun. :( After hours of practice, I still can’t do it well enough to use on a felting project, much less something I want to look pretty. I had hoped to learn also for colorwork purposes but I figure I’ll just learn to do colorwork Continental when the time comes.

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  87. I knit continental. When i have more than one yarn i make them run over a different finger, one yarn over my index-finger and one over my middle-finger. And then I just pick from there. i have never used more than two colors, I guess I have to somehow involve another finger if it ever comes to that! This way my right hand is free to do other stuff, pick up a cup of tea, tick off where I am in the pattern, untangle my yarn if it needs to. I tried to have one yarn in each hand but it was just confusing and messed up the tension really bad. I don’t get how you keep the tension in your right hand?

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  88. i get the strongest feeling that your neurons are teaching you what they need to heal themselves. training them in a new way of knitting can only strengthen your neuro setup.
    about seizures, you know the best book i ever read about cross-cultural medical practice was about a little hmong girl who had seizures. her family felt they were the touch of the gods, and that the child would grow up to be a shaman.
    the state of california felt differently. the result is one of the most interesting books about the flaws of western medicine i ever read: anne fadiman: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (the hmong words for “seizure”.)
    fear not.
    xxx

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  89. On Saturday I decided to have a go at picking (I had been knitting a lot more than usual and my right side RSI was playing up something terrible). I’d been watching my friend Amanda knit the week before – she, being half American, was taught to pick rather than throw – and I thought how much more comfortable it looked to throwing. I learned to knit when I was a youngster, knit off and on in between, but only took it up again seriously in the past eight years, so that’s about 36 years of being a ‘thrower’

    So, I had a go at picking, it went better than I thought, though I did keep switching to throwing occasionally. What seemed to suffer was my tension between dpns (I was doing a sock) and I got the ‘ladders’ I have heard of but never found appearing before. Purling was a lot more tricky and I had to think hard about how it would be done! I think, with practice, it’ll prove a more ergonomically friendly way of knitting, for me at least.

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  90. Good luck with the specialist!

    I had no idea of the existence of knitting thimbles until I read your post, how fascinating!

    I learned English knitting as a child but taught myself Continental a couple of years ago, just for the fun of it. Knit stitches were a doddle to learn, but it took weeks of frustrating, hand-cramping practice before I mastered purling. It was well worth the effort though as I knit a lot faster and suffer a lot less from hand cramp than I used to with English.

    I’d never done colour work before I learned Continental, but find the simplest method for this is to hold one strand in each hand. Ambidextrous knitting, I love it!

    The red and white teaser is intriguing, I can’t wait to see more!

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  91. Thank you for the post and am waiting to see another inspiring knit soon.
    I was taught to pick and did this for decades. Then I became very interested in twined knitting and had to learn a new way to hold yarn and to throw. I am now quite happy with both ways, but there are times when I throw all times, and those times are when I am handling thicker yarns, like worsted weight or cotton yarn; the cotton can be even fingering weight and I feel more comfortable throwing. Sometimes I switch hands when I am knitting for a very long time to avoid injuries.
    When doing stranded knitting, I keep switching from one technique to another, sometimes holding one yarn in the left and the other in the right hand, and I cannot decide what is the best way.
    I somehow believe that this has to do with the feel of the yarn, I think that some yarns are better suited for throwing and some for picking (in my hands!), and this applies to stranded knitting too. I am quite happy now that I had to adjust my way and had to learn them both,
    All the best for the tests.

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  92. I learnt to knit English style but taught myself Continental for colourwork and then switched to knitting Continental as a matter of course a couple of years ago because I kept poking holes in my left forefinger knitting English style (my skin gets dry in winter and my 2.5mm sock needles worked down between the ridges of my fingerprints until they broke the skin). At first I tried purling Norwegian style, but I recently switched to the combination method, wrapping my purls the wrong way round and working into the back loop to untwist them, to try to get a more even tension. I definitely find Continental knitting faster now, but having changed once I’m quite open to the possibility of changing again if I find a better way!

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  93. I’m continental:) My grandma showed me how to knit when I was 7 and it’s so natural and easy for me now I’ve never tried to switch to English. Kniting both straight and twisted and purling straight and twisted (that’s how we call it in Poland), yo, colorwork with all colors secured in left hand. Fast and yes – right hand almost free:)
    But I do remember that beginings were hard: tension was very difficult to control and those uneven stitches;)

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  94. I knit Continental in that I hold the yarn in my left hand, but I do a small flicking throw with my left second and third fingers rather than a true picking motion with my right hand. I’ve found that the only other people who knit the exact same way I do all learned to crochet at a young age and picked up knitting many years later.
    I do all fair isle with all strands held in my left hand. The background color is held the same way I normally hold yarn (between my second and third finger) and the foreground color is held between my thumb and second finger. If I’m doing fair isle with more than two colors per row I just switch between the foreground colors with my thumb and second finger.

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  95. Kate,
    When I tried continental vs english, I had trouble at first, so I went to one of my favorite learning sites, which I call the “University of YouTube”. I typed in what I trying to learn an voila! There it was. If I didn’t get it from the first example, I tried another. So easy! Plus, when I was trying to learn Judy Becker’s Magic Cast-On for toes up socks, I was “taught” by the famous Cat Bordhi. If you haven’t tried it, YouTube is not all cat videos and Justin Beiber wannabees.
    Have a great day. PS Sometimes I pick, sometimes I throw, and sometimes I lever.

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  96. Interesting post and comments! I taught myself to knit English-style. I’ve never quite figured out why, but I always had trouble with inadvertently adding twist to my yarn as I knit so that I had to dangle my work to untangle it. I never got the hang of tensioning the yarn around my fingers, so I would generally “throw” by grasping the yarn between my thumb and forefinger and giving it a slight twist to counteract the inadvertently added twist. My stitches were pretty even, although loose. Though it wasn’t quite as complicated to execute as it sounds, I was determined to learn a more efficient way of knitting. After trying to analyze my hand and wrist movements (to no avail), I taught myself continental style, which solved my problem for the most part and which I now prefer. Took me a long time to get there, though. It’s hard when your soothing, comfortable hobby goes through an awkward phase!

    Haven’t tried any yarn-management gadgets yet . . .

    I hope the tests will be helpful, Kate.

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  97. Thinking of you getting to the specialist and those seizures can be controlled – no fun for you and family and I continue to be so inspired by your attitude and spirit and ‘production’ despite these problems!!! I was taught young the English method and honestly, I have never stuck with it long enough to learn any other method – stranded, I just keep yarn between 2 or 3 fingers and twist and carry as needed.

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  98. We knit the Continental style here in Finland but there seems to be variation in the purls. The basic styles are Continental and Norwegian but there’s lots of variation even among these groups. I once made a tiny survey in our (my sister’s & my) blog on whether there is a regional distribution between these styles but there weren’t enough data to make any definitive conclusions. I myself purl more or less the Continental way but without waving my left index finger or pressing the yarn or anything like that as I’ve seen done in some tutorial videos. There is a Finnish Master’s Thesis on the knitting styles from an ergonomical point of view: https://www.doria.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/3671/oikeinnu.pdf?sequence=2 (There’s an abstract in English.) And here’s me purling: http://mustikkajatyrni.blogspot.com/2009/03/ihan-nurjaa.html (The text only in Finnish, sorry).

    I absolutely love your blog and your passion for wool and other genuine things. I plan to knit your beautiful Boreal by using undyed wool yarn from two different Finnish breeds, Finnsheep and Kainuu Grey – I hope they work well together!

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  99. I think the way that you hold your yarn in your left hand makes all the difference in whether you find continental purling (and knitting) easy or not. I lay the yarn over my index finger, and hold it against my palm with the other three fingers – no wrapping, no twirling. When knitting, the yarn travels over my first knuckle, and I pick off my finger which is held right behind the work (not up in the air). The movement is very small.

    When purling, the yarn is held closer to the base of my finger, and travels over the lower phalanx. I enter the stitch on the needle, then scoop the working yarn with an upwards sweeping motion. At this point my needles are perpendicular to each other. Then my index finger, which has been resting on top of the left needle, moves forward and down, pressing the working yarn down briefly to allow me to push it through the stitch. The index finger then moves back to the top of the needle and helps to slide the new stitch off. Again, these are very, very, small movements. I purl at about the same speed that I knit.

    I tried the strickfingerhut briefly for colorwork, but really disliked being attached to my yarn. Now I have a sort of combined method, sometimes holding both yarns in my left hand and picking them as needed, sometimes using a 2-handed approach, especially when doing corrugated ribbing.

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  100. Hi Kate, I’ve been interested in the knitting thimbles but never worked up to trying one- I’ve only learned to knit stranded a year ago. After trying to stick with the left-yarn holding that I am used to, as I learned to knit continental before I knew there was a choice to be made about it, I finally decided to teach myself english style so I can knit with one color in each hand. I think it was E.Z. who inspired this and ultimately I am so grateful that I did. Only I have the opposite problem that you have- I can’t for the life of me figure out how to purl english style, though I’m sure I’ll find a tutorial somewhere if it becomes essential.
    An interesting note- my friend who taught me to knit taught me to knit through the back of stitches for some reason, so it was quite awhile before I discovered what I was doing- inadvertently twisting all my stitches. I had to reteach myself how to purl so as to not end up with twisted stitches. My first knit hat was made before I figured out the difference, and it turns out that it’s a good thing, because I knit it in a loosely spun singles yarn (Manos) and it would certainly be nearly unwearable by now. as it is, it shows a lot of wear but is still one of my favorite hats.

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  101. Dear Kate,
    I know there are strickfingerhuts for three and more colors, but I’ve tried them, and they are quite annoying to use, because it is nearly impossible to get the same tension for all strands … :-(
    You can see an example here:
    http://www.amazon.de/Prym-Handarbeitszubeh%C3%B6r-Strickfingerhut/dp/B000TQE3BW

    I’m a continental knitter, very left handed, and I had a right handed teacher — brrrr.
    All the best for your check-up,
    Eva

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  102. I am American but was taught to knit by my Swiss-German grandmother. She taught me to knit Continental. Yarn-overs are actually quite simple, just bring the yarn to the front of the needle and knit a stitch as usual and you automatically get the yarn over. When I first learned YO I was actually doing them wrong because I thought the right way seemed too easy. This little video on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sPt4Csq_Wg shows it quite simply. For color work I knit two handed after trying a few of those little devices but finding them more frustrating than helpful. I also kind of felt like I was cheating. I’m a figure-it-out-using-the-least-amount-of-tools sort of girl. That way I don’t have to keep track of yet one more tool. (Learned to cable without a cable needle for the same reason and it is SO much faster). Best of luck with the doctors. My husband gets seizures and was misdiagnosed for years before he finally found a neurologist who knew what they were.

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  103. I learned English but taught myself Continental when I wanted to start doing colorwork– I’m now a confirmed “picker”! I tried the strickfingerhut and didn’t like it– it was too fiddly and I like a little more tension on my yarn strands. For colorwork, I prefer to tension both strands around my left pinky finger and drape them alternately over my index and middle finger to maintain separation. It took some time to develop a rhythm with Continental purling, and I still dislike trying to K2tog Continental-style– I have to hook the yarn down with my right index finger– and oddly enough, when un-knitting, I still hold the yarn in my right hand. An interesting topic, as always– and I can’t wait to see your latest design!

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  104. I knit the English way but I don’t take my hand off the needle to wrap the yarn around, my right hand is under the needle and it’s only my forefinger that the yarn is wrapped around that moves. More like ‘flicking’ than ‘throwing’ I suppose. I tried to learn Continental as up till now I’ve been primarily a crocheter and thought it might suit me better but I just couldn’t get the hang of it at all, and it really made my hands ache. Also, as you’ve said, I couldn’t get my head around how purling, yarn over etc would work with that method. I’m so glad I discovered the speedier method of English knitting though as it suits me down to the ground. I haven’t tried any of the gadgets you mention here (didn’t even know they existed until I saw this post!) but am quite keen to have a go with them now.

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  105. I taught myself continental a few years ago in an attempt to knit faster, but purling was slow & clunky – Annie Modesitt’s ‘combination’ method is really useful for single colour stocking stitch. I use both hands for stranded knitting but going back to English throwing (in my case dropping the right needle & using the whole hand to throw the yarn) is slow, annoying and sometimes uncomfortable. I’ve used the Clover strickfingerhut and not found it of much use, but thought when I saw the other one you used that it might be better, and you’ve confirmed that. I shall search one out.

    Love your blog – as well as the fantastic patterns it’s very helpful with techniques.

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  106. So happy for your post!
    I am so glad you will be seeing a specialist and I am hoping for clear, good answers and a solution!
    Your new design looks like it may be for something I have been obsessing over lately (a fair isle scarf?) So I look forward to seeing more!
    I knit with both colors in my right hand. :)

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  107. I too am an “English” style knitter, using my index and middle finger on my right hand to carry the yarn when using 2 colours. Three is more difficult, and a lot slower. Having been knitting the same way for quite a long while I haven’t felt the need to learn a new way of doing things, but the love the fact that we all achieve similar results using so many different methods. It just shows there isn’t a right or wrong way to knit, just the right way for you. Can’t wait to see the new project, good luck with the head exam.

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  108. Kate, I know we will all be thinking of you and wishing you the the best news from your Neurologist. CeltChick is correct when she says “attitude is everything”.

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  109. I learned to knit English, but when I started knitting again, took a class on Continental. I thought it might work better for me since I’m left-handed. I do two-handed stranding usually. I found that I was a very tight knitter when I threw, and very loose now that I pick. Good luck with your tests!

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  110. I knit the Continental way and can purl and knit really fast and totally without looking. It’s completely natural and I could do it in my sleep. It’s no hindrance whatsoever for anything except colourwork*. Tension is always perfect without needing to swatch. So I’m a genius!

    *For colourwork I have to knit “Englishish” having taught myself when I started making Fairisles. I can now do it quite fast but it’s frustrating not to know if there’s a Continental way to do colourwork that might be better. Sadly, my mother’s no longer around to show me. I did devise a two handed method for myself in pre-internet years and am glad to know from other comments on here that this wasn’t a completely wacky idea – didn’t look great though, so I gave it up in preference for even-tension Englishish.

    I love the name of the Strickfingerhut – ‘knitting thimble’ – (Fingerhut – literally ‘finger hat’). I have one of these somewhere. I should have another go with it, perhaps. Off to Stockholm in a week or two, perhaps I’ll see what they use there.

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  111. Your knitting style does tend to determine how you construct garments – continental purling is a cumbersome stitch and seems to generate knitters who love working in the round on circulars etc. ‘English’ style knitting makes purling much easier (and almost as quick as knitting) so garments tend to be constructed flat with seams. I knit English style (but the needles are not tucked anywhere, they rest on my hands and I just flick the yarn around the needle with my 1st finger) but taught myself continental style because I have arthritis and varying your movements and giving yourself flexibility seemed like a good idea! It’s also handy for two colour knitting too. Because I was taught to knit English style it feels completely comfortable to me and I’m a fast knitter too. I like the theory of continental knitting for socks and the like but it always feels imposed and I have to keep a watchful eye even on plain stocking stitch.

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    1. I had a look for English style knitting on you tube and came across a video of Hazel Tindall (recently featured on your blog too) and she demonstrates that its perfectly possible to throw your yarn and still work up a head of steam! It’s control of the needles and keeping the movement of your fingers to a minimum which seems to be crucial, not the hand you hold your yarn or needles in.

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      1. I’m gonna have to look up that video – I don’t think my English style is slow, my index finger does most of the work. I could never figure out why it was called ‘throwing’ until I saw some awkward looking knitting on the Subway when I arrived in the US.

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      2. I’m glad someone mentioned Hazel Tindall. She’s proof if it were needed that throwing can be even quicker than picking. In my nearly 50 years of experience knitting, I’ve seen many styles of throwing, picking and combinations. I would observe merely that either style can be lightning fast in the hands of an experienced exponent of it. I’m personally a thrower who tried picking and reckoned that standing on my head (something I can’t do) would probably be easier. I’m ambidextrous in some respects but not where knitting is concerned. I’ve not tried either of the gadgets though they look as if practice might make them easier to use. I don’t do a lot of colourwork but when I do, I use some sort of mix – hold the yarns in my left hand but still knit using my right. Could that be why I don’t do much of it?! It works for me though I’m sure it gives others the horrors. But there’s another thing: there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to knit (or crochet), just ways that suit individual exponents.

        All the best for the medical tests, may they not be too taxing and tiring.

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  112. I learnt to knit the english way and after around 2 years taught myself to pick. I much prefer it and can manage everything I want to Continental style. My tension is now even after around 12 months and it is also tightening up after being incredibly loose initially. I tried using the knitting thimble (the blue plastic version) and I hated it. I found I couldn’t get any tension onto the yarn at all and it was so much work, I threw it away. I am now doing stranded colourwork with both hands and it is so much easier than it used to be than when I only used one!

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  113. Love your website! Love your knitting. I have some of those knitting aids and haven’t really been happy with them. I found a video on you tube that really works for me, both yarns are draped over your index finger, wrapped in opposing directions. Works better for me than anything else I have tried, it’s faster than two handed knitting too. The video is listed under stranded color work, the knitted piece is black and white, I think it was listed by hyperactiveknitting.

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  114. I learned to knit English style when I was 4 or so. My grandmother taught me and it was easier for me to get a good grip on the needles with my left while I moved the yarn with my right. I would drop the tail after each stitch and pick it back up. I then stopped knitting for 17 years or so and retaught myself from the internet. I used English till I went to a knitting shop and they said I should really not drop my yarn all the time. The only way I could figure out how not to drop the yarn was switching hands. I’ve been Continental for 8 years or so and enjoy it.

    For stranded… well, firstly I avoided like the plague. I have had 1 success and it was 2 colors 2 handed and I had to do the hat twice before my tension was OK. Good lick with the devices! I look forward to your answers so then I can try them!

    (Also, good luck with the doctors! Tests can be tiring and frustrating, but eventually they get us somewhere.)

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  115. If I’m stranding I knit as a thrower and use one hand (my right) and my first two fingers to keep yarn separated. I find when practicing color dominance it’s pretty easy to chug alone throwing and keeping the yarn untangled. If I knit something flat or with lots of ribbing then I knit continental, but my tension is much tighter so I have to be mindful. I have tried the thimble and found it frustrating, so I haven’t practiced with it. Good luck at the doctors :-)

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  116. I knit continental (I’m left-handed). For stranding, I keep a strand in each hand. Like many people here in the comments, interestingly enough, I find purling to be difficult in the method I do not normally use–for me, English purling is hard. However, I notice my tension when purling English is better (tighter) than my continental purling. Since I do so little colorwork, I find I have to relearn for each project the method I don’t use normally.

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  117. I knit in English style and although I’ve had various discussions at knit and natter evenings I can’t get my head around the continental style. I can appreciate that it maybe quicker so I may investigate and experiment when the light gets better. I am however going to Woolfest in the summer. Glastonbury is off this year so its Woolfest for me and I’m looking forward to it. I hope your meetings with the specialist goes well,

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  118. My grandmother was from Switzerland and had a neighbor teach my mother to knit, so she’d knit like the other Americans. But Grandma taught me to knit one summer, continental, and I’ve spent my life converting any time I needed to share information either in learning or in teaching. Recently I decided to knit something 2-color stranded and figured out how to do it two-handed, continental in the left hand and English in the right. It worked ok, but was a little cumbersome. I’m hoping the next time I use it will be easier.

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  119. Oooo…I’ve never seen those before! I knit continental and if I’m doing stranded knitting I like to hold both strands in my left hand, but I end up wrapping a hairband around my finger to keep them apart. Something like that would work much better.

    For the longest time purling was an absolute pain (I’d wrap the yarn around my thumb. Crazy!). After watching a video Craft Sanity made demonstrating continental, I made just a small change in how I held the yarn and now (after getting used to it) I can fly. I found the link and rewatched, and she talks a bit about purling continental. Just in case it’s helpful for you as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuRLFl36tDY

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  120. I’ve had a similar experience in my knitterly life. I’ve been knitting English since I taught myself, but felt that I needed to switch for efficiency’s sake. Having tried both the strickfingerhut and the plastic doo-dad and being dissatisfied with the results of both (wrist pain, and frequent entanglements), I transitioned to holding one color in each hand.
    Even that didn’t last – purling tripped me up! A most counter-intuitive series of movements.
    Now, I hold both yarns in my right hand, the dominant yarn held back around my middle finger, the background color wrapped around my index finger. I don’t throw but dip my finger and slip the needle around the yarn – it’s a hybrid between English and Continental.
    It’s absolutely amazing how much variety exists among knitting techniques. Congratulations on the specialist, & good luck!

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  121. I recently learn to purl the portuguese way (with the yarn around the neck) and it is a great change in my knittings! Easier for me as I am left handed. But I still cannot knit the continental way even if the yarn is on the left hand. I should give it another try.

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  122. Hello, Kate – I’m an American also; but my mom taught me to knit continental over 50 years ago, and that was always the way that I knit. About 10-15 years ago due to my love of Fair Isle knitting, I forced myself to learn how to knit with one color in each hand. It was going along swimmingly, until some nice knitter showed me how to keep both colors in my left hand; much easier for me, and my tension is great, and my hands don’t hurt one little bit.

    Being a gadget lover also, I collected all of the little tools that you have shown, but they did nothing but slow me down and get in the way … I guess I just love to knit “commando” ;o)

    The project that I’m in the middle of right now calls for a third color every 5th round, so I carry the two contrast colors on my middle finger and the main color on my index – all on my left hand!

    I’ve plenty of experience with neurologists and seizures (my daughter) and I don’t envy you one bit for having them, and hope with all of my heart that they get to the bottom of the problem – won’t turn this into a medical post, but will just wish you the best of luck!

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  123. Hey, Kate! I learned English style, but taught myself Continental for colorwork (after making a hat that required me to stop every row and untangle the mess I was making pulling from the balls). I find that I enjoy KNITTING Continental, so long as I have the English yarn holding the work and keeping the tension. Otherwise my knits are super loose (and I am already a loose knitter!). Continental purls, however, might be the oddest set of movements I have ever attempted to master. I have tried multiple times, but I am extremely right hand dominant and just can’t get those movements to stick! They seem unnatural, and in the amount of time I spend trying I could have purled 3 times as much English style.
    For colorwork, I continue to knit two handed, and so long as I don’t have to stop to think about the pattern too much I am much faster at colorwork than regular knitting.

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  124. I can only knit in the continental style, where purling is definitely slower than knitting. That’s why Elizabeth Zimmermann (a left-hand thread holder) was so fond of circulars. That pain in your wrist is a real worry: you may develop tendonitis that will just get worse and worse. I was able once to figure out what exactly caused a pain to develop, and teach myself a slightly different way to hold the needles. However, that pain was in my left elbow. I don’t know what would cause pain in the right wrist, but I bet you (of all knitters) will be able to tease it out. You Tube has many videos of continental purling, each holding the needles a little differently. Maybe one of these can help.

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  125. Hi Kate

    Have you ever attempted the “:portuguese/turkish hold” style of knitting? It’s probably the original method of knitting. The crusaders liked the knit fabrics they found, but having slaughtered the knitter, had to reverse engineer the method and came up with throwing and picking.

    Purling this way is purely intuitive. Knitting somewhat less so, but it frees up a lot of fingers for multistranded knitting. I came across it when I was told by my hand surgeon that knitting was great therapy for hands provided you mix things up a bit. I am still inclined to throw rather than pick or do around the neck (especially for lace), but whenever I have a piece of straight stockinette I always do the purl rows with this method. You might look up Andrea Wong for a look see…

    Right now I am enamored of lace knitting (shetland to be specific) but intrigued and enchanted by your color work. I’ll come around to it in a while I’m sure.

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  126. I am an English knitter, born and bred (mother, aunts and grandmother included). I wanted to try some stranded work so taught myself Continental to be able to have the yarns in two hands. I still find it awkward, especially with heavier weight yarn, and my last project resulted in a painful left thumb. I was curious about those devices – thanks for the review. Maybe I’ll stick to stranding with fingering weight yarns. For some reason I find that much less awkward, almost enjoyable! And I do love the end result.

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  127. Hi Kate,

    I learned to knit English style as a lot of people on the Nethrlands do. Later I learned to knit two handed when working stranded knitting. I feel not comfortable knitting only continental and since knitting must be enjoyable I stick to English style knitting.

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  128. I learned English many years ago but wanted to learn Continental because I thought it would be faster (it is for me). It never clicked until one day when I was crocheting and realized I was doing basically the same motions required by Continental. I picked up the knitting and was quickly comfortable knitting, but purling Continental was another story. I experimented and watched several YouTube videos until I finally found a style that works for me. I’m now completely comfortable with both methods. I have tried the little plastic thimble and found it did not work well for me–tensioning and tangling problems. With what little colorwork I have done, holding some strands on one hand and some on the other while combining picking and throwing has yielded the best results.

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  129. I’m an American and my mom taught me to knit English style. I tried switching but then did not – I like my hands to look the way my mother’s hands looked when she knitted. I don’t care if it is slower.
    Best of luck at the Dr, I hope you get some useful information. I love red and white, can’t wait to see what you have.

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  130. I taught myself how to knit English as a child, and about ten years ago tried to switch to Continental after being mocked mercilessly by some students at the slowness of English. I can knit but not purl Continental, and as much as I have tried to convert my ways I feel so much more comfortable throwing. What’s interesting is I have been feeling so self conscious about the way I knit, as it seems all the ‘cool kids’ are zipping along Continental-y…..but when I saw that you threw I stood a little straighter and began to throw with more pride!
    Yes, its slower, but what I have realized after trying to switch over to Continental again and again is…..what’s the freakin’ rush?

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  131. I started out knitting with the yarn held in my right hand but soon discovered that using my left hand to hold the yarn felt much more natural and I am able to knit much faster. In addition, purling is *much* easier for me with my left hand.
    I have used the Norwegian knitting thimble for several colorwork projects and I find that although it is good at keeping the two strands separate, I have a lot of difficulty tensioning the two strands equally. I also have trouble with the thimble twisting too far around to the “front” of my index finger, although I should probably try using an elastic band as friction to maintain a comfortable position.
    If I am working on a large project, I find that I am most comfortable using both hands to manipulate the strands – main color (and dominant) in the left and contrast in the right. The quality of my work suffers a great deal when I am required to purl in colorwork since I apparently have a lot of issues maintaining an even tension using my right hand to purl. I should try the Norwegian knitting thimble the next time a colorwork project requires purling.

    Let us know if you find any interesting trends about yarn guides and knitting thimbles!

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  132. I learned to knit English and Continental as a child—my grandmother knitted one way and my mother knitted the other, and they both taught me—so into teenagerhood I switched off styles between projects as whim struck and liked to knit stranded colourwork with a yarn in each hand (or one yarn in one hand and two in the other if stranding with three colours). Then I sustained a series of injuries to my left hand and wrist, the ultimate result of which is that my thumb moves stiffly and gets sore easily and I don’t have the finest-grained control over my left ring and little fingers. I have always tensioned my yarn by looping it around the little finger and weaving it under the ring and middle fingers then over the index finger at the tip, but now that’s a slow and frustrating process with the left hand and it wears me out, so I hold both colours in the right hand and just accept that it’s kind of slow compared to my usual cruising speed (yarn tensioned by right hand, throwing).

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  133. Attitude is everything, especially when dealing with health issues–and you have what I consider to be the most useful attitude, eager to know just what is going on inside your own head. I hope this will be an issue that will diminish in it’s effects on your life.
    I am once again trying to learn Continental knitting, through various sources (books, videos), all of which state rather baldly that purling isn’t at all smooth or effortless until one becomes practiced in the technique. This is almost enough to turn me away, but I really want to pick up my speed so will try & try, ala Kate Davies’ inspiration, to develop my strength. Chin up!

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  134. I knit continental. I tried one of the spring thimbles, but I have small fingers and the thing slides way too far down my finger. I have been trying to teach myself to hold one color in each hand, but although I’m fairly ambidextrous, for some reason I can’t seem to get the hang of carrying yarn in my left hand.

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  135. I learnt to knit using the ‘lever’ method (right needle tucked under arm). This is much faster than the usual ‘picking’ way of “English” knitting (my mother is a Scot!) but I was introduced to circular needles and continental knitting whilst on a work-placement in Germany in the late eighties. Since I had to adapt my knitting style to use circular needles anyway I found it easy to switch to continental. I actually found my tension was more even (my purl rows were previously looser). Now I prefer this method as it makes my knitting more transportable. As an ex amateur violinist I have quite good dexterity in my left hand. I’m sure when I start on stranded/fair lsle work this will stand me in good stead.

    Good luck with the head exams!

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  136. I knit continental style. i originally learned, then re-learned, English style. But, a very good friend insisted that I try continental style when i was getting back into knitting and now I can’t imagine not knitting that way. However, I do stranded color knitting in a two handed style. The throwing with the right hand certainly slows things down. I purchased a metal thimble like the one you showed, but I haven’t tried it yet and don’t know where it’s got to. I’ve been trying to use longer floats, as you suggested, on the rams and yowes blanket, but still trap the yarn every 6 stitches or so. I notice that the rams section got to being done in a tighter gauge so I am trying to loosen up again and I’m hoping that agressive blocking will help. The red and white look very cheerful – I look forward to the completed project. And, good luck with your medical check-ups. I do hope they find something useful to tell you to stop those dreadful seisures.

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  137. I was an English knitter when I first learned, but quickly switched to Continental. I credit the switch to the fact that crochet was my first yarn-craft, and I found picking to be more analogous to my style of crochet. I also have one of those Norwegian thimbles and I *love* it–it makes my life so much easier when doing stranded knitting, since I just can’t seem to handle two handed knitting–I end up getting completely tangled in my work.

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  138. Hi Kate! My Nana taught me to knit continental style when I was 6 – her mum taught her when she was little, in the 1920s in Manchester. My great grandmother was a young war bride from Switzerland, who moved with my badly injured English great grandfather and supported her family of 5 by selling her knitwear. I owe her my knitting style, and I can’t imagine switching, though I have tried. I can’t quite get the hang of sticking the right needle end under my arm to free the hand to pick throw the yard for each stitch – the coordination is beyond me and how does one ever use short circular needles? I am mystified.
    On the other hand stranded colour work with more than 4 stitches at a time does look a lot easier and less tangled English style.
    What I want to know – which hand would you use to pick up a cup of tea, and how long does it take to get started again when it’s back on it’s coaster? I do like holding everything in my left hand and having the right hand *almost* free.
    I knitted up a lovely orange Owls jumper over Christmas – buttons are potted and in the kiln – and am just casting on a green one a size smaller. You may well be right about the tension!

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  139. I am German and knit the (german) continental way doing stranded with both hands which I find give me the best tension. I have tried one of those devices (the metal one) but find it more cumbersome and slower, also it tangles the yarn which is annoying.
    Looking forward to meeting you at Woolfest…and good luck with your visit to the ‘quack’. :-)

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  140. Hi Kate,
    I always knitted with long straights one tucked under my oxter and throwing (but only with my finger not my whole hand). A few years back I decided to teach myself continental in order to knit socks with 5 dpns. I really enjoy knitting this way but my purling is restricted to the ribbing, preferably k2 p1. I think I do Norwegian purl (see comment above) but I much prefer the throwing style of purl. I can’t do this with long straights though. So any stocking stitch, flat object is still knit in the throwing style.
    I havent done much stranded work so cant comment on the devices in your post.
    Good luck with the neurological tests!

    Dawn

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    1. Just realised I made a slip in my original post, when I said I cant do that with long straights, I actually meant short dpns. i.e. I cant throw while using short dpns

      Glad I could sort that out :)

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  141. I’ve knit English ever since I was a little girl and first learned how to knit. I can knit Continental, but not very quickly… I really only taught myself in order to demonstrate techniques to those who are Continental knitters and can’t translate English-Continental in their own heads. I’ve heard many people say that Continental is faster, but I consider myself a fairly quick knitter and am perfectly happy knitting English-style!

    I’ve never used any of the devices (although I was given one many years ago much like the one in the first picture) and I just hold both yarns (for 2 colour knitting) in my right hand, separated by a finger, and then I twist them over and under each other when necessary… I’ve made a couple of videos detailing it, available on my blog and youtube for anyone who might be interested.

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    1. I do the same thing – both colours in my right hand. When I started doing colourwork for the first time, someone recommended to do it one colour in each hand, but it was a total disaster for me. When I twigged I could hold both in my right hand I was away! I figured it out slowly, but just as you say – separated by a finger or two (dominant over my index and second colour over my ring finger).

      It has more to do with muscle memory than anything else. I manage to be pretty ambidextrous at work and the piano, but not at knitting.

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      1. Funny, I used to play the piano and I can do ambidextrous things in other places, but with knitting I’m almost totally right handed. Even the little bits of crocheting I do, I “throw” the yarn with my right hand (which makes my crocheting friends cringe…).

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  142. I learned right handed, and taught myself to pick. I tried a couple of those gadgets quite a few years ago, and found them, for me, to be more trouble than help. I have also tried to carry both colors in my left hand, but then my tension is problematic. So, I carry a color in each hand and accept that it although it will be a bit slower, it is at least reliably even. Good luck with the medical visits.

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  143. I’m a Continental knitter who’s taught herself English knitting too (I find it’s easier for colourwork to work it two-handed) though I still struggle with English purling. My purls are Finnish purls – I used to think I purled Norwegian style, but a recent kerfuffle in Danish knitting blog circles made me realise that I didn’t. I continue to have issues with my left wrist, so I have experimented with other purling techniques, but my Finnish purl is quickest and most even. English-style knitting seems to be a lot slower .. I wonder if there is a scientific study of just how long the various hand movements take?

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