How to Hold Your Yarn While You Knit

Californian, Continental, and English

About the Three Styles

Historically, there have been two major styles of knitting in the world: English (or "throw") and Continental (or "picking"). 

The main difference between them is which hand you hold your yarn in when you knit; the English style uses the right hand, whereas Continental knitters use their left. Specifically, Continental knitters wrap the yarn around their index finger making it easy to grab the yarn with your needle quickly.

Continental Knitting is almost always a faster, more efficient way to work, since the yarn can be quickly grabbed with the needle and both hands can stay on the needles. In English style knitting, the right hand has to be taken off the right needle in order to wrap the yarn around the needle.

Traditionally, when someone is learning knitting for the first time, they are taught the English method since it's easier than jumping right into Continental (which requires more dexterity). But once someone learns the English method it's often difficult for them to switch to Continental later.

This is why we teach brand new knitters the Californian Style. It's a perfect mix between the two styles, where you wrap with your left hand, but it doesn't require as much dexterity as Continental knitting. It also allows a beginner to switch over to Continental very easily!

What Style Should I Use?

Use the Californian Style if you've never knit before. This is the best method for brand new beginners! You can also use this style if you previously learned one of the other methods and want to ease your way into knitting Continental.

If you have learned to knit before, you want to use the same style you learned when you knit before. Even if it was 30+ years ago, our muscles often remember much better than our brains. So if you learned English, relearn using the English style. And if you learned Continental, stick to Continental (it's the best one to use, anyway). 

If you're not sure which style you learned before, try out both English and Continental Styles (you can see all three styles on our Knit Stitch Tutorial page) and see what feels best to you. If they feel the same, we recommend going with Californian or Continental!

How Our Tutorials Work

We film every tutorial in all three styles. Just check the top left of each video to see which style you're watching. If a video doesn't specify which style it is, it means it's the same for all three!

Holding Yarn for Continental Knitting

There is no technically correct way to hold yarn for Continental knitting; you can do it however works best for you. The videos below are a couple techniques to try out, then adjust if necessary. Don't worry if it takes a bit to feel natural, it's a tricky thing to learn!

This is the way most Continental knitters wrap the yarn around their fingers:

If the yarn seems too loose in your hand, try adding an extra wrap around your pinky, like so:

If you practice these methods for a while and it still doesn't seem to be working for you, we encourage you to find your own way!

Like we've said, there's no wrong way to hold your yarn (as long as you're wrapping the yarn around the needle in the right direction, that is).

There's really no limits, either. We've even met someone who threaded the yarn through their toes to get the right tension! So don't lose hope if you don't get it right away, and try everything!