Untwisted stitches: Left-handed, continental combined knitting

Background

I first learned to knit from my mom but after many dropped stitches, I gave it up. I was reintroduced to knitting by a co-worker, who very patiently talked me through it and provided me with a couple sets of needles and some bright pink wool to practice on. She was right-handed, so I had to try and reverse whatever she was doing in order to do it left-handed. I made a couple of projects, including a very complex cabled Michael Kors jumper:

It wasn’t long before I realised, however, that some of my stitches were twisted. I scoured my knitting books and looked online for tutorials and help on how to knit left-handed without twisting stitches. I can’t say it was easy. My next few projects had straight stitches when created on the knit side, but twisted stitches when created on the purl side. Eventually, I got it – the style and method of knitting that was quickest, easiest and twist-free for me is left-handed, continential combined knitting. So below, I offer a tutorial for left-handed knitters – this isn’t the only way to knit left-handed and it isn’t without difficulties – you still have to reverse cables, manage left and right leaning decreases and knitting in the round requires wrapping the wool differently – but for those who might find the combined and/or continental style more comfortable and quicker, I hope this photo tutorial helps.

Definitions

The left-handed bit should be fairly straightforward – left-handed knitters work by moving stitches from the right needle to the the left.

Continental refers to which hand holds the wool. A left-handed continental knitter will hold the wool in his/her right hand. This is in contrast to picking, in which a left-handed knitter would hold the wool in his/her left hand. Simple as that. There is more about  Continential Knitting on Wikipedia

Combined refers to how the stitches are oriented on the right-hand needle and where you place the left needle in order to create a stitch. Annie Modesitt seems to be the guru of combined knitting and her Annie Modesitt.com website has lots of info about it (again, written for right-handers). The advantages, as she lists them, seem to be more even knitting and the ability to knit more quickly without as much pressure on the wrists. I have to say I just find it easier.

It seems to be quite common for combined knitters to also knit in the continental style.

the knit stitch

Working a stockinette fabric with the stitches on the right needle (knit or right side)

Stockinette knit stitches

1. When you knit in the combined style, your knit stitches will be oriented with the leading leg of the stitch on the back of the needle, as seen below:

Knit stitch orientation on the needle

the leading leg of your next stitch, or the bit of the wool loop that connects to the stitch on the left needle, is on the back of the needle

2. Insert your left needle straight into the stitch on the right needle, with the left needle going behind the right needle:

Inserting the needle for the knit stitch

the left needle goes straight into (or from front to back) the stitch on the right needle

3. With your right hand, move the wool under the left needle so you can scoop the wool through to create a stitch on the left needle before moving the old stitch off the right needle.

Wool placement for a knit stitch

The wool goes under the point of the left needle so it can be scooped through to create a stitch

Scoop the wool through the stitch on the right needle to create a new stitch on the left needle. Then drop the stitch off the right needle

the purl stitch

Working a stockinette fabric with the stitches on the right needle (purl or wrong side)

1. When you purl in the combined style, your purl stitches will be oriented with the leading leg of the stitch on the front of the needle, as seen below:

the leading leg of your next stitch, or the bit of the wool loop that connects to the stitch on the left needle, is on the front of the needle

2. Insert your left needle straight into the stitch on the right needle, with the left needle going in front of the right needle:

the left needle goes straight into (or from front to back) the stitch on the right needle

3. With your right hand, move the wool under the left needle so you can scoop the wool through to create a stitch on the left needle before moving the old stitch off the right needle.

The wool goes under the point of the left needle so it can be scooped through to create a stitch

Scoop the wool through the stitch on the right needle to create a new stitch on the left needle. Then drop the stitch off the right needle

Also check out

MommyDiane on youtube has some good videos on knitting left-handed, along with a website and a DVD. She wraps her wool in the opposite direction from the instructions above – the main thing is that you end up with untwisted stitches

Happy stitching!