Problem with Thread Tension


I learned to knit last summer and was taught by my MIL. She taught me the english or throw method, and I’ve used it up until this past weekend when we went to visit my husband’s grandparents and I saw his grandma knitting “differently.”

After browsing this site (thank you for your videos!!) I realized she was knitting continentally. Being the crafty person that I am, I just had to try it for myself. And after reading, it seems that continental knitting generally has a reputation for being a bit faster. With several ambitious knitting projects on the horizon that I want to complete in time for the holidays this year (yes, I’m starting this early! haha) I decided to teach myself continental and see which I find more efficient. I know it’s Amy’s preferred method, and she mentions that knowing both methods is good later down the road for stranding colour work. Anyway…

I’ve hit my first road block on the highway to learn continental… tension.

I’ve watched the videos again and again and I try to replicate the way the yarn is held in the left hand but I just can’t seem to quite get it. I can’t get the yarn to “flow” freely and smoothly through my hands when I hold the yarn in various methods, even though I try. It just feels so funny and I’m not sure what I am doing wrong. I’ve not had this issue before with the english throw method – I just kinda let the yarn hang there off to the right and throw it over and don’t do anything special to even out my tension. Bad, I know.

Does anyone have any advice or tips/tricks to holding the yarn properly and having it smoothly flow along my hand/between my fingers as I hold it to keep even tension or am I doomed to never pick up continental? Or is it just a matter of me practicing and that’s it? I’m determined!

Thanks for any insight :slight_smile:

I think it really maybe trial and error and practice.

I can’t get my tension to look near as good or flow as well with continental as I can with English. But I have not practiced it a lot as I really don’t like it much.

I’d say if you really want to change just keep at it. And the way you were doing it with English isn’t wrong or bad, if you are enjoying it and liking the results, that’s what matters. For a long time I never looped my yarn around any fingers. I do now cuz I had some slick yarn and I got used to it and now it’s what I prefer.


I’m an Eng ‘thrower’ and tension is also an issue with Cont, esp purling, so I always end up reverting back to the tried and true.

Cont won’t end up being faster for you if you’re not happy with the appearance of your sts or struggle with the tension. If you have projects needing to be finished soon use whichever method doesn’t stress you and affords the best results.


Continental isn’t necessarily faster than english, it depends on the knitter, the yarn, needles and fabric. Practice the continental to get better at tension, but you might be just as fast english style too.

I knit continentally and sometimes you have to loop the yarn over your pinkie twice. I’m knitting some socks from a fingerling alpaca and I have to double loop it.

When I was learning I found that a little hand lotion really helped. If my hands were really dry the yarn slipped much more and I had a hard time gripping it. I would put some lotion on my hands, rub it in and they were more grippy.

Other than that, everyone is right. It just takes practice.

Thanks for the advice, everyone! I might try some hand lotion or I might just stick with what I know instead. I plan to practice and see how it goes! I need to figure the tension thing out because it seems that’s also an issue for me learning crochet :\ hehe

Thank you very much! :slight_smile: I’ll work on it and try some of your suggestions

That so funny that you mention hand lotion, because it is the opposite for me. The minute I put on lotion there is no flow at all! Crazy.

The correction tension will come with loads of practice. I started out English but wanted to make my mom some seed-stitch washcloths last Christmas. It just seemed easier going from the knit to the purl stitch by doing it continental. Now I can’t even remember English! You’ll get it! Have faith in the knitting fairies!

I am considerably weaker since chemo and now knit dolls or childrens items with short needles but my purl rows are noticeably bigger than my knit.
I have tried using a smaller needle for purl but not happy with the result.
Anyone any ideas please, it is so good to be able to knit again!!!

I learned Continental because I couldn’t get the hang of English knitting, now I can do k sts English, p sts need a lot more work. I did crochet for many years before learning to knit. My thought is, if you are learning crochet, forget the Continental knitting for a while, concentrate on learning to crochet, then you can transfer the way to hold your yarn for crochet to your knitting. I find that I “rock” my left hand forward and backward rather than having so much movement with my left index finger when moving the yarn from front to back to front to back again, if you can make any sense of that.

Put an extra wrap around your finger when doing a purl row? Knit in the round to avoid the purls?

Knit in the round to avoid the purls?

YES!!! My favorite, Sue!!!