how to hold yarn when knitting

Master How to Hold Yarn When Knitting: A Comprehensive Guide

Proper yarn-holding techniques are essential for achieving smooth and accurate stitches in knitting. Proficiency in yarn control and tension can significantly impact knitting quality, regardless of experience level.

There are different methods and techniques for holding yarn when knitting, each with its advantages and disadvantages. This comprehensive guide will explore the various yarn-holding styles and provide tips and resources to improve your knitting skills.

Learn the art of correctly holding your hook and yarn, and explore the nuances of maintaining yarn tension during knitting!

Key Takeaways:

  • Understanding yarn tension and control is crucial for achieving consistent stitches.
  • The traditional English or throwing style and the continental or pick style are the most common yarn-holding techniques.
  • The combination, flicking, and lever styles are hybrid approaches that can benefit speed and accuracy.
  • Choosing the suitable yarn for your preferred holding style can impact the quality of your work.
  • Practice and persistence are essential for mastering yarn-holding techniques.

how to hold yarn when knitting

Understanding Yarn Tension and Control

Proper yarn holding for knitting is crucial to achieving consistent tension and control, resulting in tidy stitches. The best way to hold yarn for knitting varies from person to person, and different yarn tension techniques can affect the finished product.

One key factor in tension and control is the yarn used between each stitch. When too much or too little yarn is pulled through a stitch, the tension becomes uneven, and the stitches may look loose or tight. This is why finding a yarn-holding method for consistent tension is essential.

A common issue with new knitters is accidentally dropping stitches, which can cause tension problems and slow the knitting process. This can be avoided by correctly holding the yarn and working consistently.

Some knitters prefer a looser or tighter tension for different projects or yarn weights. The trick is finding a method that suits your style and makes you comfortable.

One helpful technique is to wrap the yarn around your fingers in a particular way to create a “yarn guide” that controls the amount of yarn flowing between each stitch. Another helpful tip is to keep your hands relaxed and comfortable, avoiding excessive tension that can lead to hand fatigue and stiff stitches.

Consistent yarn tension and control come with practice; the more you practice, the closer you get to perfection. Experimenting with different holding styles and techniques can help you find the best way to hold yarn for knitting that suits your needs and preferences.

The Traditional Method: English or Throwing Style

The traditional English or throwing style of yarn holding is a popular method for beginners because it is easy to understand and does not require a lot of movement. It involves holding the working yarn in the right hand and “throwing” it over the needle with each stitch.

Hold the working yarn between your forefinger and middle finger and wrap it around your little finger. Grip the needle in your right hand and position it before the first stitch on the left-hand needle. Use your right hand to wrap the working yarn over the needle counterclockwise from back to front, creating a loop around the needle. Use the needle to pull the loop through the first stitch on the left-hand needle, dropping the original stitch off the left-hand needle.

Continue working this way, always wrapping the working yarn over the needle before pulling the loop through the next stitch. Be sure to keep the yarn taut but not too tight. Practice maintaining even tension and speed until the movements become natural.

Tips for Holding Yarn While Knitting

  • Keep your wrists relaxed, and avoid clenching the needle or yarn.
  • Experiment with different finger placements to find what feels most comfortable and efficient for you.
  • Practice maintaining consistent tension by paying attention to the amount of slack in the working yarn.
  • Try different yarn-holding styles to see what works best for you.

The Continental Method: Pick or Picking Style

The continental method, also known as the pick or picking style, is another popular yarn-holding technique in knitting. This style is frequently used in Europe and is becoming increasingly popular in the United States.

In this method, the yarn is held in the left hand, and tension is controlled by wrapping the yarn around the pinky and over the index finger. The yarn is then held between the middle and ring fingers. When forming a stitch, the needle is inserted into the stitch from the front, and the yarn is picked up by the needle using the right-hand tip. The yarn is pulled through the stitch, creating a new loop on the right-hand needle.

Many knitters find the continental method faster and more efficient than the English style, as it requires less hand movement. It also creates an even tension and is ideal for knitting stranded colorwork, allowing easy switching between colors.

However, it can be challenging for beginners to master this technique, as it requires coordination and agility in the left hand. One tip for practicing the continental method is to start with small projects, such as dishcloths or scarves, and focus on developing muscle memory and control.

Advantages of the Continental Method:

  • Efficient and fast
  • Creates even tension
  • Ideal for colorwork and stranded knitting

Disadvantages of the Continental Method:

  • It can be challenging for beginners
  • Requires coordination and agility in the left-hand

Ultimately, choosing a yarn-holding technique is a matter of personal preference and comfort. Some knitters prefer the traditional English style, while others swear by the continental method or a combination of both. The key is practicing and refining your technique, experimenting with different styles, and choosing the best method for your knitting style and preferences.

Combination Knitting: A Hybrid Approach

The combination knitting method, also known as the combination-style or combined-style, is a hybrid approach that combines elements from English and continental styles. This method can be valuable for knitters who find the traditional styles uncomfortable or inefficient.

With combination knitting, you hold your working yarn in the left hand as in the continental method, but you insert your right-hand needle into the stitch from the back to the front, as in the English method. This allows for a different tension, resulting in a looser and more even fabric.

One of the benefits of combination knitting is that it can save time since it requires fewer movements and can be faster than traditional methods. The looser tension can make working with chunky or bulky yarns easier.

If you want to try the combination method, experiment with your hand positioning and tension until you find a comfortable technique. One common way to hold the needles is to place the right needle under the left arm and flick the yarn around the needle with the left hand, similar to the lever style, but without the extra motion of throwing the yarn over the needle.

Because combination knitting is less well-known than the traditional methods, it may take some time to get used to it. However, it can be a valuable addition to your knitting toolkit and give you more options for different projects and yarns.

Flicking or Lever Style: A Speedier Technique

The flicking or lever style of holding yarn when knitting is a fast and efficient technique popular among speed knitters. Rather than wrapping the yarn around the needle with each stitch, the flicking method involves using a quick flick of the finger or lever to guide the yarn over the needle. This results in a quicker and more fluid motion, making it an excellent option for knitters to increase speed.

Hold the working yarn in your right hand, resting it over your index finger and your middle finger. Hold the yarn on the underside of your index finger with your thumb. Rather than using your index finger to wrap the yarn around the needle, use your middle finger or a knitting needle held in your left hand to flick the yarn over the needle.

Mastering the flicking technique hinges on dedicated practice. Start with small swatches to get the hang of the motion and work up to larger projects. Keep your movements fluid, and avoid pulling the yarn too tightly or letting it become too loose.

While the flicking method can be an excellent option for knitters looking to increase their speed, it can take some time to get used to. If you’re new to knitting, starting with a slower method, such as the English or continental styles, may be helpful before attempting the flicking technique.

Integrating the flicking technique into your knitting skills can significantly enhance your speed and efficiency. You can become proficient in this method and elevate your knitting abilities to the next level with dedication and patience.

Holding Yarn for Specialty Stitches and Techniques

While the conventional English and continental yarn-holding styles are practical for fundamental stitches, certain specialty stitches and techniques necessitate alternative approaches to yarn handling. These techniques call for precision and control to execute successfully, and using the wrong yarn-holding method can lead to uneven or messy stitches.

It’s essential to keep the tension consistent for cables to avoid loose or tight rows. A common technique is to hold the cable needle in front or back of the work while slipping the intended number of stitches onto it before knitting the next stitches from the working needle with the regular yarn-holding method.

For lace, a looser tension is often required. This is achieved by wrapping the yarn around the needles more loosely and spreading the yarn in the right hand more openly than when working basic stitches.

For colorwork, many knitters find weaving the yarns in their non-working hands helpful, carrying the strands across the work’s back. Keeping the floats (the carried yarn) loose enough to avoid puckering but not too loose to avoid snagging is essential. This method is balanced (most of the time) by working alternate color stitches, which helps anchor the carried yarn to the fabric.

Choosing the Right Yarn for Your Holding Style

Choosing the suitable yarn for your knitting style is crucial for achieving the best results. Several factors, such as fiber content, weight, and texture, can influence the compatibility of yarn and yarn-holding methods.

For example, if you prefer the English or throwing style, you may opt for smoother yarn with minimal texture to avoid snagging or splitting. On the other hand, if you prefer the continental or picking style, you can benefit from using slightly coarser yarn with more grip to maintain tension.

Another critical factor is the weight of the yarn. Thicker yarn may require more grippy yarn holding styles, while thinner yarn may need looser techniques to avoid too much tension. Additionally, the texture of the yarn can also influence yarn-holding techniques. For example, fuzzy or novelty yarn may require adjustments in tension and grip to achieve the desired effect.

Ultimately, experimentation and practice are the best ways to choose the suitable yarn for your holding style. Experiment with different yarn weights, textures, and fibers to find what works best for you. Remember that your holding style can adapt and evolve, so don’t be afraid to try new things.

Troubleshooting Common Yarn Holding Issues

Even with practice, knitters may encounter issues with yarn control and tension. Here are some common problems and solutions for improving your yarn-holding technique:

Issue Solution
Yarn slipping off fingers Adjust tension or try different yarn-holding techniques like flicking or lever style.
Uneven tension Practice consistent tension with the chosen technique, adjust the grip, or try a different yarn-holding method.
Tight or loose stitches Adjust tension or try a different yarn-holding style
Straining hand or wrist Take frequent breaks, stretch your hand and wrist, and adjust your grip or technique.

Remember that mastering yarn-holding techniques takes time and patience. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks, but continue to practice and adjust your technique as needed.

Practicing and Refining Your Yarn Holding Technique

Mastering yarn-holding techniques requires patience and practice. The more you knit, the more familiar you become with your preferred method and the more adept you will be at controlling tension and achieving consistent stitches. Here are some exercises and resources to help you refine your yarn-holding technique:

  • Pick up some scrap yarn and experiment with different holding techniques to find what feels comfortable. The traditional English method may feel natural for some, while others may prefer the continental or flicking style. Try each method for a few rows to see which one feels most comfortable, allowing you to maintain consistent tension.
  • Practice knitting different stitches and techniques to improve your yarn-holding skills. If you need help with a particular stitch or technique, try knitting a small swatch with the same yarn and needles until you feel more comfortable with the movement.
  • Watch video tutorials to improve your technique. Countless online resources are available for knitters of all skill levels, from YouTube channels to social media groups. Watch videos of experienced knitters to learn new techniques and improve your skills.
  • Join a knitting group or club to learn from experienced knitters and get feedback on your technique. Knitting groups offer a supportive environment for knitters to learn from one another and receive feedback on their work.

Remember, consistent practice is critical to mastering yarn-holding techniques. Keep practicing and experimenting until you find the best method for you, and it helps you achieve the beautiful, polished stitches you want.


Mastering yarn-holding techniques is an essential skill for any knitter, as it can affect the quality and appearance of your work. By experimenting with different methods, practicing regularly, and troubleshooting common issues, you can improve your yarn control and tension for smoother, even stitches. Remember to choose the suitable yarn for your preferred holding style and adjust your technique for specialty stitches.

Whether you prefer the traditional English or continental style, the hybrid combination approach, or the speedier flicking or lever style, there is a technique that can work for you. So keep practicing, refining, and enjoying your knitting journey!

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