This tutorial is about a simple technique that I learned from Robyne – a skilled (and amazingly creative!) knitter in our knitting community. She was looking for a way to make Continental purling easier and faster. As she put it in her email to me: “I find it so difficult to do the purl stitch as I have arthritic fingers – but I refuse to let them stop me.” What an amazing determination!
In her attempt to simplify purling, Robyne discovered a more comfortable way to hold yarn that makes it easier to bring the yarn to the front of the work for purling.
This simple way of holding yarn also minimizes the need to flex fingers and helps control yarn tension without wrapping the yarn around fingers. That makes this method very gentle on our hands.
All of these advantages will benefit any knitter but are especially helpful to knitters whose fingers could get stiff because of arthritis or other issues.
So with many thanks to Robyne and her creativity, let’s take a look at an alternative way to hold yarn in Continental knitting.
If you prefer to learn from a video, click here to watch every step described below in a video tutorial.
Hold the needle with the stitches in your left hand as you normally do before you start working on a row.
If the first stitch of the row is a knit, bring the yarn between the tip of the left needle and your left index finger and over the back of your left hand.
If the first stitch of the row is a purl, bring the yarn to the front of the work and over the back of your left hand.
Place the yarn between your left ring and little fingers. Then move the yarn over the back of your left hand to the left wrist and drop it at the inside of your left wrist.
This way of holding yarn gives us more flexibility in manipulating the working yarn. Because we don’t hold the yarn with the left middle, ring and little fingers (as we do when we usually hold the working yarn in Continental knitting), we can use those fingers to help the index finger and make it easier to bring the yarn to the front of the work for purling and to the back of the work for knitting.
Not only that – because there is no need to clench the yarn while working on the project, the fingers stay more relaxed all the time allowing us to knit longer without straining them too much.
Also, when we move the yarn across the back of the hand and half-way around the wrist, we redistribute the yarn tension between the left hand, the little finger and the wrist, much like the yarn tension is redistributed in knitting machines.
This set up provides better yarn tension in most cases. If you feel that the tension is too loose, wrap the yarn around the left wrist one more time. This won’t put any additional pressure on your fingers.
Another great thing I noticed while testing this way of holding the yarn is that we can turn the work and continue knitting without dropping the working yarn and picking it up again at the beginning of a new row. It saves a few seconds every row helping us to finish the project sooner.
One more suggestion from Robyne – if you are having trouble bending your left index finger to hold the yarn down while you purl a stitch, pinch the yarn with your left thumb and index finger as you purl.
Because our left fingers are not restrained by holding yarn, we can easily use them to help us work each stitch in the most comfortable way possible.
All of these benefits come from a slightly different way to hold yarn discovered by a creative knitter looking for better ways to knit.
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Happy knitting 🙂