How to Hold Yarn and Adjust Tension in Continental Knitting – Step by Step

This tutorial is well overdue – you’ve been asking about the way I knit for quite some time now, but there was always some other exciting technique that I wanted to share with you, so I kept postponing this tutorial. 

The truth is because I’ve been using Continental knitting style for years, it seemed trivial, not interesting enough. Until I decided to learn the Norwegian way of purling. That’s when I realised that no matter how simple a knitting style could be to a person who’s been doing it for years, it’s still quite a challenge for someone who’s new to it.

With that “newbie learning” in mind, I want to show you in an easy to follow step by step way how to work using the Continental style of knitting. 

In this tutorial, we’ll discuss how to cast on, hold the yarn and adjust yarn tension. And we’ll get to knitting, purling and binding off stitches next time.

If you are a visual learner, you can watch every step in this video tutorial.


I use long tail cast on most of the time. And this cast on is the same in both English and Continental knitting. 

If you prefer to use the knit on or cable cast on, you should do it by knitting stitches the Continental way. We’ll get to the knit stitch a bit later, so for now, cast on stitches as you usually do. There is no need to get stressed over the cast on, especially when it does not affect the look of the fabric in any way.


The way how we hold yarn is the biggest difference between English and Continental knitting styles. In Continental knitting, the working yarn is in the left hand. 

That’s when you will probably feel awkward and uncomfortable. That’s when you might be a little bit stressed. But bear with me, and I’ll walk you through every little nuance of holding the yarn with your left hand.

In fact, I’ll show you two ways to set up the working yarn.

WAY #1

The first way is meant for knitters who use the English style of knitting. Here’s how to do it step by step:

1. Take the needle with stitches in your left hand, and hold it like a fork, as it is shown in this photo:

2. Take the working yarn in your right hand (a habitual action for a knitter who uses English way of knitting), and place it on your left index finger and under the middle + ring + little fingers. Here’s how it looks:

3. Close your left middle + ring + little fingers to hold the yarn and the needle securely.

That’s it! Now you are ready to knit. It wasn’t THAT hard, right? 🙂

WAY #2

You can also set up the working yarn in a slightly different way:

1. Hold the needle with stitches in your right hand.

2. Place your left index finger under the first stitch so that the working yarn is at the left side of the index finger.

3. Hold the yarn with your left middle + ring + little fingers.

4. Place the needle with stitches in your left hand.

If the yarn is too loose, pull it a bit at the left side of your hand to adjust the tension. 


Speaking of tension, that’s another Shrek of Continental knitting – it seems quite scary, but, in fact, is relatively easy to handle.

The trick is to wrap the yarn around your little finger if you feel that the yarn is too loose.

Here’s how to do it when you use the first way to set up the working yarn,


here’s how to do it when you use the second way to set up the working yarn.

That’s it for today. Practice both ways to set up working yarn to see which way if more comfortable for you. Next time, we’ll get to knitting and purling using the Continental style of knitting. 

The full PDF version of this tutorial is a part of the Knitting Collection #2. Once you order your copy of this collection, you will instantly receive a “big PDF” (304 pages!) with this and 41 other tutorials included in the collection.

You will also receive two e-books and three knitting patterns as a special bonus, so go ahead and get it all right now before you forget 😊

If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:

“Matching Cast Ons and Bind Offs” Book

Discover six pairs of cast on and bind off methods that form identical edges on projects worked flat and in the round.

“Neat Side Edges” Book

Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.

Happy knitting!

Maryna Shevchenko -

Continental knitting step by step | 10 rows a day
How to hold yarn in Continental knitting | 10 rows a day
How to adjust tension in Continental knitting | 10 rows a day