Your mother might have told you not to pick at your food, but hopefully she didn’t tell you the same thing about your knitting. You see, in knitting, picking is a good thing. There are actually several methods of knitting, and one of the most common is called Continental knitting. It’s also referred to as “picking”, because you use your needle to pick at the yarn in order to form the stitches. This may sound a little strange at first, but once you get used to the technique, you realize that it’s an apt description of what you’re actually doing. This week we’ll look at the knit stitch using this method and next week we’ll cover the purl stitch.
For both stitches, it all starts with preparation. The wrap is important as it gets you ready to start picking. When you’re picking, the yarn is wrapped on the left hand instead of the right as it is for Traditional knitting, or “throwing”. It is a personal preference whether or not you want to wrap it around your baby finger, but I have found it to be helpful in maintaining a consistent tension. Here are a few pictures and explanation showing how it’s done.On a short or circular needle, cast on 16 – 20 stitches with a yarn appropriate for the needle size. Worsted weight yarn and 4.5mm needles are a great place to start.
1. With the palm of your hand facing forward, place your yarn between your pinky finger and your ring finger and send it to the back of your hand.
2. Bring it up to your index finger and wrap it around it twice with the yarn traveling towards you while you do it.
You should now have a strand of yarn between your two bottom fingers, along the back of your hand, and then around your index finger twice. This yarn is attached to the last cast on stitch on your left needle and leads to your ball of yarn. Check to see that the length of the yarn from your index finger to the stitch on the needle isn’t too long. It should be between 2 -3 inches for now – the shorter the better when you’re first learning. Hold the left needle (the one with the cast on stitches) in your left hand, and take the other needle in your right hand.
3. Using the right needle, go into the first stitch just as you would to knit it – from front to back.
4. Using the right needle, pick the yarn that is leading up to your index finger with the tip. Use your middle finger to push the yarn forward while at the same time hold the stitch on the left needle in place. This creates a larger hole for you to pick the yarn through.
5. Using the tip of the needle, pull the yarn back towards you and through the hole that is there. It is important to work below the left needle at this point. If you allow the work to go above the needle it gets a little cumbersome and is more difficult to work with.
6. The knit stitch is on your right needle now. Slide it completely off your left needle and repeat steps 3 – 5 for each stitch on your needle. This the the technique for working the knit stitch picking or Continental style. The best way to get good at it is like with anything else – practice! Luckily, since we are making blanket squares, you have the perfect opportunity to do so. Cast on 42 stitches onto 4.5mm needles and work in garter stitch (knit all stitches) continental style until the work is a row shy of 8 inches. cast off loosely in pattern and remember to leave a long tail with your cast on and cast off for sewing the squares together.
Yarn over and out!