Content Continental …

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!


Interlaced – working Entrelac!

The back of an Entrelac Scarf using 4 colors

Continuing with our working with color series, we’re going to delve into the world of Entrelac knitting. Entrelac is a French word, translating to mean interlaced in English. It is a unique thing in knitting, as it is a texture and a technique at the same time. You can use it to make a wonderfully textured piece of fabric in a solid color, or use two or more colors and make a multi-colored AND textured piece of fabric. It is for this reason why we’re including it in the color discussion. When working entrelac, it is best to try and visualize the formation before you actually start knitting. Entrelac uses a series of triangles and rectangles to create a rectangular or square shaped piece of fabric. This is achieved by making a series of isosceles triangles in the foundation row, using right angled triangles for the edges, and rectangles for the main body of the fabric. The triangles in the foundation row can be made in two ways. You can cast on 2 stitches and work increases until you have your necessary number of stitches for your triangle, or cast on all the stitches used in your foundation row and work one triangle at a time using short rows. The latter method is a little easier to work and doesn’t require you breaking the yarn.

A vest done in Entrelac on a different angle

Once the foundation row is finished, you make one of the edge triangles and then go on to your rectangles. The finished look of entrelac is one of a woven piece of fabric and you can get some phenomenal effects by either using different colors or using a variegated yarn. A single color will still produce a beautiful piece of fabric. Once you have gotten the knack of entrelac, you can also change the angles of the work to produce a different effect like in the vest shown here. While the actual technique is not very difficult, you should be comfortable with picking up stitches before jumping into this. Here is a link to a page that has a sample of entrelac and excellent instructions (why re-invent the wheel?) that will give you some good practice with this technique. Entrelac Instruction. I recommend using some spare yarn for your first project until you are used to this technique. Once you are, try some of the free patterns in the links below.

Entrelac Scarf

Entrelac Afghan

Good luck!

Yarn over and out!