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Spotlight: Karen’s Corner

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Ambidextrous Knitting…or Not?

In a recent conversation with an experienced knitter, I was surprised to hear her say that she “knits left-handed.” Being left-handed myself and not knowing what she meant by this, I asked her to explain. Did this mean she is a left-handed person who happens to knit or was there some mysterious left-handed method of knitting that has somehow escaped my attention during the last twenty years? When she showed me her manner of knitting, it turned out to be simply traditional Continental-style. What I believe she actually meant by “left-handed knitting” was that she holds the working yarn in her left hand.

Would this make English-style knitting be called right-handed knitting? I think not.

Why I’m writing about this is to address an age-old knitting issue that has plagued us all for far too long. Having taught at least several hundred individuals to knit, I often hear how they haven’t been able to learn in the past because they are left-handed and their prior teacher was right-handed or vice versa. I’ve always debunked this as a silly notion because as we all know there is no such thing as left-handed or right-handed knitting. Knitting is a completely ambidextrous activity…or is it? Suddenly I’m wondering if perhaps this dominant-hand theory could be considered true. With at least two distinct and well-known styles of knitting, Continental and English, does not each one favor a particular hand? As we know, Continental-style uses the left hand to feed or “pick” the working yarn while English-style uses the right hand to feed or “throw” the working yarn. Perhaps I’ve been mistaken all these years?

My question to you is how many of you are one-handed (left or right) and utilize the opposite hand in your knitting style?

xoxo, Karen



24 thoughts on “Spotlight: Karen’s Corner

  1. Aiko says:

    I taught myself to both crochet and knit. Crochet came a little more naturally to me. Right hand (my dominant hand) held the hook, left hand held the yarn. When I went to knitting, I started with holding the yarn on the right, because that was the needle that I was moving the stitches onto. I was very very slow and it felt wrong, I just didn’t have a good example of continental knitting so I couldn’t figure it out.

    I found a teacher for continental knitting and to me it feels right. Now, I can knit both ways, just like I can technically write with both hands. I wouldn’t call myself ambidextrous in either though, because it doesn’t feel natural forcing the left hand to hold a pencil or to force the right hand to hold the yarn.

  2. Marybeth P. says:

    I am a right hander who happens to knit continental. Although I can knit English it just doesn’t feel right.

  3. Cherita says:

    I am ambidextrous in everything. I can use either hand & often both at the same time. For instance, with my right hand I’ll fill the coffee pot with water from the fridge door while my left hand is scooping out the coffee, sugar, & pouring the cream :-) . I think it’s why I enjoy stranded knitting so much XD

  4. Jude says:

    I’m mostly right-handed, but also somewhat ambidextrous – I can do a lot with my left hand (even write – well, block print). I started out teaching myself ‘English’ style knitting. But then I developed carpal tunnel in my right had for which I had 2 surgeries. After that I had to learn a knitting method that kept my right hand relatively still, so I taught myself Continental. I still use my right hand when I do colorwork – I use the ‘pick ‘n throw’ method of holding a color in each hand, but my right hand tires out very quickly so I can’t do this for as long.

  5. Lee says:

    I am naturally a left handed person who knits as a right handed person does and as a left handed person does (to the rest of the world it is totally backward). I knit both Continental and English. I do both pick and throw. I knit stitches it my left needle and I knit stitches to my right needle.I just do what ever works and is most comfortable. So I am ambidextrous when I knit.

    People need to say “I am holding my free yarn in my left (or right) hand and stop saying left and right handed, it is terribly confusing to new knitters.

    You are a left handed knitter if you are knitting stitches to your left hand and a right handed knitter if you are knitting your stitches to the right hand.

    Thanks for the great article.

  6. Lynda says:

    I’m right-handed but knit Continental. My daughter, who’s also right-handed, knits English!

  7. Laura says:

    I’m right-handed. I learned crochet at a young age and holding yarn in the left hand made sense. When I finally learned to knit, I was taught in the English style, which also made sense. I taught myself to knit continental style, but it doesn’t feel “right” (ha. ha.) to me. When I pick up a crochet hook, I hold the yarn in my left hand. When I pick up knitting needles, I hold the yarn in my right hand.

  8. Kristie says:

    I am right handed and knit continental. I learned to knit in switzerland as an exchange student when I was 17 years old. I am not ambidextrous. It is the only lefty thing I do.

  9. Ann Parise says:

    I learned to knit continental when I was about 9. I didn’t know there was another way of knitting for years. I see my friends knitting the “other” way, and can’t understand it. They are suprised how fast I’m able to knit.

  10. Tiffany says:

    I started knitting about 9 years ago, using the English method. I am right-handed, and I just couldn’t get the hang of holding the yarn in my left hand. However, about 2 years ago, I decided I wanted to learn to knit continental, because it just looked faster to me. I bought an online class with videos, and know I can knit both ways. I’ve taught people both methods, but knitting continental is definitely the way that I prefer to knit.

  11. Laura says:

    My mother’s left-handed friend taught me to knit as a young teenager. I do not remember her method but re-taught myself and know I have knit using the English method ever since.

  12. C.A. says:

    I learned to crochet first; hook in right hand, yarn in left. Knitting followed my established knowledge; Continental, with yarn in left hand. I can, and do, knit English, especially when helping someone who knits English to solve a problem, or when using multiple yarns in a round. I also knit “backwards” when working short (stitch count) rows rather than turning and switching needles and yarn hand to hand every row. I am right handed and have learned many tricks over my 58 years of knitting and crocheting. My theory: It’s only sticks and string. Rip if you need to. Enjoy the process. Caveat: I’m an old Bat who used to PANIC over every mistake, perceived or real. Age has its advantages.

    C

  13. Roxy64 on Ravelry says:

    My daughter and I are both left handed and both knit english.

  14. Jenni Lou says:

    I am right hand dominant, but knit Continental…it just “feels” better. I also notice that when I am knitting that the knit (stockinette) side feels a lot more smooth than the purl side.

  15. Linda says:

    I am right handed I hold my work in my left hand and actually knit with my right hand.

  16. Carolyn says:

    I am left handed and my aunt, a right hander, tried and tried to teach me to knit as a child.
    It just did not work. Then at 50 something I took a class at the local yarn shop and my teacher said it did not matter what hand is dominant. Well she was right because I’ve been knitting now for ten yeaars. Or was she right? I taught my daughter, who is right handed, how to knit and it was difficult because I seemed to do things “backwards” to her. She did learn however but purling took quite a while!

  17. Nancy Anne says:

    I am a “very right hand” dominant senior who learned to knit two years ago. After many fruitless struggles with trying to hold the yarn in the right hand as I was taught, on my own, I finally tried holding the yarn with the left hand. Low and behold, I could finally manage both needles and the yarn! It was an amazing difference. Now I could actually knit and not fumble. But none of my mentors could figure out what the heck I was doing. Efforts to correct the “wrong” way I was holding yarn always failed as I just could not manage to create any type of even stitching. Sometimes I would even find them staring at my hands in an effort to understand how I was managing to knit the stitches, even though my stitches came out looking normal.
    One day last year, I stumbled across some websites that explained continental and english styles. It was actually a huge relief to find out that I was doing something that many other knitters also did, and it was known as a continental style. I wasn’t weird any longer! I had a large group of fellow continental Stitchers.
    So I stumbled into the continental style because, for me, it worked and english simply did not. I just didn’t know what I was doing at the time.

  18. riki shachar says:

    I am a right hand knitter(i have a shop in tel aviv-Isrel) in owr shop i see all kinds of knitting(depens the origion the knitter came from. i my self knit continental and i can teach all kinds ther is also the french knitting that holds the needl under armpit.when i teach left handed i do like a mirror ,i teach what i do in the right to do in the left hand ,and what i do in the left hand to do in the right hand. And my students how could not knit befor because they are left handed are now knitting, and i am tolking about adults

  19. Annbeth Winters says:

    I am left handed and knit continental.WhenI started to knit baby hats with ear flaps I noticed I was going backwards and also when I picked up stitches.So at 65 yrs old I retaught myself to cast on right handed.So I am a complete right handler,though sometimes I do throw English style. I cannot crochet right handed. I taught myself to crochet watching my Mother when I was 9 years old.I believe my mothers friend was left handed and showed me how to knit when I was about 12. I am now 76 and knit more than ever.

  20. Andrea says:

    When I was in college in the 50s, it was said that the continental method was faster. I learned to do it, but it wasn’t any faster, BUT, I couldn’t go back. I am capable of knitting both ways,but continental is my “style

    I am right handed. When I was in college in the 50s, it was said that continental was faster. I learned to do it, bt I didn’t find to be any quicker, BUT, I couldn’t go back. While I am capable of both methods, continental is my “style”

  21. carolyne says:

    I was 6years old when I learned to play guitar! Though I am right handed i suppose I too can be ambidextrous since my left hand held the chords on the neck of the guitar while my right hand strummed the strings. When my Big sister taught me to crochet at the age of 7 it was comfortable to hold the yarn with my left while hooking with my right. My longtime childhood friend taught me to knit English style & even though it felt right it was snail like slow working thru a project!! So i thought I’d learn how to knit continental since i was told one can knit faster with a more even tension. I always practice knitting Continental when knitting in the round on a big circular needle or when knitting flat on easy knit & purl projects but it just doesnt feel right yet. when it comes to knitting cables,using dpn’s, or swatching i always go back to English, though slow its much more comfortable & enjoyable. i think im a process knitter lol

  22. Marilyn Messer says:

    I am right handed and knit with the English method. I also make double-knit mittens, a method that uses two colors and both hands. I don’t think that handedness has a lot to do with knitting in my case. I think that it is a case of learning a certain way and becoming practiced and proficient in that way.

  23. Kelly says:

    I learned how to knit left handed when I started teaching people how to knit. I gave them the option of learning with either hand but they chose to use their left. It was a good experience but as a rule I don’t knit left handed but often i write and draw with my left hand.

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