How to hold knitting yarn: English Style

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The way we hold the working yarn while we knit is a choice and there are many techniques available. The yarn is held wrapped around the fingers in some way to create tension in the knitting. The fingers can then be squeezed together or relaxed to create further variation within each technique. For example, heavier weight yarns, such as worsted weight, the yarn is wrapped around the fingers less or held more loosely, whereas for finer yarns, such as  lace weight, the yarn is wrapped more times around the fingers or held more tightly.  Another thing that influences how we hold the yarn is the slipperiness (technical term, swear it!) which would result in the same tinkering.

As I explained in my post Enghlish vs. Continental Style Knitting, English Style knitters hold the yarn in their right hand.  The English Style of holding the working yarn came from Britain and,according to Montse Stanley in her book The Handknitter’s Handbook, were divided by “an invisible line halfway across the country that broadly determines what happeeneds to the right needle.  The the south, it hs held like a pen; to the north, it is steadied under the arm or into a sheath.” A sheath, by the by is like a holster for your knitting needle.

The southern needle holding method: like a pen or chopstick.

English Style Knitting over hand needle hold

And the underhand and tucked uner the arm or in a sheath.

English Style Knitting over hand needle hold

These two needle holding styles lend themselves to a variety yarn holds:

English Style Knitting yarn hold variationEnglish Style Knitting yarn hold variationEnglish Style Knitting yarn hold variationEnglish Style Knitting yarn hold variation
English Style Knitting yarn hold variationEnglish Style Knitting yarn hold variationEnglish Style Knitting yarn hold variation

Another way of holding the working yarn in the right hand is by pinching it between the index finger and thumb.  This means that one must let go of the right hand needle in order to move the yarn around the tip. My friend Beth says that it is for this reason that she must always use circulars and never straights.

English Style Knitting yarn hold variation

Brits weren’t the only folks to hold the working yarn in their right hand, the Irish also had a hand it its popularity.  Here is a video (originally by www.anticraft.com then compressed by someone else for YouTube) of another method for holding the yarn with the right hand: Irish Cottage Knitting (or Lever Style knitting) with the Yarn Harlot.

If you are interested in the way she knits, instructions are outlined chez Heartstring Fiber Arts. Check back soon for the left handed or continental variations of yarn and needle holds.

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