How to Hold Yarn When Knitting

How To Hold Yarn When Knitting

How do you hold yarn when knitting? Learning how to hold yarn when knitting can be daunting, but with this straightforward guide, you’ll learn different yarn holding styles that will make you a pro within a short time.

Choosing how to hold your yarn depends on your most active hand. If your right hand is more involved, the best style is English, while if your left hand is more active, the best style is continental. However, there is no wrong or right style; they both depend on your comfort, as shown in this video.

How to Hold Yarn When Knitting English Style

English continental style knitting
Image Source: Knit Wise Girl

English style knitting is the most common method in America. When knitting in English, you hold your yarn using the right hand and then hold the knitting needles on the left side after casting on. Ensure the pointed end of your needle points to the right, and the first stitch should be at least one inch from the tip.

Below is a step by step guide on how to hold yarn when knitting in English style.

Step 1: Cast on the number of stitches you require for your knitting. Hold the needle with stitches with your left hand (ensure you push them towards the sharp tip). Insert the RH needle into the first stitch on the LH needle with cast-on stitches from left to right and return from the front to back to form a T shape with the needle tips.

Step 2:  As if learning how to start knitting, using your RH, bring the yarn from the left side of the right-hand needle to the front and over to the RH needle, moving down and right between the needles. While at that position, you can move the yarn with your right finger.

Step 3: While maintaining a small tension on the wrapped yarn, bring the tip of the RH needle to the front together with its wrapped yarn through the hoop on the LH needle. To guide the needle through the rest of the stitches and avoid losing the wrapped yarn, place the tip of your forefinger on the sharp point of the RH needle.

Step 4: Pull the right-hand needle to the right until the first cast-on stitch is completely transferred to the right-hand needle. You now have a new stitch on the RH needle, and the old cast-on stitch lies below it.

That’s how you make the first stitch in English style when learning how to knit.

Step 5: When learning how to knit a sweater, repeat steps one through four until you have knitted all the cast on stitches and transferred them to the RH needle. Your LH needle is free, and you have two stitches on the RH needle.

Step 6: To continue knitting, switch hands so that the needle with the stitches is on the left-hand side. Knit or purl a new row with the same method as step five.

Step 7: Repeat all the steps until you are satisfied with the size of your sweater. You may also learn how to knit a scarf using the same steps. The most important thing is to keep the stitches continuous for a more relaxed and even fabric.

How to Hold Yarn When Knitting Continental

How to hold yarn when knitting
Image Source: Yay for Yarn

Technically there is no correct or wrong way to hold yarn when knitting continental, which is also known as pickers’ style. You can follow what best suits you, as you can see from this video.

Some people prefer holding the yarn by wrapping it around the pinky while others wrap around their other finger, then control the yarn by moving it in and out to feed the needle. Below are the steps you can follow to achieve a neat, consistent fabric when knitting continental style.

Step 1: Wrap your working yarn around the left pinky finger, across your palm, and over your index finger, and let the yarn come off your index finger to your knitting work. (As if learning how to finger knit), hold the LH needle gently with your left hand, as shown below.

Wrapping yarn around pinky finger
Image Source: Nimble Needles

Step 2: Hold the LH and RH needle tips close together as if to knit. See below

Continental knitting how to hold yarn
Image Source: 10 Rows a Day

Step 3: Note: Your left hand will hold the yarn throughout your knitting process, and the right hand will do the moving. When using straight needles, like when learning how to knit a blanket, knitting back and forth on flat fabric, you’ll work all the stitches on the left needle and move them to the right needle to make new stitches.

The left-hand fingers will also help maintain the yarn tension when knitting or purling.

Step 4: Exchange hands by holding the right-hand needle (now with the stitches) with the left hand. Continue knitting until you finish your project. For a consistent look, spread the stitches on the right needle every time you reach three or four stitches.

Although knitting continental style is the simplest and best for beginners compared to knitting English style, you’ll need some time to master the art and increase your knitting speed.




Right Hand


Left Hand





How to Hold Yarn Knitting Stranded Colorwork

Knitting stranded colorwork sometimes looks complicated, but it gets pretty easy after a few stitches and understanding the pattern. Follow the pattern to knit each color correctly, then carry the used yarn color behind and across the back of your work.

Since the stranded colorwork is tighter than single color knitting, it’s essential to keep the unused yarn strands loose to easily stretch with the rest of the fabric. But how do you maintain the pattern gauge while holding multiple yarns at the same time? Below are the methods for holding yarn for stranded colorwork.

    1. Throwing Both Colors with One Hand

How to hold knitting needles
Image Source: Ysolda

This method is also known as both strands on the right and works best with English-style knitting, where you wrap the yarn around the right hand and then release one stitch at a time. When knitting in stranded colorwork, you pick the right color for the current stitch, knit or purl it, drop it from behind, and choose the next correct color for the next stitch.

Since you knit one color at a time, this method is less complicated when you get used to how to read knitting patterns. Ensure the yarns don’t get twisted around each other when exchanging the colors and maintain color dominance to avoid making the pattern appear murky.

After practice, the pattern gets a lot easier, and you‘ll find it easier to hold both strands in your right hand simultaneously. As you can see from the below image, the primary color floats above while the foreground color floats beneath and further from the needle.

      2. Picking Both Colors With One Hand

Left handed fair isle knitting
Image Source: The Left-Handed Knitter

This stranded color knitting method is best for advanced continental and combined knitters and is also known as both strands on the left. It’s best for knitters who tension the working yarn by holding it tight with the LH and picking it with needles to insert it through the stitch.

You may hold the two colors on different fingers, I.e. middle and index, or hold on the same finger, then use the right-hand needle to pick the correct color for the next stitch. The best part of this method is that you don’t need to keep picking yarn up and down after every stitch and yarn is kept from twisting.

When knitting in foreground color, move the tip of the right needle to go below the main or background strand, then knit a stitch from the background yarn. Likewise, to work a stitch using the main color, hold the main yarn on the index finger, and it will remain above the background color to ensure color dominance maintenance.

When holding the two different strands on the same finger, they may tangle while you knit; you can use a yarn thimble to keep the strands apart.

      3. Two Hands One Color in Each

How to hold yarn for stranded colorwork
Image Source: Pinterest

This is a blend of throwing with the right hand and picking with the left hand simultaneously. The method has maintained its popularity over the years because it’s quick and efficient.

You hold the main color with the left hand and the background color with the right hand. Bring the specific yarn color from either left or right hand to ensure each stitch is worked using the right color. Color dominance is achieved without struggle because you consistently hold the same yarn on the one hand and at the correct position.

The yarns are also kept from tangling, making this method the best for stranded colorwork knitting once you know how to change colors in knitting. However, the only challenge with the two-handed method for stranded colorwork is maintaining uniform tension between both hands.

The English style is tighter than continental knitting; thus, you’ll need to be extra careful to ensure that the unused strands are consistently loose. Since continental style is the favorite among knitters, here is how to hold knitting needles continental.

How to Hold Knitting Needles Continental

Knit stitch continental
Image Source: Knit Picks

There are different ways of holding your knitting needles continental, and you only need to master one or two styles and get comfortable with them. It does not take much time to settle in knitting if you are consistent.

That said, how you hold your needles is a personal choice that matches your knitting rhythm. Here are two different ways you can hold your needles when knitting continental.

    • Hold the needles by putting your hands above them, as shown below.

Holding yarn while knitting
Image Source: Wiki How

    • Hold your needles like pencils, as shown in the below photo. You can use one method at a time or combine the methods. Whichever works best for you, you go for it as there is no wrong or right way to hold your knitting needles.

Knitting for beginners needles pen hold
Image Source: Gathered

Yarn Holding Style

Knitter Level




Beginners and Advanced 

Stranded color knitting (two-hand one color each)


How to Tension Yarn When Knitting

If you are wondering how to hold yarn while knitting to maintain a good tension, relax! This video tutorial will help you understand better how to hold your yarn and maintain even tension.

There are many ways of holding your yarn, and it all depends on your preference. But you don’t need to change! Whatever style you prefer is the best. The below tensioning method works well with both continental and English knitting styles and is best for beginners.

Step 1: Pick your working yarn and bring it close to the working needle using your finger on the domineering hand.

Step 2: Wrap the yarn around your pinky finger by going under between the pinkie and the next finger.

Step 3: Wrap your work over your right finger and under your middle finger, as shown in the video above.

Step 4: Finish by wrapping the yarn over the index finger, which will control the yarn picked by the needle.

Ensure your hands remain close to maintain the tension throughout your fabric. When learning how to pick up stitches in knitting, ensure you tension for an even finish.

How to Hold Knitting Needles

Discovering your best style for holding needles is the first step for increasing speed when knitting. There are different styles that you can try out until you settle for the most comfortable.

The best thing with holding needles styles is that you can either use English or continental knitting style without changing or interfering with the pattern. Below are ways you can hold your knitting needles.

    • Hold your left index finger close to the needle to reduce strain on your hands. This method is fast and easy on the hand.
    • Hold the needle as if holding a knife, where the yarn remains on the right hand, but the needle is held from above with the hand and fingers in a more relaxed position.
    • Hold the yarn with your right hand and position your needles like pens by supporting them below your thumb and first finger.

Tips to Improve Yarn Tension When Knitting

To improve yarn tension when knitting, you need to check on the following tips.

    1. Change How you Wrap the Yarn on your Left-Hand Fingers

How you wrap your knitting yarn around your fingers determines your tension. Ensure that whichever method you use, the yarn comes over the top of the index finger.

      2. Work Stitches on the Straight Part of the Needle

When knitting, ensure you slide your knitted stitches close to the tip after every two to three rows. This will maintain tension consistency rather than waiting for all the stitches to spread on the whole knitting needle.

      3. Fold your Yarn in a Composed Manner

If your yarn keeps on rolling all over the place as you knit, you risk interfering with your tension as you try to pull it.

      4. Change Needle Type

Different needles work best with different yarns. If you realize your fabric tension is not consistent, try changing the type of needle you are using besides other things.

      5. Maintain the Tip of the Left Index Finger Close to your Needles

This is the most important tip for beginners and loose knitters. Ensure you reposition your fingers before knitting the first stitch.

Note: Any index finger movement while knitting will cause a snug up, and the results will be different from the rest.


Are you learning how to hold yarn when knitting? It is a straightforward process when using this guide. You can also check sewing room ideas for more tips and insights. To maintain good and even tension, you‘ll have to hold your yarn and knitting needles correctly.

Whether knitting in continental or English style, the essential thing is maintaining consistency for a more even fabric. More so, in stranded colorwork, you’ll require extra care to ensure the strands do not tangle as you knit.

Which is your best style for holding yarn?