Continental knitting is a specific style of knitting that originated in Europe, specifically, Germany. Although there are many different types of knitting that originate from all over the world, the most popular today in the western world are the continental and English styles. Many consider the continental style to be more efficient that English knitting. Continental knitting is also known as German knitting, European knitting, left handed knitting and picking.
In order to knit continental style, a number of supplies and skills are needed. Needles, either straight or circular, are essential. A ball of yarn is also needed. It is useful to choose a yarn and needle size that coincide, for example a thin, lace weight yarn would not be used with a set of size US 13 needles. Generally, a suggested needle size will be listed on the ball band of a new ball of yarn. It may also be helpful to have a pair of scissors on hand, as well as a tape measure, before beginning to knit.
To begin continental knitting, one also must know how to cast stitches onto needles. There are a number of different ways to cast on, and different methods may be most appropriate for different projects. If knitting a practice square, any method of casting on would suffice. It should be noted that these supplies and techniques are needed to begin all styles of knitting, not just continental.
The most distinctive trait of continental knitting is that the working yarn, that being the yarn that is being knit with, is held in the left hand. Knitting is preformed by bringing the yarn in front of the needles, and the yarn is then scooped or “picked” by the right hand needle, which is why this style is sometimes referred to as “picking.”
This varies with the English style of knitting, another popular style of knitting in the western world. In English knitting, the working yarn is held in the right hand and "thrown," or wrapped, around the right handed needle. English knitting is also known as right handed knitting or throwing.
While there are a number of positive and negative aspects to all styles of knitting, many knitters prefer continental knitting. It is generally considered the fastest, most efficient knitting style. Also, switching between the knit and the purl stitch is thought to be especially efficient with continental knitting. Yet many beginning knitters find this style difficult to learn, and many learn continental knitting after they have mastered English style knitting.