contintental knitting: posture of the left hand

Since I am in the awkward position to try to teach knitting in England without being able to actually knit the English way properly (and on top of that being convinced that MY way is the right way 😉 ), I have put together a couple of amazing pictures (never ask your husband to take pictures of your hand 5 min before the start of an incredibly important football match) to illustrate how I hold the yarn to get the right tension.

So, before we get started, you will have to practise, what I (as a new ballet mum) call: Position 1 🙂


Your index finger goes straight up, as if you were telling someone off. Tips of the remaining fingers and the thumb touch each other.

Once you have mastered this position, you are allowed to try with a needle 🙂

The index finger is still up, the thumb and remaining fingers hold now the needle.IMG_2486

And this is how it would look with your knitting on the needle: IMG_2515
It is really crucial to keep that index finger up as you need a certain tension in the yarn between needle and index finger to be able to just grab and pull it through rather than wrapping it around.

So now lets see how to wrap the yarn around those fingers to get a nice tension but flow at the same time.

1. Open your left hand and and spread your fingers.







2. Pull the tail end of your yarn (or the knitting on your needle) through the gap between the ring finger and the little finger – coming from the back of your hand to the palm. So  the ball end will be on the back of your hand, the tail end on the inside.


3. Pull it now back between index finger and middle finger. The bit of yarn going over the inside of your ring and middle finger will actually be the place where you will automatically adjust the tension while knitting (by opening and closing your hand slightly), so it is crucial that this is on the inside of your hand and not at the back.




4. Wrap the yarn twice around your index finger.IMG_2492

5. Keep your index finger up, either start casting on…IMG_2493

… or put the needle with your knitting in your left hand, making sure that you have a nice tension between needle and index finger. IMG_2516If that bit of yarn is loose, pull on the ball end to get it right. Don’t just wrap it around your index finger 50 times as it will stop the flow. And if you leave it loose you will have to wrap the yarn around your needle rather than just grab and pull it through which is the big advantage of continental knitting IMHO.

I guess, to properly show the advantages of continental knitting I should actually upload a video but for now that is all you’ll get. (Well, I have already some pictures of the long tail cast on, taken 3 min before the start of the famous football game so another post with amazing pictures will soon follow 🙂 )



“Cotton bag” is the new “designer hand bag” … or was it “jute bag”?

Cotton bags have definitely become a fashionable accessory and I am a proud owner of a zillion of them. From the Austrian country side butcher to the Notting Hill book shop – I have them all…. coming to think of it, the Austrian ones are all pretty old vintage whereas the fashion capital London does not hand them out since such a long time. Have we been trend setter, for once?

I do love cotton bags, they are great to keep my knitting or children’s change cloths clean yet breathable, you can put smaller things into your suit case without taking extra space, you can wash and reuse them, etc. etc. and of course they make you look trendy (for that purpose I would suggest the Notting Hill book shop one rather than the Austrian country side butcher)

I have already been sewing quite a few ones as my children’s nursery also seem to think that they are great to keep children’s change cloths in them.

Recently, I have made two for my children to keep their ballet equipment together and clean and since they have been a big hit I made another one for a little girl’s  5th birthday. They are really easy to make, and as an encouragement for those who would like to make things for their children but are a bit scared of their sewing machine, I put together a few pictures for a little tutorial:

Stofftasche 22

Before we get started:

I really like using contrasting colours or one patterned and one plain side which makes it also a great project to use up left overs. The remaining question would then be the thread colour. A contrasting colour is good if you believe in your sewing skills. Little imperfections are more visible then if you are using matching threads. I like to find one colour that links all the colours of my project. In this case, I went for white. It is a contrast to everything but as it is a neutral colour, it does not add to my overflowing colour pot. If you do not want to have very obvious seams, you’ll have to use matching colours, which will lead to a lot of thread changing. Your choice.

You’ll need:

  • fabric: 0.5m of cotton
  • sewing thread, scissors, pins and the usual stuff
  • iron
  • optional appliqué:
    • paper template (I printed out a letter font size 400ish)
    • fabric (I like using the same fabric as for the second bag side)
    • interface (I used a simple iron on one, there would be a more fancy fusible web with two sticky sides  to make positioning later a bit easier)
    • kitchen towel

 1. Cut out two pieces of fabric for your bag and two for the handles.Stofftasche 01

Dimensions: I have made my bag a bit shorter than most standard cotton bags as it was made for a child (which tend to be a bit shorter 🙂

This is how you calculate it, followed by my own example.


  • desired width + 2x seam allowance: 32 + 2x 1.5 = 35
  • desired length + 1x seam allowance + 2.5cm for folded top line = 34 + 1.5 + 2.5 = 38cm


  • 2x desired width + 1.5cm = 2×2 + 1.5 = 5.5cm
  • desired length + 8cm = 35cm

2. If you want to add an appliqué you will also need a paper template, a bit of contrasting fabric, some interfacing (or fusible web) and a kitchen towel (or a tear away backing).

If not, you can jump to Step 8 straight away. Stofftasche 02

3. Iron the interfacing to the wrong side of your fabric (sticky side of interface on the fabric!). If you are using a fusible web, the paper side is up.Stofftasche 03

4. Pin your desired shape the right way onto the fabric side or the wrong way onto the paper of the fusible web and cut it out.Stofftasche 04

5. Position the appliqué on the bag fabric and pin it in place. I chose the center but the corner looks good, too. If you are using paper backed fusible web, pull the paper off and stick the appliqué onto the fabric.

6. Put a kitchen towel (or fancy tear away backing) under the fabric – this will result in a neater stitch as it holds everything together – and sew the appliqué on using a wide zigzag stitch. Stofftasche 07

The zig goes through appliqué and fabric, the zag goes through the fabric only, just next to the appliqué. I usually use a rather small stitch length (almost as if I was sewing a button hole as I want to use it as a contrasting feature and to make it more secure (things for children get washed very often – at least in this house)Stofftasche 25

7. Carefully pull away the kitchen towel. The little bit stuck between the seem will come off in the first wash.

8. Pin the two sides of the cotton bag with the right sides together and sew along the two sides and the bottom. Shorten the two edges at the bottom of the bag and zig zag all around to secure the seams. (Usually you are supposed to cut off the edges after zigzagging but I am slightly security obsessed).Stofftasche 10Stofftasche 11

9. Now it is time to prepare the handles.

Put the fabric wrong side up onto the ironing board and fold both long sides 0.7mm and iron those edges.Stofftasche 12

10. Fold the fabric lengthwise in half and iron again.Stofftasche 13

11. Since you are already using the iron, take your bag(right side inside) and fold the open top twice. First 0,5mm, iron, fold 2cm and iron again. Stofftasche 15

12. Back to the handles. Close them by top stitching close to the folded edges.Stofftasche 14

13. Place the open ends of the first handle into the opening of your folded top line, right up to the top. Make sure you are positioning it centrally.Stofftasche 16

14. Now fold it up carefully and pin in place.Stofftasche 17Repeat this with the second handle.

15. Top stitch around the whole opening, close to the folded edge and over all your handle ends.Stofftasche 18

Stofftasche 19

16. Now you need to secure those handles for added bag strength. I do this with a little x in a square on top of each of the 4 handle ends. It looks much neater if you do that on the right side of your bag, even though you can not see the exact position of the handle.Stofftasche 20

Since I am not only an amazing photographer but also an incredibly skilled graphic designer, I have made a little sketch, how I normally do it. Starting point is the top left corner, the end would be top right. Secure start and finish with a few reverse stitches.X Diagramm

Finished. Stofftasche 21

And just to show off the two initial ballet bags – they could do with a bit of ironing but come on, I have just spent ages putting together this post 🙂

More mistakes or lost in yarn-over translation

After a rather beautiful but actually not quite summery 3in1 I wanted to knit another jumper for myself. I really liked the Rowan Savannah –  a cotton and silk blend in really nice shades – and was looking for a pattern. To be on the safe side I decided to buy the Rowan Summer Textures booklet to knit Navajo – a pattern designed for that yarn. Now, the pattern itself would probably be worth its own post but lets just talk about my mistakes for now.

First of all, I realised quickly that the jumper would be far too short for my liking so I ordered another two balls which were obviously from a different dye lot and very even visibly different from the others. I decided to knit the ribbed parts at the bottom in the new dye lot so the colour change would go hand in hand with pattern change and therefore be less obvious.

That worked really well. Until I reached the rather hidden section of the front – chest height – where I confidently checked the ball numbers. And took the wrong dye lot to continue.

Can you spot the difference?

Can you spot the line?

Once  I realised that I had only balls from the same dye lot left, I could easily see where I had gone wrong. On the picture it is hard to spot but you can actually see a line just under the top zig – zags and one would be just under my chest – another classic example of me not only making an easily avoidable mistake but also whilest being fully aware of a potential source of errors.

But all that nothing compared to my other, in the end rather useful, ahem, lets call it creative interpretation – the mystery of yfwd (yarn forward round needle)and yrn (yarn round needle)…..

When I started using English (as in the language spoken in many countries all around the world) patterns, I came across YO (yarn over) first, found out what it meant in German and did it. Later I came across Ysomething and found out that it was YO in English (as in the Pimmsdrinking teasipping country I currently enjoy living in) knitting.

Now, when knitting the Navajo, I suddenly realised that both terms (yfwd and yrn) were used. Which might possibly mean that they could be two different things. So I googled and watched a tutorial on youtube.

I watched it without sound as I did not want to attract my two lovely children who would have taken that as an invitation to watch a series of nursery songs on youtube. And I stopped at 1.45min. Obviously there was no need to watch the remaining 3min or listening to the accompanying explanations ….

So for all those who know what yfwd means, go to 1.35min and watch without sound for about 10 sec …..

After this amazing revelation (If I had listened to the accompanying explanations OR watched the rest, I might have realised that this was the “how not to do it” part), I incorporated the “new” technique in my knitting (I had to do it about a zillion times only) and decided to not only write a post about the YO mystery in English knitting vocabulary but also to create some kind of tutorial.

After I had found the brilliant Let me explaiKnit I gave up on the own-post-idea as it is all there anyway but I still wanted to take pictures of the differences, knitted a few samples, consulted my knitting book for some reason and realised ….. there are NO differences. I mean the result is always the same. The Ysomething goes from the front over the (right) needle to the back. There is no need for a yfwd, a yrn and a yon. If you still want to know, check out Let me explaiKnit!

This is now a serious question to all those English knitters, please correct me if I am wrong, because I might be missing something that comes natural when you knit continental style?

Are not all three basically the same? No matter if you are between two knit stitches, two purl stitches or a knit and a purl stitch, you start with the yarn in front (so yes, if it is initially at the back you need to bring it forward), you put it over the right needle to  the back and you continue with whatever you need (which might mean that you need to bring the yarn forward for the next stitch).

As much as I appreciate the attention to every single step when describing those three techniques, I do wonder if it doesn’t make things more complicated than they are if you are actually splitting the YO into three different ones. Anyway, back to my jumper and the amazing new technique.

Let’s call it YOB – yarn over backwards

Maybe this technique existed already under a different name but I did not actually come across it. So:

This techique is incredibly useful, if you are supposed to k2tog first and next a – lets call it neutrally – YO which will then both purled together through the back loop (p2tog tbl) in the next row.

It is especially useful if the recommended yarn is a pain to knit (cotton fibres with one silk thread wrapped around to hold it together) and makes the p2tog tbl virtually impossible. And lets say that you have to repeat that p2tog tbl to the end of row and for about a million of rows. Then the YOB comes in really handy.

All you have to do is to bring the yarn from the back over the right needle to the front (rather than the other way round)

revolutionary YOB:

compared to traditional YFWD:

When you are on the wrong side of your work and have to do the p2tog tbl, the newly created loop leans actually the other side which makes it so much easier to get through both stitches from the back.

I honestly would not have knitted that whole jumper if I had not accidentally invented YOB. Before checking out the differences of yfwd and yrn, I had done it correctly and it was a fight to get the needle through. It was as if I had never knitted before and each stitch was difficult to form. I would definitely not have done that for such big sections.

I have also knitted two samples of the ribbed section, once with yfwd and once with yob, to see the differences.

Once they were knitted I could not see any, when I stretched them out, I would say that the bottom one (yfwd) is actually a bit neater.


I tried again with a plain cotton yarn to see if that would make any difference. P2tog tbl with one of the two stitches being a yfwd created in the previous row is still annoying but not as fiddly as with the Rowan Savannah and it is still a bit neater.

Yob again on top, yfwd at the bottom.


So, when opened up, there seams to be a difference in regularity (probably because there is no flow whatsoever when doing the purl row of the yfwds and you have to work hard each time) but I don’t think it makes any difference in the actual jumper.

IMG_1857aSo as a conclusion, yob turned out a very useful mistake, as the p2tog tbl is certainly much easier to be executed and I can only recommend it for this particular project. I do however wonder if this is really the only way to get this bold ribbed look or if there would have been a much simpler way for a similar effect…. but that is a completely different question.