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"Lever-action" Knitting

Less wasted motion means quicker knitting and reducing CTS risk
by Jackie E-S

My primary knitting method is an English style, but with some differences from what you may have seen in other knitters using this style. There are many, many ways to knit, and even variations within them, so this is not an endorsement of the way I knit. I am describing here, only because so many people have asked. If you are looking to add to, change or refine your repertoire of knitting methods, I hope you find these ideas helpful.


The basic premise is that motion is minimized. Less wasted motion means quicker knitting. Also, a side benefit is the reduction of risk for repetitive motion stress ailments, like carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

In the English style of knitting, the yarn is held in the right hand. The technique of getting the yarn around the needle point to form the next stitch is usually referred to as "throwing". In order to accomplish this, many knitters move their entire hand to bring the yarn to and around the needle point. An alternative is to use the index finger like a "lever", and extend outward to bring the yarn to the needle point, then flex slightly sideways and inwards to wrap the yarn around the needle point. Here are thumbnail pictures of the sequence. A fuller explanation, and enlarged pictures are available below. Note: Pictures open in separate window.

Beginning position
Starting position
Flex outwards
Flex outwards
Flex sideways/catch needle point
Catch needle point
Wrap around point
Wrap around point
Bring stitch through
Bring stitch through
Form new stitch
Form new stitch
Take new stitch off
Take new stitch off
Ready to begin next stitch
Ready to begin next stitch

The photos are also available as an animated sequence prepared by Elaine Norris.

As a comparison, in the Continental, or German style of knitting, the yarn is held in the left hand, and the yarn is "picked" or scooped up by the right-hand needle point. The Continental method reminds me of crocheting, and it is quite natural to me as well. There likewise are efficiency tips that can be applied to this style of knitting by eliminating wasted motion, such as keeping your yarn tensioned close to the needle points.

A more detailed explanation of the "lever-action" style of English knitting - with enlarged pictures

  1. Tension yarn across/around fingers in right hand the way you would normally, except make sure that yarn passes across tipmost joint of your index finger (the one next to your thumb). Note: I am a vicious nail-biter, which will be very apparent in these pictures. It has been a particularly stressful week at my "real" job, and the nails have definitely taken their toll. You just don't know what a sacrifice I am making to let you see this embarrassment, but I know several of you are anxiously awaiting these pics!
  2. Support right-hand knitting needle in some way. Since I generally use circular knitting needles, or short straight or double pointed needles, I support the needle with my right thumb. For this type of support, my thumb is under the right-hand needle as shown here If using long straight needles, I could support the needle under my arm, or in a knitting belt, and just let my thumb stay relaxed above the knitting.

    To begin with, the right index finger is flexed toward you, and your hands are positioned close to the needle tips, as pictured here. The pictures show a knit stitch being made, i.e. the working yarn is held in back of the right needle, and the right needle tip inserted from left to right into the front loop of the stitch on the left needle.
  3. Flex the index finger with the yarn outward, then slightly sideways to the left and catching the tip of the right hand needle, and complete the counter-clockwise movement around the tip. Then retract the index finger back again toward your hand.

    This sequence of steps is the "lever action" I was referring to.
  4. Proceed as usual, forming the new stitch on the right hand needle by bringing the wrapped yarn through the old stitch, and removing the old stitch from the left needle.

Repeat these steps for each stitch.

The lever action is accomplished in a similar way for a purl stitch, the difference of course being that the working yarn is held to begin with in front of the right needle, and the right needle tip is inserted from right to left into the front loop of the stitch on the left needle.


The picture sequence can also be viewed in another window as an animated gif. Thanks to Elaine Norris for preparing this animation from the original photos.

Mary Helen writes ...
I am a slow knitter and was perusing the internet to find ways to improve. It was a zig-zag path that led me to your site, and I am so grateful to learn your lever-action method. My technique is similar but i 'throw' more than I now know is necessary. I learn best by seeing something demonstrated and appreciate your thorough visual for this method. Thank you so much!

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Thank you for interest. I am here to serve you and help keep your knitting a pleasurable experience. If you have questions or need assistance with purchasing or knitting my HeartStrings patterns, let me know. Sincerely, Jackie E-S

Email address: jackie@heartstringsfiberarts.com
Phone: 678-262-6338 or 877-764-2747 (toll-free in US)
Postal address: HeartStrings, Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer, 53 Parlange Drive, Destrehan LA 70047-2133 USA

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Last revised Tuesday, 05-Mar-2013 21:37:01 CST