Sunday, 6 April 2014

Portuguese Knitting

Most knitters in Western society are familiar with the two most common styles of knitting: English style, in which the yarn is kept at proper tension using the right hand; and Continental, in which the yarn is kept in play using the left hand. A number of knitters employ both, switching to either hand as the other tires, or using both hands when working with two different colours. But there is another common method you may not know about called Portuguese knitting.

Portuguese knitting, also known as Turkish Knitting, Incan Knitting, Andean Knitting and "around the neck knitting", originated among Arabic knitters. The technique gradually spread north from Africa and the Middle East to the Mediterranean, the Balkans (especially Bulgaria and Greece), the Iberian Peninsula and eventually came to South America via Spanish and Portuguese colonization. Knitters in these countries sometimes use hooked knitting needles but it's not necessary to do so as the Portuguese style of knitting is often practiced with the standard knitting needle.

When using the Portuguese knitting technique, the yarn in play is wrapped around the right hand, and then strung around the knitter's neck or through a pin fastened to the knitter's shirt or sweater, before continuing to the piece being knitted. It's a smooth, easy, fast technique involving only a flick of the left thumb to wrap the yarn around the needle for the next stitch, and it could be of great help to those who can no longer knit English or Continental style due to injuries to their hands. In the video above Andrea Wong demonstrates knitting and purling in the Portuguese knitting style.

Andrea Wong says in the above video that she uses knitting pins (such as the one above) "for comfort" rather than running the yarn around her neck, and she uses more than one pin if working in different colours. But I would be concerned about the holes it would create in my clothes.

There are also Portuguese knitting pendants available, which look like a better idea to me. These pendants can be strung on a cord and worn as a necklace, such as the one above, which is from Knitting Boutique.

Another option is to use a magnetic pin that can be fastened to your clothing (the magnet goes on the underside of the fabric) without risking any damage to the garment. This magnetic pin is from Etsy vendor Flighty Fleurs.

There are some very pretty knitting pins and pendants available on the net that could almost pass for jewelry, such as the pins above, which were made by Etsy vendor Lazy Cat Fibers, but if you just want to try out the technique before investing in some beautiful pins or pendants, you can always begin by simply stringing the yarn around your neck. If that irritates your neck, try making your own pin by fastening a bent paper clip to a safety pin, or making a Portuguese knitting pendant necklace by slipping a bent paper clip onto a cord.


  1. I am a Portuguese knitter and I have never used a pin . Every time I try it, the feeling is just completely different. The yarn over your neck allows much more control over tension, in my experience. But again, it is all a matter of getting used to it...

    1. I just relearned this technique on Saturday. Based on what you've said, I'm going to try the around the neck technique as I found tensioning my biggest problem. Thanks for the advice!

  2. I'm a recent convert and like using the pin vs. around the neck. I find it more comfortable as the yarn slides easier on the pin than the neck. While English is still my go to for speed and intricate patterns, Portuguese is a great method for my tendonitis plagued right thumb and never ending garter stitches.

  3. This is how my babas *grandma in Macedonian taught me how to knit. Both were wonderful and fast knitters.

  4. I've just picked up this technique on you tube, and I love it. Much easier and nicer end product.

  5. I go around the neck for simple or single colour patterns but pins make complicated two or three colour work much easier. My 50+ year old hands love this technique! I taught myself during a snowbound winter a few years ago and haven't looked back.

  6. My Portuguese mother taught me how to knit this way, I look at English stylevknitters and am blown away by the inefficient movements! Try this, it's fast and you can herd sheep while you're knitting;)

  7. I am new to this style and use it for simpler knits but until I get better at it will continue to continental for more complicated. I love the ease of this style over the other 2 more common styles.

  8. Being born and raised in Portugal of course this was the first knitting technique I ever learned. Knowing how to also use the other styles I still prefer my Portuguese way, it's a lot easier and you can knit everything, from simple to more intricate patterns and works. The biggest benefit is it spares your hands and fingers of unnecessary movements, making knitting a lot faster, the work comes out beautiful and neat because you have a better control of the tension, and for someone who has been knitting for several long years it can cause less injuries on your hands than some other styles.
    My grandmother mother was an avid knitter, never used other techniques, she always made beautiful work from the most simple patterns to the a lot more complicated.

  9. My grandmother was from southern Italy and knit in this style. I am so glad I found it. So easy on the hands, I am cured of tendonitis. And I channel Grandma every day. She would be happy to see me knit just as she did. And I love it.

  10. This change in style definitely helped with my hand cramps but sadly when the pattern gets complicated (especially with yarn overs) I just get very confused.