10 actionable tips and fast knitting techniques anyone can employ to gradually increase your speed (continental & English style)
Does it feel like your projects take forever to finish? And now you are wondering how to knit faster? Well, in this tutorial I will show you a couple of tricks and techniques, anyone can employ to increase their knitting speed.
Some of them are quite easy and will probably give you an instant gain while others take months of practice. So, while I don’t want you to have the impression that you could improve overnight, speed knitting is something anyone can learn (on that note: check out my free knitting school).
Important : Before I dive right into the tips, I want to make sure that you understand that knitting faster should not be your number one priority. Given enough takes, anyone can record a video of them knitting really fast for 10 secs. But can they maintain that speed for an hour? A day? A week? You will find a lot of eye washing online. Also, what happens when it’s more than just stockinette stitch?
In addition, you have to ask if your body can actually maintain that knitting speed. You cannot compare the joints & muscles of a 20-year-old knitter with someone who is in the last quarter of their life. Never push your body to a point where you cause permanent damage.
1. Learn picking/flicking
It doesn’t matter if you are a continental knitter or an English knitter – both techniques for the standard knit stitch can be somewhat slow. While I am indeed a continental knitter and can knit pretty fast with it, you really don’t need to switch if you are currently throwing. However, you do have to make the technique more efficient.
For continental knitters, the solution means picking. That’s what you call the technique where you don’t really insert the needle into the stitch all the way through. Instead, you push the yarn against the stitch from the backside so close, that you can pick it through if you hold the needle at the right angle (here’s a video where I show you how to do that).
And the same applies to English/American knitting. Of course, if you let loose of the yarn with every stitch it will take forever. So, there are many people who invented different versions of never letting the yarn go. This is called flicking.
And either method – flicking or picking will speed up your knitting quite a bit. Sadly, both methods are quite a bit harder to learn. It will take a lot of practice.
2. Use metal needles
The more friction a knitting needle has the harder it is to accidentally drop stitches. That’s why a lot of beginners favor bamboo needles. But once you have full command of your knitting, metal needles will allow your stitches to glide along much more effortlessly.
The difference becomes very noticeable when you’re knitting across large stretches of stockinette stitch (or other patterns where you don’t really have to follow a repeat). Check out my review of the best interchangeable knitting needles in case you are looking for super versatile & fast metal needles.
3. Bunch up the stitches on the left needle
Being able to knit a stitch faster alone will get you only so far. Knitting also involves other actions like turning around your work, checking the pattern, etc. Only some of them can be optimized for significant speed gains. But if you analyze your knitting you might notice that you will often take breaks to push new stitches onto your left needle.
The more stitches you bunch up, the more of a reservoir you have before you need to take the next break. So, I always bunch up quite a lot and actually use rather long needles (5 inches) for some extra space.
In fact, that’s one of the reasons some people love knitting with long single-pointed needles (“sweater/jacket needles”) because then you don’t have to move a new set of stitches from the cable to the needle ever so often, and probably one of the reasons English lever knitting can be so damn fast!
4. Turn your fingers into a conveyor belt
You can use your fingers to transport the stitches to and from the needle. That way, you don’t have to take breaks while knitting so often.
For me, that’s my left middle finger. It’s constantly pushing the next stitch forward (helped by my thumb), while the right index finger pushes the finished stitches further down (watch me do it in slow motion here).
5. Knit looser
The tighter you knit, the harder it will be to insert your needle into a stitch. It will also make it harder to pick the yarn through. If you want to increase your knitting speed to 100+ stitches a minute, then you will have to knit quite loosely (among other things). That way, your needle will find the opening quite effortlessly and there’s also much less resistance when pulling the yarn through.
6. Practise in slow-motion
If you watch the video accompanying this post, you can see me knitting in slow motion. And it should be reasonably easy to replicate these motions very slowly yourself. And if you repeat them often enough, you will notice that you can speed up as muscles get familiar with the new motions.
This is a very easy and more general learning method. It will also ensure that you will execute the technique flawlessly. Knitting fast is meaningless if you end up with sloppy stitches.
7. Work on your posture, take breaks & don’t forget stretching
The number one mistake most knitters do is slouching on the couch or an armchair while knitting. While this is nice and comfortable for a couple of minutes, it has a high chance of putting too much stress on certain areas of your body (shoulder, hands, and the lower spine).
Setting aside the result, knitting isn’t all that different from an office job. And everyone (hopefully) knows that it’s not a good idea to slouch on a chair squitting at a screen the whole day. Take breaks, stretch yourself, and most importantly, find a good chair & sit on it properly.
Otherwise, you will not be able to maintain speed knitting for very long. Tendonitis, tennis elbow, and so many other ailments can be the results. And these will keep you from knitting for weeks (and sometimes forever). Important: Make sure to consult a professional if that’s one of your concerns, I’m just a knitter, no trained physician.
Personally, I rarely knit for longer than 1 hour at a time. I always make sure to take breaks. It’s just so important to give your tendons and the eyes in your muscle some time to relax.
8. Use both hands
My eighth tip on how to knit faster is probably the hardest to explain and learn. So, if you analyze the standard knitting technique, then most people only use their right hand. They push in, catch the yarn, pull out, and drop the stitch – all with the right needle. And every single action takes a fraction of a second.
The left hand can actually speed up things a tiny bit by supporting these motions. Think of it like that: You can either push your needle 5 mm into the stitch to the position where you can grab the yarn. It will take your right hand 0.1 secs to move that far.
Or you push come down with the left needle 2.5 mm as you insert the right needle and meet it halfway. And then it will take you only 0.05 secs to cover the same distance. And obviously the same can be applied to pulling the yarn through, etc.
You only save a very small amount of time. But remember if you really want to be able to knit one stitch per second or less, then metal needles alone won’t get you to that point. You will have to optimize every last aspect if that’s your goal.
9. Knit closer to the tip
This tip on how to knit faster is really easy and simple to understand. The close you knit to the tip of your needles, the less of a distance you need to move the individual stitches. Now don’t expect to double your speed but it’s one of these tiny little factors you need to be aware of.
This has a nice side-effect because you won’t end up stretching out your stitches (like for an SSK or P2tog tbl, etc) as much and it will also improve your stitch definition. Obviously, you will need to be a confident knitter. Because otherwise, you end up dropping a lot of stitches and that’s probably the opposite of knitting faster.
10. Tension your yarn in an efficient way
There are probably a thousand different ways to tension your yarn. Personally, I wrap the yarn around my pinky finger twice, bring it across the back of my hand and let it rest on my index finger (check out my knit stitch tutorial to see how I do it). BUT that’s a technique that works for me.
So, I really recommend you to play around with different tensioning methods and find the one that works for you. Because if the yarn doesn’t glide across/through your fingers effortlessly it will certainly slow you down. You have to find that sweet spot where it isn’t too loose to knit nor too hard to pull out more yarn.
But if you notice that you have to stop pulling out more yarn ever so often, there is probably room for improvement. Maybe you need to wrap the yarn around your pinky finger/index finger (or whatever you prefer) one less time. Or you only need to weave the yarn through the fingers instead of wrapping it around.
There is no right or wrong here. Tension the yarn any way you like. In Portugal (and quite a lot of other countries) they tension the yarn around the neck or using a special knitting pin. I can’t tell you what works for you, I can only make you aware that there are many different ways to do so.
Note: Also be aware that different yarns may require different tensioning methods (see next tip)
[Bonus] Knit with a slippery yarn
There is a world of a difference between your sheep wool homespun and slick superwash 4-ply merino yarn. Some yarns are really fuzzy, other yarns tend to split, and yet others have really high friction. The smoother and slippery your yarn, the faster you will be able to knit.
That being said, I would always pick the yarn that feels right for a project – no matter its speed knitting properties. If it’s a lightly spun alpaca yarn that will look best, then go for it!
On that note: Check out my list of indie yarn dyers in case you are looking for some inspiration.
Important things you should know about speed knitting.
Personally, I choose not to knit at the maximum possible speed. If I try hard, I can maintain around 100 stitches per minute if I am knitting knit stitches, and around 85ish if I am doing purl stitches only. Yet, I very rarely reach that knitting speed. And you know what, I’m very fine with that. Let me elaborate:
1. I tension every individual stitch
If you look at me knitting in slow motion, then you will see that I pick the yarn as normal. But then, you will also see my index finger pulling the yarn back. This will ensure that each and every stitch consumes the same amount of yarn. As a result, I have had so many people commenting on my projects saying they look machine knit. I am quite obsessed with tension but this tiny little extra motion takes up time.
And beyond that, I limit my knitting speed to the point where I can ensure that every stitch is as perfect as I can reasonably ensure. Fast knitting alone is kind of useless in my opinion.
2. Complicated repeats require knitting slowly
Speed knitting is all nice and fine if you are creating a sweater in stockinette stitch or some 1×1 rib where you don’t really have to think while you are knitting. But I knit a lot of complicated repeats and my mind just can’t process the information that fast – at least not without ending up with tons of mistakes. And frogging/tinking wastes a lot of time.
3. Avoiding chronic pain
I am a blogger and a knitter. This means my average (work) day means 2-4 hours of knitting and 4-8 hours sitting in front of the computer. So, I have an ergonomic chair, ergonomic keyboard & mouse, etc. But that and regular exercises only get you so far. And I noticed the hard way that if I push my body beyond a certain limit I end up with my (right) wrist in pain (suffered from tendonitis last summer and only now am I fully recovered – or as good as!).
And pain is always a signal that you should stop. But it’s actually even better to prevent that situation altogether. Knitting a bit slower, taking breaks, etc really helped me sustaining an overall higher knitting speed.
4. Don’t mistake stitch speed with knitting speed
Creating a sweater involves more than just fast knit stitches and it takes more than just one hour. Knitting fast for 1 hour but then being forced to take a long break really won’t help you finish your sweater faster. And likewise, you can also try to make other parts of the process more efficient. Like sewing, like switching to the next needle, etc.
For example, using a nice yarn bowl could be one factor (on that note: Check out my post with 25 tools every knitter needs). Constantly chasing your yarn or having to yank out more with force every 2 minutes – instead of being able to let it glide through your hands effortlessly – will not exactly let you knit faster.
Often knitting on circular needles instead of double-pointed needles can be faster – at least if it is a large diameter tubular project. Because when I’m knitting socks switching to the next needle often takes me as long as knitting the 15 stitches or so that are on it.
So, do look at the big picture as well.
5. Taking a break actually speeds things up
Do you want to know one of the biggest mistakes a lot of beginners make? They cast on a project, sit down for 6 hours, finish it, try it on, and then they notice it’s way too small or big and there’s a really bad mistake somewhere in the middle. Situations like these are entirely avoidable when you take breaks and look at your knitting.
So, even if your body could sustain knitting 2 hours straight, it’s so important to check your knitting every couple of rows. Because frogging one or two rows and knitting them again is so much faster than unraveling a whole finished object. Often, you can also fix smaller mistakes with a crochet hook but that stops working neatly once you are past a certain point.
And following that line of thought, you can also use life-lines. Some patterns (especially lace and brioche stitches) are very difficult to fix and unravel. A lifeline is basically nothing but a bit of scrap yarn you carry across one row. And in the unlikely event of a mistake, you can unravel a portion of your work and it will automatically stop at your lifeline and it will be much easier to pick up stitches on top of that.
At the end of this article, I really wanted to highlight one important issue. It’s very easy to suffer from imposter syndrome: “Why are they knitting so fast and I am so slow”. There’s always that one lady that finished 12 pairs of socks and 3 sweaters in January while you are still working on the baby blanket you started last summer. And I can’t stress enough how important it is to not compare yourself with others (in a harmful way).
First of all, online there is a lot of window dressing going on. And then, you probably don’t know anything about their background either. Maybe that lady has been knitting for 30 years as a living, and does little else the whole day, while you need to juggle 3 kids, the household, and a full-time job.
And even when there are a lot of similarities, different people bring different things to the table. I run this knitting blog, my youtube channel is full of tutorials, and yet there are so many times a day where I scroll through Instagram and marvel at the finished projects of other people. And some of them, are quite arguably, better than mine.
But my forte is creating patterns, teaching people how to knit them, and putting things online so you can access them. I’m not necessarily the best knitter that ever existed. And likewise, you have your strong points and weak points. Maybe you have a very neat tension, or you can memorize even the most complicated repeat, or can knit without looking.
Or maybe you are a very smart shopper, or you really know how to find the right knitted gift for someone (instead of knitting something they never wear or appreciate). So, when you compare yourself, always make sure you see the whole picture.
If you compare yourself, always use this as a source of strength. The reason why it “bothers” you so much someone else is knitting faster is that you care so much about this hobby. So, don’t tell yourself “I’m so slow, so I must be a bad knitter”. Instead, realize you love this hobby, and you found an area where you can still improve with practice and time.
And last, but not least, knitting is not a race. Enjoy the process, and enjoy your finished projects. That joy exists within you and has nothing to do with others.