All About Portuguese Knitting Pins

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Today’s blog post includes a brief history lesson. Wait! Wait!! Don’t go! It will be fun, I promise. Okay. Maybe not fun, but you might just learn something, and when has that ever been bad? Join me in a mini-exploration of an accessory that makes Portuguese knitting stand out– the knitting pin.

A brief history of Portuguese knitting

Fun fact, Portuguese knitting did not originate in Portugal! The knitting style is thought to have originated in the middle east around 10 centuries ago. Portuguese knitting is also known as Incan, Andean, Peruvian, or Bosnian knitting. The purpose of a knitting pin is to keep even tension in your working yarn so your stitches are even. Though not necessary for Portuguese knitting, using a knitting pin it is more comfortable than tensioning the yarn around your neck. For knitters that use them, the knitting pin becomes an integral part of the knitting process. For a more in-depth look at the history of Portuguese knitting, check out the book “Portuguese Knitting: A historical & practical guide” by Rosa Pomar.

Benefits of using knitting pins

The main reason to use a knitting pin is to NOT have yarn sliding across your neck on a hot summer day. Yuck. If you’re thinking of trying Portuguese knitting, tension the yarn behind your neck before you buy a knitting pin (or make your own). Don’t judge the style based on the yarn around your neck though.

What are knitting pins made of?

Knitting pins made with safety pins and paperclips

The knitting pin can be as fancy or as simple as you desire. I started with a simple safety pin –doesn’t make for the smoothest of knitting– but it works in a pinch. You could make your own knitting pin from a safety pin and a paperclip if you want to get real DIY.

The traditional knitting pin is essentially a safety pin with a hook-like these. They are great to pin to your knitting bag or put in your notions container. I have one in each of my project boxes so if I find myself without my favorite pin I at least have a backup.

What is a magnetic knitting pin?

magnetic knitting pin
My magnetic sugar skull knitting pin

My personal favorite! These are a game-changer. They are like the iPhone of knitting pins – flashier, fancier, pricier, and frankly just work better. I’ve mentioned Andrea Wong before, she is the godmother of modern-day Portuguese knitting. As she tells it, one of her students didn’t like how knitting pins put holes in their shirts –understandably– so they designed magnetic knitting pins. And everyone collectively said, “Why the hell didn’t I think of that?”. Some people are just born a little ahead of the rest of us. Anyway, this is where knitting pins get really fun. The magnetic knitting pins come in all different designs, if you can think of it someone has probably already designed it. A quick search of Amazon found these beauties – a Llama pin, Dragonfly pin, and Mandala pin – that I’ve already put in my cart. Don’t judge.


DIY double knitting pin

There is another reason knitting pins are so cool – I haven’t mentioned it before because I’m trying to be sneaky. But really, it’s because I’m writing a whole post on it. Here’s the teaser. Portuguese knitting makes stranded color knitting EASY. All you need is a pin for each color (or a double pin like my homemade one) and enough room on your chest to pin each of them. Boom. Ready to Intarsia the shit out of a hat. The yarn stays in place, doesn’t get tangled, and it is magical. If you knit with multiple colors – or would like to try – learn to knit Portuguese style with one color and stay tuned for more.

Do you use a knitting pin? What’s your favorite kind – DIY, magnetic, or old-school? Leave a note in the comments, I’d love to hear about your knitting pins!