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Combined Knitting Q&A

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Questions from Readers
& Answers from Annie

Q
I am having terrible problems holding the yarn in place to pick/scoop for my purl stitches. I've tried several methods of wrapping and finally ended up holding the yarn between my index and thumb, which is very awkward, slow and uncomfortable.

This method is so fast for knitting, that if I can master the purl I will probably stay with it, rather than the English (wrap) style that I've always used. I hope you can help.

A
When I teach knitting I tell my students that my dream for them is that they'll discover their own "perfect" method of knitting that suits them, and I'll never tell them that they're doing anything "wrong" as long as they're getting the result they want...

However, the only thing I do try really hard to deter is wrapping the yarn around the hand in a cat's cradle for tensioning. I just let my yarn hang down the front when I purl (actually it hangs in the front and then I flip the part that goes toward the skein over the work) When I purl I hold the yarn between my thumb and index finger and "scoop" each stitch with the right hand needle. It might seem slow at first, but everything new feels awkward at first (well, almost everything). Force yourself to do it for 10 rows and see if it doesn't feel more comfortable by row 11!


Click to see a larger image


Q

Thank you so much for posting the combined knitting technique. It is amazing how much quicker and more even my stitches look.

I have a question about knitting in the round. If I'm doing stockinette in the round, will the leading edge face the right way to knit the stitches the combined way or will I have to alternate between knitting in the back on one round and knitting in the front on the next?

I just want to make sure I'm not going to twist my stitches. For years, I have been purling in the combined method (all the while not knowing that was what I was doing) but I was wrapping wrong on the knit stitches so my knitting was always plaited.

A
Stockinette Stitch in the Round
Most of the time when knitting in the round the knitter is working in stockinette stitch (K on RS, P on WS) so each row is worked as a knit row.

This means there is no purl row to re-seat the stitches, which is essential to Combination Knitting. To correct this and make the leading edge of the stitch face the tip of the Left Hand needle you must slightly alter the way you make a knit stitch when working in the round. It will be necessary to wrap the yarn clockwise around the RH needle when making a stitch.

Depending on the knitter, it may just be easier to knit Western style when working in the round. I find that the time I use getting the stitch seated correctly is more than I save by knitting Combination style.

Having said that, however, when I'm working with a fiber that "wants" less twisting (a loose blend of cotton and rayon, a fragile fiber, wire) I take the extra time to form my knit stitches by wrapping the yarn clockwise as I knit so that I am, indeed, knitting combination style! This puts less strain on the fiber and makes for a nicer fabric.

Garter Stitch in the Round
I find that knitting garter stitch or seed stitch in the round is actually easier and quicker using combination style. The stitches are automatically set up to create the opposite type of stitch in the next round - it definitely makes those long garter streches less tedious!

Every great advance has it's limitations, and circular knitting might just be the combination's Professor Moriarty.

Knitting calisthenics is rumored to be a new Olympic event. Heck, if they can consider arm wrestling, then why not?


Q
I was reading about combined knitting and believe that's the way I was taught as a girl of 8 by my  Hungarian grandma!  When I was in my 20's it was pointed out that if I didn't knit thru the back loop for stockinette... my stitches were twisted!  Some LYS owner taught me to purl differently which involves wrapping the new yarn around the needle(instead of just scooping) I would love to go back to scooping when I purl... but doesn't that involve knitting TBL?? There is no mention of it in your wonderful instructions.  Would you please confirm??

A
Every stitch has a leading edge and a trailing edge. The leading edge is the side of the stitch that seems to "want" the needle to be inserted to make a knit stitch. If you knit by inserting the needle in the leading edge of a stitch it will be an untwisted stitch. If you insert your needle into the trailing edge of a stitch, you will twist that stitch.

In Western Knitting (the way the LYS owner taught you), knitting through the back leg (or loop) is "twisting" the stitch because you're inserting the needle into the trailing edge. The leading edge of the stitches are seated on the needle facing the blunt end (away from the tip, the trailing edge of the stitch is toward the tip) so in Western Knitting one inserts the needle into the stitch through the front leg of the stitch toward the point.

In Combination Knitting, when one makes a knit stitch it's through the back leg (loop) of the stitch, but because of the way I purl, the stitches are seated on the needle with the leading edge facing the tip of the needle. Thus, knitting through the 'back loop' doesn't twist the stitch.

When I make a knit stitch I insert the needle through the back leg of the stitch (or back loop, as some folks call it, but I find that an inexact description) with my right hand needle pointing AWAY from the tip of the left hand needle.

The way you purl determines how your stitch will lay on the needle. If you purl by wrapping the yarn OVER the needle, when you turn your work you will knit through the front leg (or loop) of the stitch.

If you purl by wrapping the yarn under the needle (aka "scooping the yarn") when you turn your work you will knit through the back leg (or loop) of the stitch.

Hope this makes it clear(er)!!


Q
This is the way my mother taught me to knit but I was told by many knitting instructors that this method should be avoided and would create problems such as twisted stitches... I would love to go back to this because purling is torture otherwise..

However, I am wondering, are there any stitch patterns/cables, etc. where this method can not be used?

A breathe of fresh air! I have struggled so long trying to get this lefthanded purl to work for me...

 

A
As long as you understand which way the stitch is seated on the needle (ie, is the leading edge toward the tip or toward the back of the needle...) you can do ANYTHING!

If you purl your stitches in the Combined Method and then try to knit them in the Western Method your stitches WILL be twisted (this would be the style of knitting that is also known as Eastern Crossed knitting)

However if you purl in the combination style (MUCH faster - a real delight) and then take into account which way the stitch is seated on the needle you'll understand as you're knitting that the stitch WANTS the needle to go into it with the leading edge toward the tip (or through the back loop, as some Western style knitters say)

You'd still do cabling the same way (although I always cable without a cable needle...) but when decreasing you need to understand what the designer desires in the final result to "translate" the written instructions. For this reason I find charts SO much easier to read - as a matter of fact, I could never do lace until charted lace patterns became more common.

Refer to my decrease page for a more detailed explanation about K2tog-TBL vs. K2-tog-LS (left slant). Basically, I prefer to describe the FINAL RESULT of a decrease in my patterns and let the knitter get there how ever they choose to. I believe that my micro-managing the knitting by telling the knitter how they should put the needle into each stitch actually hangs up more knitters than it helps, and can be unnecessarily confusing.

In each of my patterns I have a stitch key reference where the knitter can turn to see how I would work a certain stitich, but in my written instructions I try to be as style-neutral as possible because I realize that not only are there Western and Combination knitters out there - there are also Eastern Knitters, Left Handed Knitters, Turkish Knitters - so many variations! In this shrinking world it just seems more - well, democratic - to try to be style neutral so that EVERYONE can enjoy my patterns!

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©2003 Annie Modesitt