Combined Knitting Tutorial

Posted by on May 15, 2013 in Knitting | Comments


When I first started knitting, I didn’t know anything about Continental or English knitting or slants of stitches. My best friend and I just had knitting materials, a bottle of wine, and gripes about life. We started out making nothing more adventurous than rectangles that might someday turn into scarves or blankets. And we had no clue if we were doing anything “wrong.”

Eventually, we joined with some other friends to form a knitting club and I branched out into more complicated patterns that called for increases. The first time I got to a pattern that called for a “knit through back loop,” I was hopelessly confused. Didn’t a knit always go through the back loop? This is when I learned that I was a Combined knitter and my stitch slants were all “wrong.”

Combined knitting gets its name because it’s a combination of Eastern and Western knitting. The fundamental difference between Western and Eastern knitting is how the stitches are oriented on the needle after being worked. In Western knitting, the orientation on the right-hand needle is for the right leg of the stitch to be in front of the needle, and the left leg to be behind.

western orientation

The Eastern orientation is the opposite.

eastern knitting

In Combined knitting, the orientation on knit stitches is Western and on purl stitches it’s Eastern.

No matter what your knitting style, you always enter the stitch through the right leg of the stitch. So for Combined knitting, you work a knit stitch through the back loop of the stitch. The needle goes straight through the back loop, from right to left.

purl stitch

For the purl stitch in Combined knitting, the key is in the yarn wrap. You wrap the yarn clockwise, so it goes under the right-hand needle and comes up between the two needles.

stitch orientation

This produces the stitch orientation that will lead the Combined knitter into knitting into the back loop.

Dedicated Combined knitters swear that their style of knitting produces a flatter, more even-looking stockinette fabric. This method of knitting is also said to cure “rowing out” for those knitters who have a noticeable difference in size between their knit rows and purl rows.

Combined knitting poses some problems for a knitter, as evidenced by my confusion about how to increase by knitting through the back loop. When I first learned I was a Combined knitter, I lacked the skills to know how to correct a pattern for my odd knitting style, so I simply retaught myself to knit English style. Because the stitches are oriented differently from Western knitting stitches, the slants are different. This means that increases and decreases need to be worked a little differently. Knitting two together results in a SSK-oriented decrease that will lean to the left. To decrease to the right, a Combined knitter needs to slip the two stitches purl-wise; which in combined knitting means entering through the back loop, resulting in a twist onto the right-hand needle. Then slip those two stitches back and knit them together through the front loop.

As for the answer to my increase question, well it turns out that’s cured by knitting first through the back loop, then into the front loop. When in doubt, in Combined knitting, just switch the order of things to get your stitch orientation right. Or consult this handy conversion table I found.

Combined knitting works for any stitch pattern that combines knits and purls, most obviously stockinette, but also ribs and seed stitch or garter stitch in the round. What types of project do you hope to use combined knitting for?

Return to the Craftsy blog tomorrow for a slip, slip, knit tutorial!

Comments

  1. Marge says:

    I have always been an Eastern knitter. When there is a decrease i look to see which way the decrease should slant, rather than say ssk or k2tog. If the decrease is not decorative and is just there to decrease, like on the top of a hat, I k2tog my way. It is easier.

  2. maisie salaz says:

    I don’t know enough about knitting to complain. All I know, is I love to knit, one of these days, I will learn how to purl. Right now, I am having fun just making up my own patterns. Maybe I am purling and I don’t even know it. Maisie Salaz, Austin, TX

  3. qtukcue2001 says:

    Yes, Iv’e been knitting that way for a while now. In order to avoid twisted stitches, I check for the leg of the stitch that hugs the needle then I know that the leg I don’t go into. So I go into the other leg. Then with the right leg to knit, If it twist as I knit it that tells me to knit it from right to left or left to right. But now a name has been pinned to this kind of knitting. Good to know and thx for the article. Will read again. Happy knitting!

  4. Kathleen says:

    I taught myself how to knit. I use a Continental type of knitting, but the way I wrap my yarn for a purl stitch is counter clockwise. It is faster for me and all the knitting requires a lot less movement. I know that I have to switch or fix certain stitches as I go in order to have normal knitted fabric. I have be knitting this way for so long that I only notice it when someone comments on it. For the longest time I could not figure out why my knitting was so different. I am an obsessive knitter. I have to knit before work, in waiting areas and any moment that allows me to. I encourage people to knit and as long as it comes out like a normal knit, who cares if your technique is a little different as long as you understand it. After all no one will know if it was knit English, Continental or Combination once the item is finished. I consider myself Bi-Stitchual because I knit and crochet. I guess it could refer to my knitting style too now. LOL

  5. M Higgins says:

    This is very interesting! Any way you could “translate” these directions for a left handed knitter? It’s all backwards for me!!

  6. Nicole says:

    I found out that I am a combined knitter when a joined a kitting group. I have tried to reteach myself to knit “correctly” but I always switch back. Thank you for the conversion table. I always have to fuss with stitches to get them to lean the right way, Its nice to see what I am already doing in print.

    My friend tells me “it dose not matter how you do it, as long as you are consistent it will look good.”

  7. Cat says:

    I just thought I was backward!! I learned from watching face to face not side to side!
    .

  8. Jean says:

    Also useful for backward knitters!
    I am a backward knitter. I first learned LH English, then RH Continental. Now I knit all odd rows RH, and then instead of turning and purling back, I simply knit back left-handed, never needing to turn the work or purl on the back side. This does re-orient the stitches, so I had to figure out how to go through the back loops on my own, but that conversion chart will be very helpful!

  9. mary young says:

    I am left handed and could not master what I call the English way. I learned with my right hand and found that Continental was way easier and less effort. Yes, Purling was a problem. At a guild meeting a yarn store owner sat next to me and she showed me a
    “combined” way to purl and life has never been the same but better! She also said that
    you learn the most from the person next to you. I can just feel and see when a stitch is going wrong. Also the New Zealand woman who taught me said that you only do what the pattern says between the commas. How true. She knew the English way and saw that I was having difficulty and encouraged me to do the Continental. Prior to WW I
    Continental knitting was the method of choice in the Western world but everything German was taken out of the american lifestyle thus the popularity of English knitting.