Crochet Techniques

An Ode to Those Crazy Combination Knitters

Raise your hand if you’re a combination knitter. You rebel, you!

Have you ever compared the way you’re knitting to other knitters? We all hold our yarn and needles a little differently, even if we learned from the same teacher. I recently noticed that one of my friends threads the yarn through four of her left-hand fingers and lets it flow right onto the tip of the needle rather than throwing the yarn like I do. Other knitters pick the yarn as they knit, and some might even knit a combination of several styles. Walk into any knitting group and you’ll see dozens of variations of knitting, including a few combination knitters.

Knitting needles and Two Colors of Yarn

Combination knitting, sometimes known as combined knitting, combines traditional Eastern and Western knitting methods to create an entirely different way of knitting.

There are a few things that distinguish Eastern, Western, and combination knitting. One thing is how the knitter inserts the knitting needle into the stitches. Did the needle go through the front loop? Or did the knitter insert the needle through the back loop? How the knitter wraps the yarn around the tip of the needle — clockwise or counter-clockwise — is also an indication of the style.

Let’s take a look at the elements of all three types of knitting to get a better understanding of each style:

Western

  • Worked in the front loops
  • Knit stitches are wrapped clockwise
  • Purl stitches are wrapped counter-clockwise

This is probably the method you’ll see most often in knitting — especially in the United States. Western knitting involves working in the front loops of the stitches. The yarn for a knit stitch will be wrapped clockwise around the needle, while the yarn for a purl stitch will be wrapped counter-clockwise.

Eastern

  • Worked in the back loops
  • Knit stitches are wrapped counter-clockwise
  • Purl stitches are wrapped clockwise

So called because it is more common in Eastern European countries, as well as Arab and South American countries. Eastern knitters work in the back loop of the stitches. Wrapping the yarn to knit each stitch is exactly opposite of the Western style. Eastern knitters will wrap knit stitches counter-clockwise and wrap purl stitches clockwise.

Combination

  • Knit stitches are worked in the back loops
  • Purl stitches are worked in the front loops
  • Knit and purl stitches are wrapped clockwise

Combination knitting combines Eastern and Western knitting. In combination knitting, the knit stitch is worked in the back loops, while the purl stitch is worked in the front loops. The yarn for both stitches is wrapped clockwise around the needle.

Knitted Swatch

A closer look at combining styles

Mix and match!

Now let’s get crazy: did you know you can mix and match all these styles? Each knitting style has its own strengths and weaknesses, and you can learn how to take advantage of those strengths.

Craftsy has put all this together for you in the Improve Your Knitting: Alternative Methods & Styles class with expert Patty Lyons. Patty will discuss the pros and cons of all these knitting styles, plus demonstrate knit-side and purl-side decreases for each so that your knitting is lovely no matter which style you use.

Are you a combination knitter? You’re not alone! Designer Annie Modesitt is a combination knitter, too, and she even wrote a book about it!

To better understand the differences in Eastern and Western knitting, see our combined knitting tutorial.

Be sure to come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow for Free Pattern Friday!

Is there a right way and a wrong way to knit? Which style do you knit?

12 Comments

Marjorie

After 40 years of knitting, I had missed this nuance. I can knit forwards and backwards, with the yarn in the right or left hand. Now you’ve introduced me to a new twist on knitting. I enjoy your posts–always something new to try.

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Barb R

How interesting. I guess I’m a Combination Version B knitter?

Knit stitches are worked in the front loops
Purl stitches are worked in the front loops
Knit and purl stitches are wrapped counter-clockwise

I’m going to try out the other versions and see what they are like.

Thanks for this post!

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Mary Choy

I also loved this article. I once was told my knitting was wrong because I twisted the stitches by k front and wrap clockwise. So I changed to k front and wrap counterclockwise. Years later, someone said that older way was a specific stitch and I immediately felt better. I still k and p using front loop and wrap counterclockwise for both, but since reading your very clear article I am inspired to try all these ways! Thank you for focusing in on this topic!

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Lynn Hirshman

Interesting… I’m a picker — learned from a Norwegian friend. I do combine styles only when I am doing colorwork — when I hold a strand of yarn in each hand, and wrap with the right-hand yarn.

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Rebecca

Good to know!
I’ve been told I knit weirdly. I hold my needles the continental way, Now that I’m helping a friend teach people at work how to knit, I’m realizing how weird my knitting style is (most of my friends knit English/Western style).
I knit/purl in front loops and wrap my yarn clockwise for purling and counter clockwise for knitting.

Guess there are lots of different combinations!

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debbi

Rebecca, I knit the exact same way. 🙂

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Jade Bilkey

I realize this is an older post but I seem to be getting conflicting information from several sources.

When you are quoting “clockwise” and “counterclockwise” are you looking at the needle point on at all times? If that is the case, then the definitions I have from several sources conflict with this post strongly.

If you look down the tip of the needle, western knitting should be always counter-clockwise, eastern always clockwise and combination knitting uses both depending on the leading edge of the work.

See: http://petitevie.net/?p=1206 for the best visual explanation of western/eastern I’ve found.

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Storm

Ever since I learned that there are different styles and methods (which was about a month ago) I’ve noticed that I knit wierd… I work in the front loops like a western knitter but I wrap the yarn like an eastern knitter…I wonder how this effects the look of my knitting

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Nikoo

a weird one here! I knit combination style but I do the knit stitch counter clockwise(how everybody knits in Iran) and I wrap the yarn several times around my finger(style). But I always face problems reading knitting patterns especially when it has yarn overs. It is making me frustrated but on the other hand I don’t want to give up on my method since I find it the most efficient one

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Marian Collins-Steding

I would refer you to the following course: Improve Your Knitting: Alternative Methods & Styles with Patty Lyons. Patty excels at explaining the “whys” as well as the “hows”. The course includes several other styles in addition to the combination. And remember you get 30 days to decide if this is the course for you!

I just started knitting combination style due to a problem with my wrists-its the natural way to go for me. And no more wrist problems 🙂 !

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Sue Foucault

Very confused about what Patty Lyons calls clockwise and counter clockwise in the class Alternative Methods and Styles. The video actually shows her wrapping the yarn counter clockwise for what she calls clockwise, and shows wrapping in a clockwise direction on the video for what she calls counter clockwise for both western and combination knit stitch.
Don’t know if this is simply and error….or if she is referring to something other than the direction of the yarn wrap when using these terms?

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Crystal

I naturally did combination knitting in the continental style. I always knew something I was doing was off since I had to adjust increases and decreases to get the slant right, but I didn’t want to change. It’s great to learn that it’s actually a thing and not something I should have corrected!

Reply

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