Friday, February 25, 2011

Combination Knitting

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Continental Knitting. I've had some great feedback about the Norwegian purl - happy to have helped out some knitters with a new skill.

I've been doing a lot of colourwork recently, and I love the speed I can get by stranding colours with two hands.

When I wrote that post, I mentioned Combination Knitting. I should explain myself, I figure.

It's pretty clear that Norwegian or not, the purl stitch can be cumbersome in Continental knitting.

Some knitters approach it another way - they just wrap the purl stitch the "easy" way.

This results in stitches that are oriented the "wrong" way on your needle. Normally, the right leg of the stitch is at the front of the needle. The result of an "incorrect" purl wrap is that the left leg of the stitch is at the front of the needle. You can see this on the following right side row...

If, on the following row, you were to knit this normally - through the front loop - the resulting stitch would be twisted. Twisted stitches are generally undesirable, as they look different, and they tend to tighten up your knitting. (There are times that twisted stitches are used for effect - often in a twisted ribbing, which is tidy and tight and has a terrific corded look.)

How to compensate for mis-oriented stitches? Knit them through the back loop!

Seriously! It's that easy!

That's Combination Knitting.

Now - some caveats. It's most appropriate for stocking stitch worked flat. For garter stitch, or stocking stitch in the round, you're only knitting, therefore only wrapping the usual way, so the stitches end up oriented the usual way and so you will need to work them the usual way.

In addition, when working Combination style, because your stitches are oriented the other way on the knit side, you need to compensate in your decreases: for a "normal" Western knitter, k2tog leans to the right, for a Combination knitter, k2tog leans to the left. In many situations this doesn't matter, but in applications like lace, it can make an unholy mess.

A skilled combination knitter knows that when there's a k2tog in the pattern, you need to work an ssk, and when there's an ssk called for, you need to work a k2tog.

The name refers to the fact that it's a combination of the standard Western way of knitting - the method that most Western Europeans and North Americans learn, and the Eastern Method, common in Far Eastern Europe and the Near/Middle East.

The goddess of Combination Knitting is Annie Modesitt. Learn more at her website.

When worked with the yarn in your left hand, Continental style, the Combination Method is screamingly fast. Annie tells a terrific story about a yarn shop owner accusing her of lying because of the speed with which she finished her first sweater project.

In fact, Ms. Modesitt offers a free online class in the technique - more info here.

Give it a go - you may surprise yourself!


thatdarncat said...

Hi Kate,
This is a great tutorial. I get the part about the purl stitch being oriented the wrong way, and knitting through the back loop on the next row. I don't get the part about the K2tog or SSK having to be swapped. Can you elaborate please?
Many thanks.

LizzieK8 said...

I'm a recently converted Combo knitter. I love it. I cannot believe how much faster I can knit. And once I figured out the decrease issues..... wow.

I can do ribbing now much quicker and with less hate in my heart!

Anonymous said...

I taught myself to knit by looking at a sweater (and the runs that occurred when a thread was cut) I figured out my own version of "pulling one loop up through another" and created the exact same technique, which had worked for more than forty years for me. It's true that you do have to occasionally think about which way your loops are facing. Some stitches are a little harder, some a little easier. And it's nice and fast, especially on the purl side!

KarenJ said...

I have no idea why I came through as "Anonymous" on that last comment! I thought I'd hit N ame/Url! That kind of day all around!

Alejandra said...

Thank you for clearing up some confusion. I just recently found out that I am a combination knitter, that is how I was taught, I always thought I was just a continental knitter, every time I looked up tutorials on youtube I always wondered why I knitted differently and just chalked it up to continental style; until I tried my hand at knitting in the round, and found out that I was knitting "weird." You are right, there is not a lot of info out there on combo knitting and annie moddesit has helped some, but I found her website lacking in some of the basics like how to knit in the round. You just taught me that in the future a ktog for me is now a ssk and an ssk a ktog. I made a baby blanket for a friend in a wonderful heart lace pattern, and didn't have any issues, but only because there was a rs and a ws, the ws being purled which reseated the stitches. But I've had trouble with some other patterns in the past and now I realize it's because they were not addressing my style of knitting. Thanks again for the info!

aelial said...

I was taught to knit this way by somebody when I was a child (I can't even remember who taught me to knit now, since it happened when I was 4), and never knew there was anything unusual about it until my first attempt at knitting lace (this week). I am kind of blown away by the fact that there are other ways to knit besides this one, to be honest :) And also by the fact that most lace knitting tutorials won't work as described...