Combined Knitting Tutorial

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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.

The Eastern orientation is the opposite.

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.

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.

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 Bluprint blog tomorrow for a slip, slip, knit tutorial!

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Combined Knitting Tutorial