My Virtual Sanity

Have you ever felt the need to share your thoughts with virtual strangers just so you can pretend that you have adult conversations during the day? Well, that's what I'm about to do. Be prepaired for my life as a stay at home, obsessive knitter, and my attempts to stay connected with the rest of the world.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Are you a combined knitter?

I am a combined knitter, or a heretic as one knitting author calls it. I knit through the back loop. Call me a rebel, or a self taught screw up, it still works. I never realized that I knit in any way different from everyone else until someone posted a question to the knitlist one day describing a problem that I have always had. When I knit in the round my stitches twist. I knit a sweater for my sister once that had a very discernible demarcation line where I switched from knitting flat to knitting in the round. Knitting in the round also hurt my hands after a while because it is harder to knit through twisted stitches. It is almost like the stitches hide their little loops from you and say "No, don't knit me!" All stitches lie on the needle with 1 half of the loop on one side and one on the other. One of these "arms" or "legs" as our famous SnB author calls them is a little closer toward the needle tip than the other. I always thought of this as the stitch "presenting it's self" or a little arm waving at you "Hey you knitter! I'm over here! Knit through this loop!" This makes reading your flat knitting very easy for a combined knitter. On knit stitches the back loop is waving at you, while on purl stitches the front loop is waving at you. I can easily determine which row I'm on (knit or pearl) or which stitch I should do in ribbing because the stitches themselves tell my fingers as I go along. I don't have to look. It does make seed stitch a little awkward, however. It is always uncomfortable for me to work stitches through the wrong loop.

Ok, so how exactly does one knit combined, and why doesn't everyone do it this way?
  1. Combined knitters always knit through the back loop
  2. Combined knitters purl the easy or "cheater" way by simply laying their right needle outside the working yarn and scooping it through the loop. This creates a twisted stitch. MANY knitting books and instructors will tell you this is wrong. It is not wrong as long as you also knit through the back loop. (The "Correct" way is to lay your needle on the inside of the working yarn and loop the yarn over the needle then pull it through. That's like a whole extra movement! Don't call us lazy knitters though, please see below for all the extra thought we have to put into everything).
Combined knitting is easy to read, easy on your wrists, is very quick (note the cheating on the purling) and tends to lead to very even stitches. It has distinct disadvantages, though.
  1. Knitting through the back loop without purl rows in between (like circular knitting or garter stitch) leads to tight twisted stitches.
  2. K2tog is the "standard" decrease method for most normal knitters. For us it is awkward. Our more comfortable decrease is a SSK which leans the opposite direction.
  3. Any pattern that reads "Knit through back loop" must be reinterpreted in our odd combined brain as "Knit through the front loop" What they really mean is "Knit through the wrong loop (the one that's not waving at you) in order to twist the stitch"
Combined knitting is not for the faint of heart. Yes it is easier for me, but I am reluctant to teach new knitters my preferred method simply because I know how hard it was for me to figure out how to adjust for the above problems. How to make a proper k2tog, etc. I remember when I finally looked up SSK because the descriptions in books sounded like a very complicated method of achieving EXACTLY the same thing I was doing when I did K2tog. Then I looked at K2tog and it had me knitting through the front loops, with the second stitch first. "What the heck! That's just stupid" I yelled at my computer. "Whoever thought that knitting through the front loops constitutes a 'knit 2 together' was NUTS!" Shortly there after I learned that this is in fact how most people knit and made perfect sense TO THEM. SSK on the other hand is a much easier decrease for us Combined knitters. It is the intuitive knit 2 together. Slip your right needle through 2 stitches on the left needle and knit them together.

When most knitters attempt a right slanted decrease (SSK) their stitches are waving with the wrong hand. Their front loop is closer to the tip than the back and in order to achieve this decrease properly it needs to be the other way around. To achieve this, they slip the stitches to the right needle, slip them back twisted (so now the back loop is facing) and knit. Or they try to avoid it by doing a psso (slip one stitch, knit one stitch, then pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch as if to bind off). As combined knitters, all our knit stitches are lefties (ok, you've gotta visualize a happy little guy hanging out on the needle facing the needle tip with his left hand in the back and his right hand in the front. He's a lefty because his back hand, the left one, is the one waving at us). They're already perfectly setup for a right leaning decrease, it's the left leaning one (K2tog) that gives us trouble. For that we have to get the waving hand in the front. Slip 2 stitches to the right needle. Slip them back one at a time by inserting the left needle tip through the stitch from right to left. This will turn your little guy around so the waving hand is now in the front.

As far as twisted stitches when knitting in the round or garter stitch are concerned, we combined knitters need to learn to knit through the front loop. Just knit all circular knitting and garter stitch through the front loop and your problem is solved. You don't even need to learn how to pearl "correctly".


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