Stitch mount, Combined knitting and Reverse Combined knitting.
(Tunisian crocheters, this is somewhat relevant to your interests. Think about the loops from the forward pass of a row as knitting stitches and think about how they interact with each other from row to row. I’ll be talking about this in more detail another time, but I think it might be a useful thought exercise.)
Something I’ve been mentioning in my posts for knitters is whether your stitches sit on the needle like this
or like this
or, for that matter, some of each.
The top is commonly called a Western stitch mount, and the bottom is commonly called an Eastern stitch mount in English language knitting discussions. I’m not entirely happy with this, but I’ll go with it for consistency’s sake.
The reason for the difference is that the knit stitches themselves sit flat in the fabric once they’ve come off the needles, but to sit on the needles, they need to be twisted partway so that one leg of the stitch sits in front of the needle and the other sits behind. Which way it twists depends on the direction that the yarn is wrapped around the needle.
You might be thinking that one of those is wrong and one is right, but it’s not so simple. There are parts of the world where one is standard and other parts of the world where it’s the other. My definition of correct knitting: you’re getting a fabric you like and you aren’t hurting yourself in the process.
I’m not going to go into the geography and history in an in-depth fashion; there are people who have written about this more extensively: Annie Modesitt and Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, among others. The Eastern stitch mount shown above is more common in Asia and other parts of the world near there. Some people use one or the other, and some people use both (one for knitting and one for purling).
The Western stitch mount is most common in Europe and in parts of the world with European heritage (the US, Canada, Australia…) but sometimes someone who has taught themselves to knit will accidentally come up with a method where one is used for knitting and the other is used for purling. When this is done deliberately, with no accidentally twisted stitches, it’s called Combined, or Combination, Knitting.
Regular Combined Knitting means that when you make a knit stitch, it will be sitting on the needle in the Western stitch mount; purl stitches have the Eastern stitch mount. There’s also what’s called Reverse Combined Knitting, which is what I use (it’s rather less common, but I have met people who did it by accident): knit stitches end up with a Eastern stitch mount; purl stitches are Western. Combination Knitting seems to be more common for continental-style knitters; Reverse Combination for people who throw the yarn with their right hand.
Combination knitting of either variety has advantages and disadvantages. Two advantages have to do with having more even row gauge, which eliminates rowing out, and faster speed (the Eastern continental-style purl can be faster than a Western one).
The reason that you can get more even row gauge with the two kinds of knitting is that the Western knit and the Eastern purl are a bit tighter than the Eastern knit and the Western purl. If you do both knits and purls in the same direction, one row of flat stockinette will be looser than the other; if you combine the two styles, your stitches will be be closer to the same height.
It can also be convenient when knitting ribbing or seed stitch to be able to feel what you did on the previous row just from the angle of the stitch. It takes practice, but it’s a help.
The disadvantages have to do with what happens if you don’t know that you aren’t knitting in the more standard European style: when you come to stitches that are sitting in the Eastern position and you treat them as if they were Western, you’ll tend to twist them (which makes your knitting look different, makes your stitches tighter, and makes your projects use more yarn).
The bottom section of the swatch at the top of the post was worked in Reverse Combined knitting without twisting any stitches; the top part has the relevant stitches twisted. You can see the difference. Sometimes twisted stitches are desirable, but they should only happen when you want them to.
I’m going to break this down into two parts. First, how to manage the two stitches when you come to them to avoid twisting. Second, how to create the two different stitches.
Many instructions will tell you to knit or purl the front loop without considering which loop is in front (because they assume a Western stitch mount). I find that it’s best to think of the front of the stitch or the back of the stitch as if it were sitting flat, parallel to the fabric. While the stitch is twisted, it’s not actually twisted exactly 90 degrees: it’s actually leaning in one direction or the other.
In the case of the Western stitch
the front of the stitch is facing toward your left.
To knit it, you would insert your needle between its legs from the front left. (And the same for slipping it knitwise.)
To purl it, you would insert your needle from the back right. (And the same for slipping it purlwise.)
For the Eastern stitch, the front of the stitch is facing your right.
To knit it, you insert your needle from the front right. (The same for slipping it knitwise)
To purl it, you insert your needle from the back right. (The same for slipping it purlwise.)
So, how are the different stitch mounts created?
There are about a million and a half websites that will explain how to knit Western stitches (though they won’t call them that). I don’t see any reason why I should add to the collection. Instead, I will refer you to the videos at http://knittinghelp.com/.
Yarn held in the left hand
If you hold your yarn in your left hand, along with the inactive needle, and pick up new stitches with the active needle, this is the section you want. Don’t worry about whether the older stitch that’s on the left needle is Western or Eastern; the important thing is how the new yarn interacts with the right needle.
You will probably be interested primarily in Combination knitting, in which case the Eastern purl is what you’ll be interested in.
Scoop the needle from right to left under the new yarn, through the back of the stitch, and then from left to right under the new yarn. This brings the new yarn in front of the old stitch:
Bring the needle over the new yarn and pull it through to make a new stitch.
I’m including the Eastern knit for completeness and because if you get good at this, you can set up left leaning decreases in the round so that you don’t need to slip the stitches to put them in the correct orientation.
Bring your needle through the front of the stitch and continue the motion from left to right under the new yarn on your finger. Bring the needle back over the yarn and pull it through.
Yarn held in the right hand
If you hold the yarn and active needle in your right hand and throw the yarn around the active needle to make a stitch, this section is for you. Don’t worry about whether the older stitch that’s on the left needle is Western or Eastern in the picture; the important thing is how the new yarn interacts with the right needle.
If you are interested in the Reverse Combined technique, you’ll be more interested in the Eastern knit stitch.
Bring the needle through the stitch from front to back, lay the new yarn between the needles, and then bring it around behind. Pull the new stitch through.
I include the Eastern purl for completeness and because sometimes it’s nice to be able to set up your left-leaning decreases in the previous row.
Bring your needle through the stitch from back to front, bring the yarn in front of the stitch, and then bring it back between between the two needles. Pull the new stitch through.
And that’s that, at least for now. Please let me know if you have any questions!
25 thoughts on “Stitch mount, Combined knitting and Reverse Combined knitting.”
Heh, I have no idea what I do without getting out some knitting and actually doing it, but my fabric looks like the bottom half of the picture at the top of the page and not the top, so I guess I’m at least consistent in what I’m doing ;D
You are a regular continental-style knitter who wraps all her stitches Western-style. I’ve seen you knit, remember. 😀 The only other person currently coming to String Thing for whom this post is at all relevant is Merp, but she already knows what she’s doing (regular Combined Knitting).
(We did once have someone come who was wrapping her knit stitches Eastern style but then twisting them when she came back to them because she was thinking about knitting or purling “in the front loop”. I got her untwisted, but it’s been years since she came.)
I knit back and forth (never turning my work). When I knit from the right side of the fabric, like most knitters, I knit Combination, when I knit from the left side of the fabric I knit with Western stitch mounting. I use a modified Continental style in both directions.
I knit fast and get a nice even fabric, but may be one of the weirder knitting styles on the planet. 😉
That’s a pretty nifty way to do things! I imagine it would make it easy to do stranded knitting flat, too.
I’m with you, jenningma – I rarely turn my work. My stitches are always mounted ‘Western’, I just stitch through the back when I’m working left to right. For some reason, when I’m making a wrong-side (L-R) K stitch (which is a P on the right side) I can do that thing where I don’t pull my yarn to the front but I haven’t mastered the action from R-L. Go figure.
I had this happen to me when did a single piece sweater for my son. The body of the sweater which is open front looked like the top of the swatch, but then when I switched to the sleeves which were worked in the round on double point needles it looked like the bottom of the swatch. I will have to read this over again with my needles in front of me so I can figure out what I am doing. I am the only one who can really see the difference or knows that its not supposed to be like that.
It sounds like you’re probably using the Eastern purl and then twisting the stitches when you knit them. Let me know if I need to rephrase anything–I’ll be glad to help out!
i have seen this happen on another project I did and thought I could control it by making sure that I was always knitting the same way, but then when I changed from going back and forth on the body to around and around on the arms I think it just went wonky. Oh well at least the two sides are the same so it looks symmetrical 🙂 Next time I will seek your advice before investing my time and energy and being not quite as happy as I should have been. 🙂
Let me know and I’ll be glad to help!
I’ve been trying this out today on a swatch because I’ve seen it recommended if you want to even out ribbing (where one of the outer knit sts often looks loose and sloppy). My swatch is a bit messy but I’m assuming that things will even out with practice – the front leg of the stitch on the needle is really sticking out in my knitting so it almost looks like I’ve twisted sts on every row but in opposite directions, although this certainly isn’t the case. I love the Eastern purl though, it’s so fast! I think it’s worth sticking with it and practicing some more.
I had a little trouble with unevenness when I first started out, if I recall correctly (mind you, I’ve been a reverse combined knitter for a decade now, so it’s a little hard to remember).
I wonder, too, if it might depend somewhat on the yarn texture?
I hope it works out for you – the speed difference really is clear.
I “created” (ie, independently discovered) reverse combo about 6 months ago (6 months after I first started knitting) as a necessity to deal with both uneven row gauge and tight stitches after I had found my flicking-style western method to be getting more and more uneven. Since then, my row gauge has been as even as I could ask for, and my stitches are not nearly as tight either. Why had I never heard of reverse combo knitting before?? It solves two big problems for me. I don’t really have a problem with getting my stitch mount confused, and once I figured out my increases and decreases, it has become second nature to me. I would urge all tight knitters who knit English style to try reverse combo.
It really is a huge help.
Oh my goodness. I realize how old this post is now, but I had to say thank you. I had to read it over a couple of times to make sure I understood, but you have finally explained why my knitting looks funny. It’s exactly as you said: I taught myself to knit and have been working knits and purls in the front loop because that’s what I read and saw in videos, but I never even considered which way I wrapped the yarn. The good news is I’m at least consistent, but the bad news is I’m about 75% done with my first project (an overly ambitious cabled scarf) and now have to finish it with twisted stitches that will bug me endlessly. But I know better for next time!
I’m glad I could help you figure it out! And thank you for letting me know. It makes me happy.
Oh wow! Thank you for this. I knit Continental reverse combined. I’ve never been able to tell people what I was doing but my stitches come out all right and it makes sense to me. The only difficulty I have is that I have to rework patterns to figure out what I should be doing so my increases/decreases lean properly.
I wonder if starting out crocheting is why I knit the way I do?
It could well be! I’m glad you’ve sorted out how to work with knitting patterns with your style, and I’m extra glad I could give you a name to use for it!
I realise this is an old post and you may not check it anymore. But I just wanted to say thank you so much for this! I struggle a lot with tension. I tried continental and combination knitting but I just can’t get tension with picking. (I crochet left handed so my right hand is best at controlling yarn). It never occured to me to try combination knitting with throwing. The reverse combination is a game changer for me! My stocking stitch looks so much better now.
I’m so glad you found my blog post helpful! Thank you so much for commenting, it made my afternoon when I found it. Happy knitting!
So glad I found this post! Had a few moments of panic today when I realized I don’t wrap the yarn the way you’re “supposed” to, but very happy to know there’s a name for it. Turns out I’ve been doing English reverse combination, and it only took me maybe 12 years to realize.
I’m glad you found my post, then! It’s not taught very often, so I’m not surprised you didn’t know, but I have met a few knitters who’ve done it accidentally like you. I’m glad I could help!
Thank you so much for this nice breakdown!!!!
I’m a very new knitter (literally started few weeks ago, although I’ve been crocheting for nearly 2 years now), briefly instructed how to knit and purl by a family member who used to knit and learned to cast on and off from tutorials. And apparently at some point I accidentally walked into reverse combined knitting continental style!
From the very beginning the western style knitting seemed like a bit of a nonsense to me, like why hassle so much with the “front” loop where it is just impossible to catch and pull yarn with the working needle, when there’s the “back” loop that works like a charm! Possibly casting on on a one needle may have something to do with that XD
I’m really really glad I found this post, as i was starting to panic after watching tutorial after tutorial and seeing everyone knitting stitches completely different way, but my way still somehow working
I’m so glad this was helpful to you! This is exactly why I wrote this post, to help demystify the whole thing.