When I knit stocking stitch flat in the standard manner the rows clump together in pairs. This is clearly visible on the purl side of the fabric; every two rows there is a longer gap between the rows. This is well known phenomenon in knitting called ‘rowing out’, and is a consequence of standard purl stitches being longer than standard knit stitches when knitted with the same size needle.
Here’s a swatch that demonstrates the problem. This is worsted weight yarn knitted on 4.5mm needles (US 7)
Rowing out is only a problem if the garment features reverse stocking stitch, ie when the bumpy side of the fabric is the Right Side. At the moment I’m working on a design that could have this problem, because it features cables on a purled background. So I decided to knit the background stitches in the ‘combination method’, which equalizes knitting and purling tension. The principle is simple; when purling wrap the yarn around the needle in the opposite direction to usual. This means that in the subsequent row the relevant stitches present with a reversed mount, so must be worked through the back loop.
Here’s a swatch knitted with the same yarn on the same size needles, but worked in the combination method:
I love how beautifully even it is!
My friend, fellow designer Annie Modesitt is an expert in combination knitting, having written a book about it called ‘Confessions of a Knitting Heretic‘! This sets out all the techniques of combination knitting. So, if ‘rowing out’ is something you want to conquer, I recommend you check out Annie’s book.