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.

One thought on “Combination knitting

  1. Oh excellent! I was just this very second looking at my uneven stocking stitch and trying to work out whether it was the knit or purl row, honestly, just this very second. I’m going to give it a go straight away. Thanks Ann x

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