Row, Row, Rowing Out

No boat, no water, just knitting rowing out. Remember when I talked about the ‘wrong side’ of knitting? The following comment was left by gnochistickate (I am assuming her name is Kate, and she seems a knitter who knows her stuff!)

IMG_9616Neat pairs of rows – 2 by 2. We are trying to avoid that.

“One thought about why people shy away from the “inverse”: a lot of knitters have trouble with their reverse stockinette rowing out, especially when working flat, because their purls are worked at a different tension from their knits. So, while the knit side looks nice and flat, the purl side can have uneven horizontal banding.

A nice solution for people with this problem, though, is to try purling with a different size needle (usually smaller…the purls are often too loose). Interchangeable circulars make this super simple, you just stick a smaller tip on one end, so when you purl back, you’re making smaller stitches! It helps to swatch out to make sure you’ve got the sizes right for your desired gauge, but it can really help take care of uneven rowed-out purl sides!”

There. She almost covered it all. Indeed, I remember the times when my knitting would not behave and one row was always looser than the other – in my case as in most it was the purl stitches also. Since I am a continental knitter, my solution was to wind the yarn a third time around my left index finger to tighten the tension and therefor get smaller stitches. For years I knit like that, until the tension question had somehow resolved itself and I did not need to do it anymore.

If you are a tight knitter, you are less prone to this problem, since all stitches are tight on the needle. It is also a bit different story if you are a ‘thrower’, meaning you are knitting English style , carrying your yarn with the right hand. That seems to be a tighter knitting style to begin with, all the same as I have found out even then there are exceptions to the rule, meaning there are knitters who knit very loosely throwing notwithstanding.

I perfectly understand that this can be very discouraging if it happens to you, and as Kate pointed out there are solutions for this problem. First and foremost I recommend to pay attention to the process and trying to figure out what makes purling so different from knitting. Maybe and extra little tug helps to even out the stitches if you do not carry the yarn around your finger, if you do an extra wrap might do the trick.

If nothing else helps, try using a needle a size smaller for the purl side, that will definitely make a difference. And – Kate has mentioned it already – the interchangeable circulars are your friend in this regard.

It is easier to knit a yarn at the recommended gauge evenly, if you use small yarn on big needles the rowing out effect might be worse. As with a lot of other techniques I have to conclude with the ever so true recommendation of “practice makes perfect”.

Happy knitting, as ever!

– Mona


4 thoughts on “Row, Row, Rowing Out

  1. Hipster Spice says:

    Great advice. While reading this, I suddenly came to the realization that my habits are actually a bit abnormal. Somewhere along the line, I developed the habit of wrapping my yarn three times around my fingers (the third, as you mentioned, being around my index finger). I also knit in the continental style, so this ultimately results in a left hand that looks like a spiderweb of yarn and a right hand that is free to nimbly move the yarn and right needle in any direction I choose. This results in very tight, even rows. The downside of this is that I am frequently too tight. I am currently working a border on a shawl that requires a p5tog. Every time I hit one (Which is about every 10 stitches, mind you) my progress comes to a screeching halt. I have to wiggle my yarn into every loop individually and then very, very carefully pull the working yarn through. Needless to say, I’ve slowed to a crawl. Still, the pros outweigh the cons. My rows are very regular.

  2. Uta Schiwi says:

    another idea on your p5tog: slip 2 sts, purl1, then slip the next st on the left needle over the just purled stitch, then the next stitch from the right needle, the next stitch from the left needle and finally the next one from the right needle. The 5 sts are now layered over one central stitch. Just if the pattern calles for something like a broom shaped p5tog I’d go with actually purling them together.

    as to the tension issue: I’m also a continental knitter and wind my yarn around the index twice and additionally once around the pinkie in purl rows. I still have gauge issues so I will try out the smaller needle trick.

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