Monday, October 24, 2016

How to Read your Knitting Part 2

Before I get into this topic I want to cover something about the basic nature of stocking stitch. It's wider on the front than the back and it's longer on the back than the front. This has to do the difference between the knit and the purl stitch. But even more confusing to novices is that the knit stitch and the purl stitch are the same stitch, but they are reversed on the opposite sides of the fabric. If you turn the work over the knits look like purls and the purls look like knits. If you only knit you get garter stitch. What if you only purl? You get garter stitch. When we teach someone to knit, we usually start with the knit stitch only. Later on we add in purl and while some one is learning the different movements required they don't readily recognize it as a reverse of the knit stitch. 

Now back to the curling problem. I want you to look carefully at some of your knitting. On the knit side the stitches look like Vs, on the purl side you'll see bumps which are more horizontal in nature. 

The bump is a little misleading because all you are actually seeing is the top of the stitch. The rest of it is hidden. Take the knitting and pull it apart, visually following the top of the stitch down and you will be able to see the whole stitch.

Here's an unblocked swatch:

It's rolling in two spots. One is where I have knit stitches facing and the second roll is where I have purls stitches facing. Here it is steam blocked:

If you look closely you'll see that the knit stitches (the v) are a shade wider than the purl (the bump) stitches.This makes the whole knit side wider than the purl side. However, the purl stitch requires a little more yarn to work than the knit stitch does, it's due to the path the yarn must travel when being moved to insert your needle from the front. Next time you are knitting watch very closely and try it for yourself. It's partially dependent on your knitting technique. When you bring the yarn to the front of the work to purl you add in a little extra length of yarn by crossing in front of the needle which gets eaten up into the stitch making it just a little longer. How much longer varies between knitters. 

This is very difficult to see because most of the purl stitch is hidden from view. The right side of stocking stitch is pushing out to the sides horizontally, the wrong side of the stocking stitch is pushing vertically on the top and bottom edges. So why is this curling limited to stockinette? Think about the section of garter at the top of my swatch. The stitches are the same on both sides, so there is no difference between length and width.

My tech editor Mary Pat explains the difference like this: Stand up, drop your head forward onto your chest. Extend your arms straight out at your sides, push them towards your back while dropping them down with your fingers pointing to the floor.  That's a single knit stitch




  1. Fantastic explanation!

  2. Really cogent explanation. I am always looking for ways to explain this to students. Thanks.