Learning combined knitting, and circular ribbing

I posted over in what’cha knitting that I want to learn combined style knitting. But now I have a specific question, so I’m posting over here.

The KH video shows how to do the knit stitch, and explains that you have to wrap clockwise if you are doing circular knitting, and counter-clockwise for back-and-forth knitting. It also has a video of purling (one stitch, but that’s what the replay button is for, eh?).


Should the purling wrap be different when doing circular knitting?

Is there anything special about combined style ribbing, or circular ribbing, that I should know?

Can I switch from English to combined in the middle of a sock, or does the resulting fabric look different? If so, do I just start wrapping backwards on my first knit? Or do I do forwards wrapping on the knits (of the rib) for one round, and then switch to backwards wrapping?

Thank you in advance for any clarification!

Also PS: to JanInCA: I used your instructions for making the first purl in ribbing be nice and tight, and it works like a charm. Thank you.


For circular knitting you wouldn’t knit the knits through the back loop because you’re not purling on the WS. So for both knit and purl you would probably wrap the same as standard knitting. If you wrap the same as when you work flat, you’ll probably get twisted sts. There’s more on combined knitting here, and here.

I use what I call Eastern uncrossed, not really combined. But, I’ve discovered the terms are not exactly used consistently. I call my method Eastern uncrossed, but some others call it combined. I have no idea where the combined part comes in. I spent several posts discussing this with someone who had seen the KH video, and she insisted the stitches would be reversed if done in a circular manner.

I never have reversed stitches, circular or back and forth. I always wrap clockwise (not really wrapped, I just hook the yarn, but it sits on the needle as though it were wrapped clockwise ). All my stitches are always reversed from English style on the needles. But, I will say that while almost everything was easier to do my way, purling for back and forth knitting was the hardest to visualize. However, I’ve found a you tube video that clearly shows my purl method.

This may not answer your questions, but I do believe (and Mary Thomas in her book which covers all methods agrees with me.) it is the fastest and easiest for most things. Hope you find “your” method in your quest.

Here is the video with “my” purl method.

The person is going very slowly, so it is easy to see how it is done. After you become proficient at it, you don’t use your fingers to hold stitches, but sliding the needle further into the stitch holds it. I do, however, use my index finger to push the left needle back & bring those stitches closer to the point of the needle.

Actually the method allows you to go much faster than any other method, IMO. I also avoid strain by holding my finger with the yarn down much closer to the needle. And you simply cannot wrap the yarns around your tensioning fingers, it will be too tight and slow you down. I run it zig-zag fashion between them.

I make no distinction between circular or back and forth, same method both ways. However, I will say the true speed comes in when doing circular knit stitch, round and round. And also when doing rib, as all you have to do is throw your finger forward or back, no extra movement. I can purl just as fast as knit, but seldom make anything in the round that has the purl side out.

I recently became enchanted with Brioche stitch and it is about 1000 times easier in my method than Eng or the type of continental which “picks” the stitch, orienting it the same way as Eng. It was just as easy as regular 1x1 rib.

Good luck in your quest!

EDIT: This is what I call Eastern crossed (albeit an unconvential yarn feed). Notice the knit stitches are wrapped conventionaly, as for Eng or “picked” continental. But purls are made my way. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBM16X70ctU&feature=related

The ‘combination’ name was original with Annie Modesitt, I think - see her page on the knit stitch for an explanation. The yarn is not so much wrapped as it is picked for the purl st, and is similar to how it’s shown on the video. However the knit st is done differently. Here’s a video of how she does it.

Here’s a further explanation on Eastern Uncrossed and the differences.

We linked to the same video showing Eastern combined. Good to know that at least someone agrees with me that it is different from Eastern uncrossed. The discussion seems to agree with me that there is inconsistency in nomenclature. I think perhaps all we who hold the yarn in the left hand are seen as oddities by those who only knit English? They don’t see the distinctions, perhaps?

Actually I didn’t know what to call my knitting until someone else named it for me. I learned English when very young, 1960’s. But when a teen, I saw a woman (mother directly from Poland) going so fast it blew me away. I picked up the knit stitch from just watching her. But she had to teach me the purl stitch. It only took a short while and my knitting was going much faster than it had been.

I confess following written patterns can be tricky if the pattern is very complex, because most instructions are written for Western style knitting. You have to “translate” it to be sure the slant is correct on decreases, usually I k2tog where patterns call for ssk, and vice versa. If it is really complex (Elzebeth Lavold cables for instance) I do it first in Eng, then switch it over to my method. Not because Eng is inherently easier, rather just because most instructions are written for it and not Eastern.

BTW, Mary Thomas’ book on the basics of knitting (she only had 2 books, from what I’ve read) has really ood explanations of each. It predated most other popular books, having been written back in the '30’s. How accurate Soloman was when he said, “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Happy knitting all! I didn’t want to confuse Anise, I thought perhaps a comparison to uncrossed would illustrate the "combined"

Also, while this method is fastest for me, I’ve seen the lady who set the world record, beating out the Guinness record holder – and she knits English style. There don’t seem to be any absolutes, either!

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I didn’t notice it was the same vid, but there’s a slight difference in how she/you wraps the knit sts from the combined that’s easy to miss until you look at it a couple of times.

As long as you think of decs as right and left leaning rather than ssk or k2tog, it shouldn’t be too confusing. Most patterns are not written for english style, but [I]Western[/I] where the leading leg is the one in front. Eastern has the leading leg in back and people who hold the yarn in both right and left hands end do knit that way.

Knitting faster is just a matter of what you’re used to and how productive your stitches are - smaller and less hand movements seem to be the key to that, whether you knit english, continental, eastern, portuguese or whatever.

Wow–this is getting more and more interesting. Cool! Thank you all for the additional video links and commentary. I had already been looking at Annie Modesitt’s site, and it was after that that I had my last list of questions above. But reading the descriptions again, and looking at more videos, has helped me understand much better. Last evening I followed fluffybunny’s comments and just went for it, wrapping in whichever direction was less awkward, but always checking that I was knitting/purling into the leading leg. I was practicing on a 2x2 rib small diameter circular project-ette (stethoscope sock). Seemed to work just fine.

Now I really want to get that Mary Thomas book! I added it to my KP wish list. :^)

How wonderful to have a place like this to ask these very detailed questions and have such an interesting discussion. Thank you again.


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I am a combined knitter and can share this with you, you MUST wrap your yarn around the needles (or pull) the same way you do the knit stitch. And that is because of the way the knit stitch sits on the needle. I wrap clockwise and that gets me the best result when I knit combined.

I will let you in on my secret for circular knitting, I purl from the back loop as well (Eastern Knitting) and it comes out beautifully. If you are on Ravelry, take a look at my cap and hat projects.

Knitting circular is actually very easy for combined knitters as we’re never untwisting our knit stitches and everything looks uniform and even. We just need to remember our decrease rules (ssk=K2tog, and K2tog=ssk) when we are at that stage. If you have any specific questions, shoot me a PM and I’ll see if I don’t know the answer or where you can find it.

I am a combined knitter and can share this with you, you MUST wrap your yarn around the needles (or pull) the same way you do the knit stitch. And that is because of the way the knit stitch sits on the needle.

Even for us ‘regular’ knitters, the yarn is wrapped the same direction for both knit and purl stitches. It’s only the direction (front/back or left/right ) that the R needle goes into the st that changes.

Anise, you’re right, whichever leg is ‘leading’ or closest to the tip, is the one you knit into.

I can appreciate the confusion in the answers you have gotten. I knit in the Continental Combined Method. Annie Modesitt is a great place to start.
I just recently have learned to use an Eastern Uncrossed purl to work in the round. Combination knitting in the round is literally the same as Western in the round, usually. The reason for this is that a Combination purl is a full twist, therefore stacking row on row of purl stitches gets very tight very quickly. Unless that purl is followed on the next row by a Combination knit (through the leading leg, which will be to the back, not the front) it will remain twisted. I was blessed to find a group on Facebook just for this style of knitting. It was there that I was introduced to the Eastern Uncrossed purl. Similar to a Norwegian purl in the sense you make it through the back of the stitch, but with a lot fewer movements and the difference is the direction of the yarn wrap. It is has a quarter twist, not a full twist, so you can stack row on row of purls without it tightening up. So much faster than a regular Western purl. And your stitches will be much more even with a better tension.
This is still a method of knitting that has few hard set definitions, and I like that. Most people knit this way because they do it naturally, like Annie, or learned from a grandmother (usually German). The definitions are still very loose and people like to talk with authority that just doesn’t exist. In my own mind I think the name explains it all the best. We “combine” two different methods to make a fast, ergonomic method. So using a Western knit with either a Combination purl or Eastern Uncrossed is perfectly acceptable.
And the fastest knitters in the world knit Lever style, aka Irish Cottage knitting, developed by women who knitted to feed there families, usually when walking to and from different chores. Their were it for the money, honey, so better believe they knitted quickly!
I don’t know how experienced a knitter you are, but I would recommend Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts. It has a great section on Eastern, Western and Combination knitting. Not a beginners book, but if you enjoy European ethnic knitting, it is a valuable resource and will help take your knitting to the next level.
Also, anything you can do in Western or Eastern you can definitely do with Combination. I am currently knitting my way through the Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible by Hitomi Shida using the Combination method. Since the main difference between Western lace and Japanese lace, that I can discern anyway, is using a lot of twisted stitches for definition, the understanding of stitch construction that I have from using Combined has helped immensely.
Honestly, I highly recommend the Continental Combined group on FB as a great place to start. No arguing about terms or minutia like the Ravelry group. I learned sooooo much from that community. Pretty much the only reason I stay on FB, to be honest.
Good luck, happy knitting and enjoy the journey!