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Reading one’s knitting

I recently read a post by someone who was confused as to why her flat knitting *always* looked like garter stitch. When she tried stockinette – it didn’t matter if she always knit or always purled, it looked like stockinette. And her ribs looked even odder. Circular knitting worked out just fine – just flat was weird.

Yes, I know. It seems obvious to us. Jonathan, who has never picked up a pair of knitting needles unless he was moving them from one place to another, understood what she was doing wrong.

What she was doing, you see, was following the patterns. And maybe she began with circular knitting, so she knew that all you needed to do was knit round and round for stockinette – and to maintain the same pattern around and around for the ribs. So she was reading the patterns – and you need to read the pattern. What she wasn’t doing was reading her knitting.

This is a skill. Okay, on this level, it’s pretty basic. If you’re knitting flat and you want stockinette, you knit on the knit side and purl on the purl side – just look and see which side you’re on. If it’s all Vs, it’s the knit side. The other, bumpy side is the purl one. If you want ribs – knit the knits and purl the purls, no matter what side you’re one. If you want seed, purl the knits and knit the purls.

If you’re doing garter, both sides will be the same. Just knit. Whatever row you’re on, just knit.

This gets more difficult and more important when you get into more elaborate stitches and lace. If you don’t learn how to read your knitting, it will always be a challenge when you put it down and pick it up again – even if you’re knitting from a chart that you keep carefully marked with post-its or a magnet board. Things move and fall off, or you forget to change a marker.

Instead, pay attention to what you’ve worked. This takes practice in general and each project is different, bu the effort will pay off. An example would be the cable-lace stole I made. The pattern is just four stockinette lines, but each line had its own yarnovers and decreases, and it was important to keep track of where I was. I figured out how to read the knit side first, because the two knit lines looked distinctive, but it wasn’t until I learned the purl side that the knitting began to move. Not only was I able to put it down at any point and pick it back up, without a lot of tinking and frogging if I made a mistake, but if I did make a mistake, I could pick it up right away – the knitting just looked wrong.

The charts and patterns are still vital, of course – even a simple motif like the diamonds in my current shawl would not be possible to work without a chart – but I don’t mark it at the moment (other than a couple of lines of highlighter so I know which is the central repeat) because my post-its always fell off and they were a pain to move. Instead, I count the border stitches and check if it’s a knit or purl row, and I’m pretty much good to go. Oh, I’m counting compulsively between the markers because if I don’t, I *will* miss a mistake, but at least I won’t lose my place.

(And I have to say – making lace is amazing. I can’t believe something so pretty and delicate is coming from my hands.)

Categories: knitting
  1. otherdeb
    February 14, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    Welcome again, my dear, to the next level of the skill! Looking forward to knitting with you next week, although I am not sure what my project will be.

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