Twisted knits

Filed under: Knitting,Techniques — Alicia @ February 8, 2008

I was just reading a post by a woman in a panic. She saw a knitting video and it turns out she’s been knitting WRONG! I’ve seen this happen a couple of times before, mostly in Spanish speaking forums. I know how horrifying it can be since it happened to me too. Just like that woman, I couldn’t believe my mom (in her case her granny) had misguided me.

What’s the problem? When we knit we pick up the stitches from the back of the loop (right to left), and when we purl, from the front (front to back). But after some reading, I found out we are not knitting wrong, we are just knitting DIFFERENTLY. It even has a name: “Combined Knitting” (the non-combination method is known as Western). Here are some images of both methods: knits and purls.

Another way to know which method you are using is to look at the way the stitches slant in your needles:

Combined vs Western stitches

Millions of people knit this way. I know it’s the most common way of knitting in Mexico, for example (that’s where my mom and grandmother learned to knit.) As far as I know, most combined knitters also knit continental.

This method has its pros and cons:


  • The knitting is supposed to be more even, but I haven’t really noticed a difference.
  • You knit at the speed of light. When you insert the needle, the thread is right there. There is no need to wrap the thread around it, just pull it.
  • It’s easier to learn.
  • I also read that it’s easier on the wrists.


  • Increases and decreases don’t slant in the same direction. Many combined knitters don’t know they are combined knitters, so they just follow instructions (usually written for Western knitters) and things end up looking funny. Fortunately, there’s a handy conversion table by Grumperina to make any pattern a combined-knitting one.
  • It just doesn’t work for all knit or all purl (garter stitch or knitting on the round). What happens when you knit combined is that you twist the stitches on the knit side, and un-twist it in the purl side. If there is no purl side… Let’s just say I have my share of twisted hats, globes, and even a Joda-like knitted toy cat. Some moms I’d rather not mention by name forget to point this out to their daughters when they first teach them to knit.

Another pro to combination knitting is that it makes me unique. While all the other ladies at my knit night knit English-Western style, I knit Continental-Combination. I’m just that special!

Further reading


  1. Hi! Your blog is wonderful! I knit combined and I KIP (Knit In Public)and some times older women scold me about my “wrong” way of knitting. 🙂

    Comment by debolsillo — February 8, 2008 @ 7:04 pm

  2. I don’t believe there is a “wrong” way to knit. It’s just different!

    Comment by Misstea — February 11, 2008 @ 7:33 am

  3. I learned continental combination from my mother as well–and I never knew it either, nor did my mother until I told her recently! When I finally saw that other people knit differently, I tried it, and it worked nicely when I knit in garter stitch, but as soon as I tried anything with purl stitches, it didn’t make sense. Finally I realized that I needed to wrap the yarn the other way when I purl to have the stitch face the right direction on the needle. I go back and forth now, but typically use Western style when I’m following a pattern with increases and decreases–which now look like they’re suppose to! I still can’t grasp how to knit English style, but since Continental is so much faster, I’ll stick with that. Thanks for writing about it and for the links!

    Comment by JR — February 28, 2008 @ 8:54 am

  4. I do it in this way! yes the combined method is so easy to leanr and faster than others, I have learned since I was 7 years old, you can see the texture is so beautiful when you do it in this way.
    And to be honest, I don’t find any difference….

    Comment by Alejandra — April 15, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

  5. I have knitted continental combination since learning from a friend of my Mother’s for a 4-H project. I love knitting this way, its quicker, easier with less wasted motion. It is kind of horrifing when you learn you are doing it wrong. Yet, I can knit for hours without cramping hands or shoulder or neck pain which often my western knitting friends complain about… so why don’t everyone knit this way. It makes fair isle easier too. I’m not about to change.

    Comment by Carol Brown — August 17, 2008 @ 9:04 am

  6. Wow! I knit and purl combo too and didnt even know it! I am a self-taught crocheter and knitter. I taught myself to crochet from a library book when I was 12, and then taught myself to knit in 2006. Then, while searching on YouTube for demonstrations on the correct way to hold the yarn, one lady says she holds the yarn exactly the way she does when she crochets.
    I tried this, and voila– my knitting is WAY faster and its combination knitting! WOW, who-da-thunk. I didnt know we have to do decreases differently– I’ll keep that in mind next time I come across them. As one previous commenter said, I relly dont see a difference in the look of the knitting. It is super fast though! I’m a continental knitter too, and my mom thinks its because 1) I was a crocheter first therefore naturally used to holding the yarn in my left hand, and 2) we are of European descent (German, Polish, Italian and English) lol ^_^

    Comment by Safiyah — December 17, 2008 @ 1:10 am

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