Abundance

Life with Fiber and Fiber Arts

Ways Of Knitting-Part 1 (Introduction to stitch mount) March 22, 2010

Well, it has been about a month and a half since my last post. The generous among you may assume that I am a very busy lady; that will last just as long as it takes you to read this next post (or rather series of posts), at which time you will doubtlessly conclude that I have no life at all. I do have a life, by the way. I do. really. Plus, I’ve been working lots on the new website; putting new yarns on our Stash Sale page. Oh boy!

The other reason for my long absence is that, once I became determined to write a post on “Different Ways of Knitting”, I found myself saddled with a “hole to China” topic.  It goes like this: I decide to dig a hole. I dig a bit, but then I just find more dirt, so I keep digging. More dirt. Keep digging. Repeat ad nauseum until bam! I come out the other side in China. (Actually, from where I’m starting, I would most likely end up in the ocean several hundred miles South of Madagascar, but that’s beside the point).  What I mean to say is that I had an idea for a topic, but every time I introduced a term or concept, I felt the need to fully explain it with pictures and drawings, until what I had was a very large, unwieldy blog post. Better to split it up into nice, manageable chunks and dole it out at intervals. Here is the breakdown:

1. Introduction to stitch mount. There are different ways that your stitches can sit on your needles and, it turns out, these are rather important to the final look of your project. This section will discuss the factors that determine your stitch mount (how you enter the stitch and  which way you wrap the yarn).

2. Twist and Shout! While part one will focus mostly on a single stitch, part two will look at how your stitch mount affects the fabric as a whole. There are a total of 16 different combinations of the factors I mentioned above (once you include whether you are knitting or purling). I have swatched them all and I am prepared to write at length about each (seriously).

3. Why We Care. I feel very strongly that there is no wrong way to knit. There are, however, different ways, and these differences affect the look of the finished project. I have also found that patterns assume a particular way of knitting, so it is helpful for those who may knit differently to be aware of what differences are important. One of the most important differences concerns the use of decreases.  Oh boy, oh boy!

4. Throwing, Picking and all that other stuff. This section will cover more general knitting styles, concerning itself with how knitters hold their yarn. I will also take the opportunity to discuss the distinction between left-handed knitters and Left Handed Knitting.

There may be more after that. We’ll see.

“No. Not too much. We’ve still got a looong way to go.”

(Never Ending Story quote, BTW)

Let’s start with the stitch. (Hey, this sounds familiar…)

It may be helpful to follow along with knitting in your hands. I, personally, have a hard time just visualizing this stuff.

1. Your basic stitch; it's just a loop, really.

2. A loop with a left leg and a right leg.

Your stitch has a Left Leg and a Right Leg. When the stitch sits on a needle, it can sit with either the Left leg in front or the Right leg in front. That is “Stitch Mount”.

OK. Post over. Have a good day.

Just kidding. I have an overabundance of pictures to go along with this concept. For example….

3. Right Leg in Front

This is what it looks like when the Right leg of the stitch is in front of the needle. This also just happens to be what my stitches look like and the what most patterns assume your stitches look like. Note that this is what the stitch looks like on the left hand needle, that is, before you have knit it (unless you are knitting Left Handed, but we will get into that much later.) I will not be discussing how the stitches look on the right hand needle. That’s just too much, even for me.

4. Left Leg in Front of Needle

Now for the alternative. Many people knit so that the Left Leg of their stitch is in front of the needle. This is a perfectly normal and acceptable way for the stitches to be.

Now, just in case the distinction is not yet totally clear, I have more pictures. Always explain things in more than one way; that’s what I strive to do.

So let’s pretend that our stitch is a little guy. A cowboy, perhaps.

5. "Jest coll me Stee-uch."

Our little Cowboy sits on the needle. Hmmm…

6. Cowboy on a needle. Hmmm, maybe not.

We’d better make it a horse.

7. On a horse (needle) with Left leg in front.

For purposes of describing the cowboy, we will refer to his Right and Left legs from our perspective, not his. In Picture 7, therefore, the cowboy’s “Left” leg is on the side of the horse closest to us and the cowboy is facing forward.

Compare to Picture 8 below.

8. Cowboy facing away.

In this picture, the cowboy’s “Right” leg is on the side of the horse nearest us, and he is facing away. (Or we could draw in eyes and he would be facing backwards, either way.)  To avoid the confusion about Right/Left legs and perspective when using the cowboy analogy, I usually refer to the stitches as facing towards me or facing away. I invite the people out there to use whatever terminology they prefer.

Well, what do these cowboys look like in real life?

9. Cowboys facing away.

They look decidedly less “Old West” and much more knitable.

In Picture 9, you can see that the Right Leg of the stitch is on the side of the needle facing the knitter, while the Left Leg is on the far side of the needle.

Below is the alternative.

10. Howdy, cowboys!

Now, the Left Leg of the stitch is on the near side of the needle, while the Right Leg is on the far side.  In general, and for the rest of this post, I will refer to whichever leg is on the near side of the needle as the Front Leg and whichever leg is on the far side of the needle as the Back Leg. This will be important. Note another difference between these two stitch mounts. The Right leg is always a little further forward on the needle than the left leg (because it is coming out of the right side of the stitch below). When the Right leg is in front of the needle, as in Picture 9, the Front (Right) leg is further forward on the needle, but in Picture 10, where the Right leg is in back of the needle, the Back (still Right) leg is further forward.

These concepts also apply to purl stitches.

11. Purl Stitch, Right Leg in Front

12. Purl Stitch, Left Leg in Front

OK. Vocab/Concept review.

Right Leg/Left Leg – self explanatory (remember, from your perspective, not the stitch’s)

Front Leg- The leg that is on the side of the needle nearest the knitter (can be right or left).

Back Leg- The leg that is on the side of the needle furthest from the knitter (can be right or left).

Forward Leg- The leg that is furthest forward (closest to the tip) on the needle. Always the Right Leg, but it can be either in Back or in Front.

Stitch Mount- Which way (Left or Right leg in front) your stitches sit on your horse needle.

Cowboy- Another name for a stitch.

Now, my friends, we are ready to move on. Deep Breath…

There are two things that affect the mount of your stitches and the overall look of your fabric.

1. Whether you insert the needle into the Front Leg of the stitch or the Back Leg when you knit or purl.

2. The direction in which you wrap your yarn when knit or purl.

Guess what! I have more pictures!

Let’s start with number 1.

13. Knitting into the front leg (in this case, the Right Leg)

When knitting, the Knitter can insert the needle into the Front Leg of the stitch, as in Picture 13, …

…or into the Back Leg of the stitch, as in Picture 14.

14. Knit into the Back Leg

There are several things of note in Picture 14.

1. The Right leg of the stitch is the Front Leg (and Left is the Back; the same is true for picture 13).

2. The Front (right) Leg is further forward on the needle.

3. The needle is being inserted under the Back (Left/further back) leg.

4. The legs are crossed at the base. This is called a Twisted Stitch. Compare that to Picture 13, where the legs of the stitch are open (untwisted) at the base.

Many patterns call for twisted stitches (for reasons I will discuss in a later post), and this is how they generally expect you to get it. In fact, patterns will often not say outright that they want a twisted stitch. Instead, they will just say “Knit 1 to the Back Loop (tbl)”.  The problem is that Knitting into the back loop does not always yield a twisted stitch.

15. Knit tbl, but it's not twisted.

In picture 15, I am knitting into the Back Leg, but in this case

1) The Right Leg is in Back (like the stitches in Pics 4, 7 and 10)

2) The Back Leg is further forward

3) The legs are not twisted at the base.

Therefore, if you are the kind of lovely knitter whose stitches sit with the Right leg to the back of the needle (cowboys facing you) and who knits into the back leg as a matter of course, knitting a stitch tbl may not give you the desired effect. Instead, you may want to knit into the Front Leg (Picture 16).

16. Knit into Front Leg, twisting

Note that, in Picture 16, the Left Leg is in Front, and knitting into the Front Leg yields a twisted stitch.

Summary:

If your stitches sit with the Right Leg in Front, knitting into the Back Leg should yield a twisted stitch.

If your stitches sit with the Left Leg in the Front, knitting into the Front Leg should yield a twisted stitch.

In other words, knitting into the Right Leg will yield an untwisted stitch. Knitting into the Left Leg will yield a twisted stitch.

Now, you may be asking, “What about the Purl stitches?!”

Well, those, too can be worked (purled) into either the Front or the Back Leg.

Most people, when they learn how to purl, naturally want to purl into the Front Leg, as in picture 17.

17. Purling into the Front Leg

Admittedly, this is not a great picture. I am trusting that enough people have seen it done that I’m OK here. Purling into the Back Leg, however, is a little more difficult to visualize.

18. Purling into the Back Leg

In Picture 18, the Right Leg is to the Front (it’s hard to see, but trust me; also look at the other stitches on the needle, you can sort of tell there)  and I am purling into the Left Leg. This stitch will be twisted. If the stitch were mounted so that the Left Leg was in the front, and I was purling into the Right Leg…

19. Purling into the Back Leg, Right Leg in Back

…the stitch would not be twisted. This is also much easier to do. Whenever I have met a knitter who naturally purls to the Back Leg, their stitches have been mounted with the Right Leg in back. I’m not saying this is always the way. It has just been my experience.

Now we are ready to move on the second factor that affects stitch mount (and perhaps affects it more immediately than which leg you work into). Let’s look at how we wrap our yarn.

There are two directions in which the yarn can travel around the needle. I struggled for a long time over how to describe these ways. Things like “from the back, over the top” and “from the back under the bottom” ended up being a little too subjective for many knitters I have worked with. I have finally settled on describing direction of wrapping as Clockwise or Counter Clockwise (when looking at the tip of the needle).

Here is an example:

Whenever I knit or purl, I wrap the yarn Counter Clockwise, which looks like this:

20. Wrapping Counter Clockwise

See it?

21. Really, Counter-Clockwise

How about now?

The alternative, of course is wrapping Clockwise.

22. Wrapping Clockwise

Once again, the purls can be a little harder to visualize, so here are pictures of each. Really, Clockwise and Counter Clockwise look totally different in the purl stitch.

23. Purl wrap, Counter Clockwise

24. Purl Wrap, Clockwise

Many people find it easier to purl by wrapping Clockwise, rather than Counter Clockwise, even if they knit by wrapping Counter Clockwise. Because the direction of wrapping determines the mount of the stitches on the next row, this way of knitting leads to an interesting situation where the stitch mount on the knit side is different from the stitch mount on the purl side (it is actually a very common way of knitting, which I will discuss at length later).

Well, I have officially fulfilled all the promises I made about the “Intro to Stitch Mount” post. Here is a summary of what we have covered, with Vocab Words and important concepts in bold:

  1. Stitches have a Right Leg and a Left Leg
  2. Either leg (Right or Left) can be in Front of the needle (Front Leg) or in Back of the needle (Back Leg)
  3. The Right leg, whether it is in front or back, is further forward on the needle (closer to the tip).
  4. The Knitter can knit or purl into the Front Leg or into the Back Leg (tbl).
  5. When the Knitter works into the Right Leg (whether it is Front or Back), the result will be an untwisted stitch.
  6. Working into the Left Leg (whether it is in Front or Back), will yield a Twisted Stitch.
  7. Most patterns assume that the stitches sit with the Right Legs in Front. When they want a twisted stitch, they say “Knit one to the Back Loop” (Ktbl) This does not work for everyone, and that’s OK. (I will discuss other significant extensions of this idea in Part 3.
  8. When working a stitch (either Knit or Purl), the Knitter can wrap the yarn around the needle either Clockwise or Counter Clockwise. This choice affects the mount of the stitches on the next row.

Are you full yet? Well, I’m getting pretty close to empty for the moment. Here, however, is a sneak peek at what’s to come:

There are two ways to wrap yarn (Clockwise and Counter Clockwise) and two ways enter a stitch (Front Loop or Back Loop) and two kinds of stitches (Knit and Purl). This gives us 16 different permutations, 16 different ways of knitting (stockinette stitch, at least).

In Part 2, I will discuss these permutations, point out the ones that are most common, and (more importantly) show you what they look like and why they look like that. Oh Boy, Oh Boy! (right? I’m sure there is someone out there as excited about this as I am…)

Until then, Happy (and informed) Knitting!