Great idiosyncrasies of knitting


In response to a question

“Rowing out” is a term used to describe the uneven appearance of adjacent rows of knitting. It’s most obvious in stockinette or reverse stockinette, since there aren’t any textural features in the knitting to hide this kind of flaw. (This assumes that the uneven appearance wasn’t intentional — sometimes it is a design feature.) In the picture at left (click to enlarge), you can see that some stitches seem to be more prominent than others; in this particularly egregious example, it looks like the fabric hasn’t even been blocked. In fact, it had been washed and blocked and steam-ironed.

Rowing out occurs when you exert a different amount of tension on the yarn while knitting a stitch than while purling a stitch. You could also say that it’s because the length of yarn required to form a knit stitch is different from the length of yarn required to form a purl stitch — same thing, because the more tension you exert on the yarn, the tighter your stitch will be, and the less yarn consumed to form a stitch. In stockinette, this differential becomes obvious because a row of knit stitches is adjacent to rows of purl stitches (when knit back-and-forth, not in the round). It’s less obvious or non-existent when knits and purls are mixed together within a single row, and especially when neighbouring stitches in adjacent rows alternate between knit and purl stitches (when viewed from the right side): think of garter stitch, or seed or moss stitch. Rowing out theoretically shouldn’t happen at all when you are working stockinette or reverse stockinette in the round, assuming that on every round you insert the working needle and wrap the yarn the same way.

The difference in tension or length could be caused by an instinctive preference for working knits over purls, or by the way you wrap your yarn around the needle to create a knit or purl stitch. This means that rowing out can be corrected by either making a conscious effort to alter your tension while knitting — as Claudia noted in the comments of the last post, you can use different size needles for the knit rows and the purl rows. (Say, Denises would be handy for that). You could also try changing the way you work your knit stitches (or purl stitches), but not changing your technique for the purl stitches (or knit stitches). The next time I knit stockinette in something aran weight (which is where I experience the most rowing out), I’m going to try one or both of these solutions (the first one assumes that the needle sizes I need are in the Denise range — otherwise, I won’t because all my needles are circular and I can’t bear having loose circular needle ends flopping about). Right now, I’m swatching a sport weight cotton ribbon yarn using my usual combined knitting technique, and there isn’t any rowing out that I can see yet.

And the subject of the photo in this post? Fortunately, when you’re photographing the whole garment, the rowing out is harder to see. I’m hoping that some more laundering sessions (soaking and swishing with Eucalan) will help equalize the tension in the stitches, but it will be a while before I find out if this will be successful, because I’m not going out of my way to wash wool sweaters that don’t otherwise need washing. I think in this case, it will take quite a few more washes to coax the stitches into a more uniform appearance, because this yarn was knit to a tighter gauge than what was normally recommended (5 stitches rather than 4.5 stitches to 1 inch).

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2 Responses to Great idiosyncrasies of knitting

  1. Lainey says:

    You could try knitting only on this by trying the fancy, odd right to left knitting. I have tried it and it feels too weird for me, but it might fix your problem.

  2. claudia says:

    The circular needle flopping is bearable when using 24″ circs. 32″ circs indeed drive me (and the kitties..swat, swat) insane.