Mea culpa, I think, but it's late and perhaps I'm confused

I am guilty of making crass assumptions about that class of knitters that probably constitutes the majority of my readership. You see, I’m not like you, and not being you, I don’t understand you, and not understanding you, I make sweeping generalizations that turn out not to be true.

So I suppose I owe you western knitters an apology for any confusion I inadvertently caused while engaging in my aristocratic combined knitting speculations about you.

It’s the double increase that’s used to begin closed-loop cables in Rogue, you see. I thought my description of that technique in the instructions (knit into the front then the back of the next stitch, then pick up the vertical strand yada yada) was suitable for you.

And I continued to think that until Kim recently pointed out, quite beautifully with photographs, how one actually works the double increase, western style.

You see, I knit using the combined method, so my knit stitches are mounted differently than stitches formed using the western method. This means that for years, before I secured a copy of Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book (this was the publication that finally clued me in), k2tog and ssk as illustrated in common reference books simply didn’t make sense, and I just worked the paired decreases that I understood gave me the right effect.

This also means that when I first wrote the instructions for beginning closed-loop cables in 2001 or so, I assumed that western knitters, for whom knitting instructions were typically written, just did the opposite of what I did: they knit into the bit of the stitch that lay in front of the needle in order to produce an untwisted knit stitch, while I knit into the part of the stitch that lay behind, and mutis mutandis for purl stitches. Thus, for the double increase that’s used to begin the closed-loop cables in Rogue (and many other cables), when I saw that I first knit into the back of the base stitch, then knit into the front, I concluded that western knitters would have to knit into the front of the base stitch, then the back.

Not quite clever enough.

I didn’t realize that the choice of knitting into the back of the stitch versus the front, and vice versa, was dictated by the mount of the base stitch on the needle. The base stitch is a purl stitch; picture it in your mind. If you’re a western knitter, the leading edge of the purl stitch is at the front of the needle, and the trailing edge of the stitch is at the back of the needle. If you’re a combined knitter, the purl stitch is mounted the same way.

Now, I began my double increase by knitting into the back of my base purl stitch. I glibly assumed that this meant westerners would knit into the front of their purl stitches. But the western purl was mounted the same way as mine — meaning that western knitters should likewise knit into the back, not the front.

A better way to explain it is in terms of the knit stitch that would be created by this step. I, combined knitter, would knit into the back (trailing edge) of a purl stitch, creating a twisted stitch. But I told western knitters to knit into the front (leading edge) of their purl stitches first, which creates an untwisted stitch. What I should have done is told them to create that twisted stitch too — in other words, knit into the back of the base purl stitch.

In further other words, I had thought that western stitch mounts were the exact opposite of combined stitch mounts, which isn’t correct. Combined knitting is a combination of western and eastern stitch mounts, meaning that at least some of the combined knitting stitch mounts are the same as western stitch mounts. Duh.

Now, I even tried swatching in faked western knitting, to see if knitting into the front before the back worked. And it did, in my swatch, because as it turns out I wasn’t actually knitting western, I was knitting reverse combined, which to my knowledge is a knitting method that doesn’t actually have its own name. (I’m sure that someone out there must knit that way, so maybe the footage I shot of myself working a double increase in reverse combined knitting will be useful someday.) That’s why you’re not getting photos in this post that obviously cries out for them. (Again, if you happen to be a reverse combined knitter, let me know and maybe I’ll post them just for you.)

What’s more, as if this wasn’t enough confusion (and if this were a knitting joke about a speeding motorist and a traffic cop, what follows would be the “no! it’s a scarf!” line), I just tried swatching again in what I think is correct faked western knitting, and the technique still works, even if you knit into the front before knitting into the back of the stitch. I will probably tackle the next western knitter I encounter and force him or her to work this double increase both ways.

Kim, being the lovely and helpful person she is, gave me permission to use her correct western knitting photos. There’s now a page up here with the step-by-step details, so you don’t have to gobble up her bandwidth. I have footage of myself knitting the double increase using the combined method, which I’ll reduce to still shots and put on the same page. I was going to put up video clips, but the bandwidth consumption would be a problem.

(Plug for wiseNeedle: Knitted something lately? Of course you have. Did you use yarn? Highly likely. Form any opinion of the yarn you used? Doubtlessly. So go submit a review so that others can be enriched by your insight. Thinking of knitting something? If you’re reading this, probably. Planning to use yarn? Duh. Looking for other people’s opinions of your intended yarn before you splurge? Try here.)

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One Response to Mea culpa, I think, but it's late and perhaps I'm confused

  1. kbsalazar says:

    Thanks for the plug! The double increase thing was no big deal. I didn’t give it a single thought until I got a note from another knitter about it, so I sat down and tried to figure out where confusion entered. Enjoy the pix!

    I’m still noodling along on my mutant Rogue, and having tons of fun with it. Thank YOU for making the pattern available.