Hand Knitting Methods 4: Stitch Orientation

Tying in with the knitting styles and techniques, I’ve been discussing a stitch orientation quite a bit. I figured I should just pop a few quick notes about stitch orientation here for that and future reference.

To put it simply stitch orientation refers  to how stitches are sitting on your needles while you knit.

Eastern Style:

 Popular in Arabic influenced knitting as well as Eastern Europe, South America, Asia and Africa, this is generally considered the oldest style of stitch orientation. In Eastern style knitting, the left leg of the stitch is on the front of the needle. When knitting and purling the yarn is wrapped around the needle in a clockwise motion (when staring down the point of the needle from above).

This style works well with all of the knitting methods. It doesn’t make any real difference in English Knitting but it is particularly useful in Continental knitting (this specific combination is commonly referred to as Eastern European Knitting) because it makes the purl stitch considerably easier to execute than it is in Western Continental knitting. It should be noted that eastern stitches in Portuguese Knitting cannot be knitted in the way normally taught and require a slightly modified Portuguese knit stitch (see Portuguese Knitting for further explanation).

Western Style:

Popular in the Western Europe and the English-speaking world, this is the style of knitting that nearly all knitting patterns written in English use, regardless of handhold or knitting method. In Western Style knitting, the right leg of a stitch is on the front of the needle (sometimes said as “the leading leg is forward). When knitting and purling, the yarn is wrapped around the needle counterclockwise.

This style works very well with all of the knitting methods. It does make the purl stitch in Continental Knitting slightly more difficult and the knit stitch in Portuguese as well, though neither are enough of nuisance to deter a knitter from this style.

Combination or Combined Style:

This style appears to be the most recent of the styles and as the name suggests uses a combination of Eastern and Western style stitches. Knit stitches are worked Western Style and the yarn is wrapped counterclockwise. Purl stitches are worked Eastern style and the yarn is wrapped counterclockwise. This results in stitches facing both directions on the knitting needles and requires some care on the knitters part to ensure the right knitting needle is inserted between the legs of the stitches in a manner that won’t twist or cross the stitches.

This style works very well with both English and Continental methods. When worked in Continental Knitting, this is sometimes called Russian Knitting (similar to how Eastern Style Continental Knitting is often called Eastern European Knitting). It also works with Portuguese knitting.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people also refer to Combination Knitting as Eastern Uncrossed Knitting, which I find to be a misnomer maybe unrelated to the terms eastern and western style knitting. Eastern style knitting means that all of the stitches – both knit and purl – have the left leg forward at all times. In Combination knitting there are both eastern and western oriented stitches within a piece of work depending on exactly where you’re at.  (I also question the necessity of the word unwrapped in the name, but that’s neither here nor there).


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