Knit and Purl Mismatch

In the future if a project that I’m working on includes both pieces knit flat and parts knit in the round, and the gauge is not supposed to change, I’ll change needle sizes when moving to the part knit in the round (or vice versa) to avoid much frustration and ripping out hours of work. I decided that my Pelotonner was indeed going to be a tank, joined the front and back pieces together and happily began knitting in the round, watching as the rounds flew by and giddily anticipating its quick finish while picturing myself wearing it while lounging on the grass in the park, or it flowing through the air as I breezed beside the lake on my bike. And then my mismatched gauges struck.

You see, my knits and my purls do not have the same gauge. My knits are loose and carefree while my purls are a bit uptight. In flat stockinette knitting, the back and forth rows of knits and purls balance each other. On Pelotonner, the yoke is made up of four pieces, right back and front, and left back and front. They are all knit in flat stockinette.

Tidy(ish) flat stockinette

And then the live stitches on each pieces is picked up, a few stitches are cast on for the armholes, and the pieces are joined together in the round. Now in the round, there are only knit stitches, and as I’ve said, my knit stitches are more carefree and loose, even when done on the exact same needle (this may have something to do with how I hold my work and throw my yarn). My gauge was done flat and I didn’t do one in the round (shameful, I know). And then I was noticing that it was going to be too loose, so I ripped back a few rows and decreased. And kept decreasing. And decreasing. And decreasing. And the thing didn’t seem to be getting smaller or to be shaped in any meaningful way. So I stopped knitting and looked more closely at the body. ¬†And saw this:

Loosey Goosey knit stitches

Do you see how much less tight the stitches are, how much more space is in between stitches? So even though I was wildly decreasing and trying to shape, it just wasn’t happening because the stitches were getting larger, which wasn’t what I wanted.

Contrast: Tight vs Loose Stitches

After trying it on several times, I decided that even if I did proceed and finish, this would be something that most likely wouldn’t get worn. So I ripped it back out past where it was joined in the round, even going back to ripping out the entire left back. I decided to continue the cable pattern that goes down the left front onto the left back as well. At the moment I’m working on recharting the pattern to work on the back. Before ripping it out, I should’ve measured what my flat knitting gauge was and what my gauge in the round was, but this thought didn’t occur to me until the front piece was released from the back piece. Ah well. When that’s finished, I’ll pick it back up and do the body in a smaller needle.

And remember, when there are both flat knitting pieces and parts done in the round, do a gauge swatch of both!

Happy yarning!

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10 responses to “Knit and Purl Mismatch

  1. As a self-taught knitter, I used to have this problem, too. It looks to me, though, that the problem isn’t (solely) about tension variance between knits and purls, but rather that your purl stitches are twisted.

    • After looking at that article, I think my purls are twisted too! That would explain a lot; I was also curious as to what the instructions were for purling in my various knitting books/stitch dictionaries. After looking through a few, some of them have the working yarn going over the needle and some under, but the one that I was looking at the most when I came back to knitting after taking a hiatus for a few years, has the working yarn going under, thus twisted stitches. I haven’t tried purling with the yarn over the needle yet; that’ll take a bit of work, as purling the other way is so muscle-bound at this point that it takes no thought.

      Thanks for the acute observation and the tip!

      • Well, as that post states, you don’t HAVE to switch the way you purl. If you’d rather keep purling the way you are, you can make the necessary adjustments to accommodate that.

      • I tested out purling the other way, and my hands took to it immediately. So I think I’ll purl the “correct” way when I’ll be mixing pieces that are knit flat and in the round. Otherwise, I’ll probably just keep purling the way I have been/when I want a different look. At least now I can make intentional and informed purling choices!

  2. So did your untwisted purl help or hurt as far as gauge goes? (I’m pretty far behind on my blog reading; you may have already posted about this!)

    My gauge can change for no reason at all. I say that gauge swatches lie, but really, it’s me…

    • I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to see this comment! I’ve been away from the blog for quite awhile.

      Yes, the untwisted purl helped a lot! And it was very easy to reteach myself to purl, and I’m now knitting a lot faster. Thank you so much for noticing my wonky purls :)

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