Smooth stockinette – how to fix uneven knitting stitches
Is your stockinette stitch turning out a bit uneven or bumpy?
Don’t worry, it happens to us all. And it’s not just a newbie thing!
It’s frustrating when you spent a lot of time working on a project and it turned out great, besides that uneven stitching.
I don’t want you, fellow knitters, to feel that way!
So, I decided to spend some time cracking this nut. These are the hacks that have helped me, and I’m confident they will work for you too!
Let’s start with figuring out WHY our knittings turn out uneven sometimes.
When we know that it’s time to take a look at what to do about it!
Why does knitted fabric turn out uneven?
To solve a problem you have to understand what’s causing it.
There are a few reasons for uneven knitting. One of them is that your tension varies, which leads to different sized stitches. This problem is called rowing out and shows like a striped pattern where every other row has looser stitches. If this is your problem, scroll down and read more under the headline “Rowing out”.
Another reason for uneven stitching can be the yarn you are using. Yarn can behave in many ways depending on the fibers used and how they are spun together. If you’re suspecting the yarn to be the issue maybe you can get some help by reading this post about different yarns and fibers, How to pick yarn for my knitting project? I have some tips on how to solve this problem further down under the headline “Yarn”
Your knitting needles can also cause uneven knitting. Sometimes your gauge is perfect, but your stitches are turning out a little wonky. Then it’s time to think about your knitting needles! Read under the headline “Needles”
Tension is a big thing in knitting and if the tension isn’t spot on it messes everything up.
Remember that your tension is just that, YOUR tension. All knitters have our own way of holding our yarn and needles, moving our hands and so on. All these things have an impact on tension. Different knitters can get very different results with the same yarn, pattern, and needles.
A common issue when knitting stockinette stitch is rowing out.
Rowing out means that your rows have different tensions. This makes the stitches in the purl rows turn out bigger, that’s what creating the stripe effect.
The purl stitch “eats” more yarn, compared to the knit stitch, and therefore it can easily get a bit loose. This is what causes the unevenness that often appears when we’re knitting flat stockinette.
I knit continental, and I have learned that this is a common problem amongst us, continental knitters. I’m actually not sure how big this issue is in other knitting styles.
But, if you’re here reading and aren’t a continental knitter, I guess the problem goes over more knitting styles.
How to avoid rowing out
Change how you’re holding and wrapping the yarn around your fingers
The most obvious tip is, of course, to pull your yarn tighter when doing the purl stitches. You could try different ways to hold your yarn, to the yarn around your finger one or several times more and so one.
I’ve tried this in so many ways, but I haven’t got the hang of it. It’s like my fingers just won’t do the purl stitches in a nice and well-tensioned way.
So I went out on a hunt for better solutions …
Using two sizes of needles – my first and simplest solution
This tip is so simple! If you’re knitting on straight needles or knitting flat on interchangeable circular needles this is a fast, easy and foolproof hack!
Change your picking needle (or tip) with which you’re picking your purl stitches to a smaller size. I’m usually going down one whole size, but this tension thing is a personal one, so you will have to test this out. Keep the original needle size for the knit stitches.
Keep on knitting. The knit stitches are picked with the larger needle and the purls with the smaller. This compensates for the unevenness in your tension.
Skip the purls – Knit backward
I love knitting backward instead of purling forward. Did that sentence even make any sense?!?
Well, what I’m trying to tell you is: If you don’t enjoy the purl rows, you actually can skip to turn your work over after the knit rows and knit back again instead. As in knitting backward.
I learned to do this a while ago, and my stockinette stitch has never been so smooth before. You can’t even see a difference between the knit and purl rows in my knitting anymore.
The tension problem I had, with loose purl rows, was solved instantly with this technique. It was a bit fiddly at the start and it took me some time to get up to speed with knitting backward, but it was totally worth it!
I think this technique is awesome! Knitting backward is handy in more cases than to fix a tension issue.
Actually, I like it so much that I’ve written a whole post on this earlier… If you’d like to know more and maybe try to knit backward, take a look at that post, I have made a tutorial with pictures for you!
It’s called How to knit stockinette stitch without purling
You can also purl backward. If, for example, you’re working on a small project and don’t want to waste time on turning it over after every row you could work every other row backward, even if you’re working a stitch pattern with purl stitches in it.
Skip the purls – Knit in the round
When you knit stockinette stitch in the round there are only knit rows, or actually one long spiral of knit stitches, and this problem doesn’t occur.
If your knitting in the round and working a stitch pattern with both knits and purls, loose purl stitches can be an issue. I see that when I’m knitting ribbing for example, but in these cases, I think it helps to just pull the yarn a little tighter for the purl stitches.
I have also noticed that the needles have an impact on this. For example, I get much smoother results when using my circulars with metal tips than double pointed bamboo needles.
Combined knitting – the best of two worlds
As mentioned before, I’m a continental knitter, which makes purling a bit awkward.
Combined knitting is another great solution to this problem. In combined knitting, you knit your knit stitches in the continental way and the purl stitches in an eastern way.
The eastern way of purling is a smoother motion for your hands than the continental, and it makes it easier to control the tension of the yarn.
Here is how to do it:
- Hold your yarn as you would for continental knitting
Insert the right needle into the stitch as you would for continental knitting
- And here comes the nice part! Instead of doing that awkward motion upwards to wrap your yarn around the needle you do it more like a knit stitch.
- Just pull the right needle inside the stitch slightly until the yarn is below the needle. Now you can pick up the yarn and pull it through the old stitch.
If you take a close look at that stitch you just made you will see that it’s twisted, compared to a continental purl stitch. This means you will have to twist it back when you do the knit stitch.
- In continental knitting, the stitch sits at the needle with the right leg in front of the needle, and the left behind the needle. We pick our knit stitches in the right leg, from the front.
- In combined knitting, the stitch sits at the needle with the right leg behind the needle, and the left leg in front. This means we have to pick the stitch in the right leg from behind the needle. This allows us to untwist the stitch.
Does that sound confusing? I have made a short video of how to knit combined, watch it it’s really easy once you get the hang of it!
If the difference between knit and purl rows are small there is a chance that you can get rid of the problem by wet blocking the finished piece.
But, I feel a little warning is in its place here, try blocking your swatch to see if this works. I don’t want you to experience the feeling of finishing a big project and then realizing the blocking won’t solve the problem.
Condo knitting – Use this “error” to your advantage
Actually, I’ve learned that you can this tension error to create a lace-like structure in your knitting. If you can’t beat them, join them, right?
Instead of changing to a smaller needle for you loose rows, pick an even bigger size to achieve really big stitches on those rows.
This technique is called Condo knitting, and apparently, it was a thing in the ’80s. I was born in the ’80s, so I couldn’t really tell. (But I can totally imagine my mother doing this in some bright colored mohair 35 years ago!)
Double Stockinette stitch
This stitch is amazing! It has no wrong side, instead, there are two right sides! And it looks really smooth and even.
Double stockinette looks like the right side of stockinette on both sides. This stitch creates the classic ”V”-shaped stitch on both the right and the wrong side of your work.
It’s easy to knit, with only knit stitches and slipped stitches, and it’s not complicated at all. As a matter of fact, there’s no purling involved which as some of you might know makes this knitter very, very happy 🙂
All you have to do is to cast on an even number of stitches. Then you alternate between knitting one and then slipping one purlwise with your yarn in front of the work.
For a full written + video tutorial of this favorite stitch of mine, please click over to this post: How to knit Double Stockinette
If your yarn is the kind that won’t fall into neat and tidy stitches, it’s a bit tricky but there are a couple of things to try out.
- A fiber with more “bounce” like wool will behave differently than one lacking the bounce, like cotton. Therefore it can be an idea to try changing the size of your needles. Try to go up or down a size and see if things get better. There’s a possibility that you can achieve smoother knitting without changing your gauge this way.
- Try to knit garter stitch instead, in the garter stitch the irregular stitches won’t show as much as in the stockinette stitch.
- Wet block, many yarns “fall into place” when wet blocked and a rather messy knitting can transform into something stunning when blocked. I feel that especially stockinette stitch and lace patterns can benefit from blocking.
Your gauge is on the spot and everything should be just perfect, but it’s not. There are loose and irregular stitches, and you can’t change the size of the needles because then the gauge will be off. What to do now?
Try changing your needles to another pair in the same size but a different material or another style of needle.
Which type of needle you use really makes a difference
- First, there are the materials (wood, metal, carbon, acrylic) that have different surfaces that make the stitches slip more or less effortless.
- The tip of the needle has an impact if you have a sharp or blunt tip will affect how you pick your stitches.
- The style of needles. Circular needles, straight needles or double pointed needles, play a role as your knitting style will vary slightly depending on the needles and how you hold them.
Other times when changing needle type can be an idea:
- If your stitches get loose and slip off the needle
- If it’s difficult to slide the stitches along the needle
- If you’re struggling to get a grip of the stitches for increases and decreases
- If you get pains in your hand from gripping too hard
So, these are the different ways I have found to make your stockinette stitch smoother. That’s sure a problem with a few solutions to it, and I bet there are some more that I just haven’t found yet! But if I do, I promise to tell you, fellow knitters!
And if you find this article helpful, please share it with your friends on Pinterest, I’d love that!