Loose stitch problem

Ok guys... I've got a problem that, frankly, I don't know what to do to fix. Whenever I go from a knit stitch to a purl stitch, that knit stitch always seems to be loose and misshapen and there tends to be a gap between the two. Now, the gap isn't a huge issue for me because the "rib" (so to speak) generally hides that. But the loose knit stitches are the bane of my knitting at the moment. I've tried tightening them 10 ways from Sunday and I still can't get them even. I don't know if it's something weird like the angle I purl at, but it's always when I go from knits to purls. Here's a picture. Any ideas?

 Loose stitches

Image icon loose_stitches.jpg26.84 KB

Do you pull that first knit stitch snug? That might help close the gap. 

Knit away, knit away

"They say best men are moulded out of faults; and, for the most, become much more the better for being a little bad." William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

For me it's not so much snugging up the yarn after the knit stitch as holding the tension on it while making the purl stitch.  This keeps it from loosening and pulling back through the knit stitch while I'm positioning the needles to purl.

potterdc's picture

Hi Kenny, 

Some amount of looseness is normal going from knit to purl, but I certainly understand wanting to create as little gap as possible.

How do you hold your yarn when you knit?  Do you have it woven over and through your fingers, or do you just hold it with your thumb and forefinger?  I've found how I hold the yarn while I'm knitting makes a big difference - weaving it through my fingers (under pinkie, over ring, under middle, and over the forefinger) helps me regulate tension as I go.

 I really like the work you took a picture of - have you tried stretching the area AFTER it's knit to help with the looseness of that one knit "column?"



In DC, where the Best Beloved and I celebrated our 7th anniversary the same day the Senate started in on gay marriage. 


Think less, enjoy it more.

Parrot's picture

Hey, Kenny . .  I know exactly what you mean.  I had the problem bad when I started, and sometimes still do.  I noticed that I lose the consistency of my tension (and yet I knit because I don't want to be so tense all the time ... ), but when I switch to the purl stitch, it is looser.  I have to pay particular attention to the purl stitches and try to pull them tighter, which at the time seems they are then tighter than the knit stitch, but when I get past the purls, they seem to look the same as the knit.  A little over compensation, if you will.  But, then again, I am relatively new at this  and probably doing it all wrong anyway!  I look to you for advice, so follow mine with extreme caution . .lol  In any case, it was nice to respond to your question.



Thanks for the reply guys. Let me see if I can answer some of the questions.

First, let me say that I'm not as aggrevated with the gaps that appear as I am with that whole column of knit stitches right before the purls that get all funkified... tho I'm sure the two problems are related. I know you can't really see it in the picture (sorry about that) but those frankenknits right in the center of the picture are the ones that I can't seem to get even. Between that and the purl section to the left of them, if I stretch it out, is the gap. But since it pulls itself together in a sort of rib it's not really noticible. I'll try to stretch it out and take a picture if I can. Oh... and the picture is of the wrong side of the knitting... so the "sections" go seed st section, 3 purls, 4 knits (the last of which is the loose one), 3 purls, etc.

Jonathan, I use the very macho-ish "single pinky wrap and over the index finger" method of holding the yarn, English style. I have tried to wiggle and stretch the pieces after I've finished them to try and even those out and sometimes it helps a little if I work at it, but that last knit stitch is almost always much looser than the knits that came before it.

Martin and Zig, I've been conscious of my tension recently... especially at that point in the knitting. I've tried to be pretty tight with it when going from that last knit to the first purl but after I make the stitch, I tug on it to try and tighten it up but because the yarn is in front, and I'm pulling up as I tighten, the loop of the previous stitch kinda get's hung up there and it doesn't want to tighten anymore so I'm going into that first purl with a loose sort of stitch to begin with.

I think what I'll try to do the next time I do this is after that first purl after the loose knit stitch, I'll bring my yarn to the back of the work and tighten up on the stitch that way, then bring it back around front for the next purl. That way that first purl should tug on that previous knit stitch enough to straighten it up. I haven't thought about that. I'll let you guys know how it works out.

Thanks guys! 

Hmmm? I'm not sure trying to fix this problem isn't the cause of it in the first place. Tension (gauge) is often different when knitting and purling - it's two completely different techniques after all.  If you've been more aware of the tension or have a belief that your tension is wrong you may now be aggravating the issue.  The sample shown doesn't seem at all bad! In fact, it t looks quite ok to me.  My suggestion is simply to ignore it, relax and enjoy it!  When you are relaxed your tension will be as well.

kiwiknitter's picture

When I have this problem, it seems to always be when I'm ribbing.  I don't find the gaps but the knit row can be somewhat misshapen.  I find that for me it has a lot to do with the type of wool I'm knitting.  Also, I sometimes think that this occurs if I've paused knitting  to move the stitches forward/backward on the needles.  I wonder if I've made too much distance on the right needle and so the first stitch is a bit stretched.  I'm watching this on the ribbing I'm doing right now to see it this is the case.  I've mucked around with the tension but it will occur from time to time and I can't explain it.  But, I don't worry about it since after a while, as with all knitwear, the stitches relax and shift around and everything evens itself out nicely.  I agree with Simon and think that your work looks fine to me.  It clearly demonstrates the difference between machine and hand knitting.  If you discover why this happens and a way to keep these odd stitches from occuring, let us know! 


Friends don't let friends knit drunk.

Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on.  ~Billy Connolly

Hey guys. Just a little update on things I've tried and what I've found that actually does help a little.

First, let me say thanks again for all the replies. This is why I love a site like this!

Ok... I went back and attacked the problem to see if I could get that loose knit stitch to tighten up. I sort of analyzed how I actually make the purl stitches to see if I could figure out why it wasn't tightening up like I thought it should. First, as I said, I'm a "thrower"... I knit English style. So when I purl with a normal tension and don't try to "fix" the problem, the yarn loops around the right needle and the tension pulls it back over itself so it lays on the under part of the loop and doesn't really move from there when I pull the yarn thru... it kind of catches. I know that's probably confusing. But what I mean by that is that it's catching on itself so that unless I actively tighten the stitch it stays a bit loose. When I tighten it, it could be that i'm pulling the previous knit stitch out of whack a little. I'm not an expert on stitch structure, so I could be way off on all that, but that's the way it seemed. So what I tried differently was after I made the loop over the right needle, I pulled the yarn down and a little towards the left needle so that it didn't have to fight over itself. The result of this was that while it didn't necessariy fix the laddering between the knit and purl stitches, it did seem to help keep the knit stitch sort of uniform and not sloppy looking. The downside to doing that is that it was awkward to tighten the stitch that way for me. I kept losing the yarn over my finger and would have to reset it on my right hand. And frankly, that was just aggrevating to me.

Then I tried something that I'd read about and had never done, which was to make the knit stitch as I usually did then purl into the back of the next stitch instead of purling it normally. The result of this is that it makes a twist in that first purl stitch which sort of pulls things together. I was pleasantly surprised at the result. The knit stitches are much more uniform and there seems to be less space between that knit and purl stitch. Plus I didn't keep losing the yarn on my right hand. So that worked enough that I'm pleased with it.

So... now that's out of the way, I'll mention the third thing I did to which you experience knitters will certainly say "Duh, Kenny!" but as a beginner never really occurred to me until I did it. I threw a few of the squares into the washing machine and into the dryer on the "gentle" setting per the yarn instructions. When they came out, I realized the magic happened. The misshapen knit stitches evened themselves out and looked pretty damn good. Not perfect, but by no means the mess they were when I tossed em in there. The space between those two stitches meant that the knit stitches had some yarn to work with to fix themselves when the slight shrinking happened. I know... I should have known that. But at least now I know.

So as a result, I'll continue purling into the back to make that first purl stitch and then washing the blocks before I connect them. Which brings me to my next question. Anybody have experience in joining stuff like this? What would be the best way to go about it so that it works with the pattern and doesn't look horrible?

Tallguy's picture

Hahahaha....I just was going to say that you need to wash your items before you go analyzing it!!  I find that all sorts of uneveness disappears once it's been washed.... I don't put anything into the dryer, but do wash in hot water with good soap (not detergent).  This is something that is never stressed enough in patterns... you MUST wash (block) your work properly to see the final result.  The change is amazing!!

 Don't sweat the small stuff --- it will wash out!

It sounds like you have solved your tension problems, but if you want to experiment, you can try a method that is described in the Fall Cast On 2002:

Another, more drastic, solution is to change the way you form the purl stitch. Instead of bringing the working yarn over the needle to purl, bring it under the needle. This more closely matches how the knit stitch is formed. If you use this method, you must, on the next row, knit the stitches through the back loops or the stitches will be twisted. Although this sounds like heresy, it isn’t difficult and after a few rows it even feels natural.

(Natural? Yeah, right.)