Do you ever find yourself "rowing out" when knitting stockinette? Or have you ever knit a narrow piece of stockinette, and grown irritated at having to turn, turn, turn your work every few seconds? I was doing both on the sleeve of a little jacket I'm knitting to give to my friend who is expecting twins. You can see in the lower portion that my tension is pretty uneven.
There are a few ways to fix this problem. One is to use two different needle sizes, one for each side of the knitting, to mitigate the tension differences created by the knitter when knitting vs. purling. I prefer to alter my knitting itself, and today I'm going to show you one way to do that: by knitting backwards. You see, when I purl across the back of stockinette fabric, my tension is different from when I knit across the front. But when I knit backwards, my tension is much more similar to my knit rows. Technically, you are still purling when you knit backwards, but you're doing it with the right side facing you -- meaning you never have to turn your work! This is a great technique to use when you are working on a very narrow piece of stockinette, such as a sleeve, one of those short-row ruffle scarves, or an entrelac project. And trust me, it's not hard to do!
After you have knit a row in the usual fashion, DO NOT TURN the work, but leave the right side facing you. You will be working from left to right across the row. To make a stitch, begin by inserting the left hand needle into the loop as shown, so that the left needle crosses behind the right one.
You have now created a new stitch. Repeat this procedure across the row. It will seem awkward at first, and even with experience you may not be as fast as with your normal knit and purl methods, but when you are knitting something fairly narrow in stockinette, it is often more efficient to knit this way, since you don't have to turn the work -- and I know that for me personally, it makes a huge difference in the evenness of my tension. Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!