Since we've been discussing different styles of knitting, this seems like a good place to talk about combination knitting, especially as it will also tie back to the recent discussion on decreases.
First, what is it? In the common Western styles of knitting, stitches sit on the needle in a particular orientation, which I discussed when we were talking about decreases; the leading leg, which is the one further to the right and closest to the point of the needle, sits in front of the needle, while the trailing leg, further to the left and further from the needle point, sits behind the needle. In most Eastern styles of knitting, stitches sit in the opposite orientation, with the leading leg behind and the trailing leg in front. In combination knitting, stitches sit in the Western orientation after being knit, and in the Eastern orientation after being purled, and it is this combination of orientations that gives it its name.
Combination knitting is done by wrapping the yarn around the needle clockwise (as viewed with the tip of the needle pointing at the viewer), rather than counterclockwise, when purling. This changes the orientation of the stitches thus produced -- it basically gives them a little half twist. Then, on the subsequent row, the stitches are knit through the back leg, and that gives them a half twist in the opposite direction, resulting in stitches that are untwisted and back in the Western orientation.
Why would someone want to do this? Well, most of the practitioners of combo knitting started off as Continental-style knitters (and some think they still are, which we'll get to in a moment). However, Continental purling can be kind of tricky; the reason for this is that the pull of the yarn, forward and upward to the left, is exactly the direction that makes the yarn want to jump away from the tip of the needle instead of going neatly through the stitch being purled. Because a combo knitter wraps the other way, coming between the right and left needles instead of in front of the right needle, the pull brings the yarn against the right needle instead of away from it, making it easier to scoop through, and many knitters find it faster and more comfortable to their wrists and/or fingers. Because this is a primary reason to do it, most combination knitters do carry the yarn in their left hands, like Continental knitters do; although there's no reason why a knitter with a right-hand carry couldn't wrap clockwise, there's less of a reason for them to do so as a matter of course.
The motion of the combination purl is a very close analogue to the motion of the Continental knit stitch, which also has the yarn coming between the two needles. Many people who experience "rowing out" (a discernable difference in size between rows of knits and rows of purls) find that when knitting combination, this issue disappears. Priscilla Gibson-Roberts, in her book Knitting in the Old Way, suggests that this is because the path taken by the yarn in the Continental purl is inherently longer than the knit stitch, whereas the combination purl is exactly the same. I don't agree; I think the difference is executive, not structural, and the fact that some people's purls are tighter, not looser, certainly would seem to indicate that the difference isn't inherent. However, that doesn't mean it's not real, and this method can in fact make a difference and produce tighter purls; it's just why it makes a difference that I disagree with.
Now, I mentioned that some combination knitters think they're Continental knitters. Combination method is actually extremely easy to do by accident, especially among self-taught knitters. Wrapping the purls clockwise looks like the way knits are wrapped, and makes the purl stitches easier to form, so it seems right, and because the open orientation of the Eastern stitches actually facilitates knitting through the back loop, many accidental combo knitters produce untwisted knitting, which cannot be differentiated after the fact from knitting produced by Western methods. The difference in orientation is subtle, and not easily noticed if you don't know to look for it.
Accidental combo knitting tends to reveal itself in a few common ways, depending on whether the knitter is compensating for the orientation on the knits or not. If the knitter is not compensating, and is therefore producing twisted stitches, she may discover she's knitting this way when she compares the texture of her stitches to somebody else's, when she tries to figure out why her work biases (slants) in one direction persistently (this is especially noticeable on ribbing), or when she tries to figure out why she's persistently short on row gauge, since the twisted stitches pull up shorter than untwisted ones. If she is compensating, it's trickier, because the finished work looks exactly like the finished work of a Western-method knitter, in almost every particular. Generally, an accidental combination knitter of this type will figure it out when she does a project in the round and suddenly begins having twisted stitches where she never did before, or when she first moves to projects where the direction of the decreases matter, and her decreases are slanting a different way than she expects. In other words, she figures it out when she reaches one of the points where the combination knitter needs to compensate, and she doesn't know to compensate because she doesn't realize she is a combination knitter (or often even that there is such a thing).
That brings me to the discussion of the areas where a combination knitter does need to compensate for her style of knitting, and the fact that patterns and instructions are written for the Western knitter whose stitches are always in Western orientation.
Combination knitting works extremely well in any stitch pattern where stitches are purled on one row or round, and then knit on the next, or vice versa. This obvious includes flat stockinette, but it also includes flat ribbing, and garter and seed stitch in the round. It does not work so well for stitch patterns where the same stitch column is knit (or purled) on consecutive rows; this includes stockinette and ribbing in the round, and garter and seed stitch flat. The reason it does not work as well in this circumstance is that you don't have the two compensating pieces working together. Purl stitches sit in the Eastern orientation, and are still sitting that way when you come to purl them on the next row; knit stitches begin in the Western orientation, and must be worked through the front, not the back, to keep them untwisted. For knit stitches the compensation is fairly simple; simply knit through the front loop instead of the back one. For purl stitches, there are a couple of choices -- you can either purl in the Western manner, with the yarn wrapping counterclockwise, or you can keep your clockwise wrapping but purl through the back loop on subsequent rows, which is actually not as hard as it may sound, since the back loop in this orientation is the right one. In fact, that's really the key -- to keep your stitches untwisted, always work through the right, or leading, leg, regardless of whether it's located in front of or behind the needle.
The other major area of compensation for a combination knitter is decreasing. The combination knitters knit-row decreases slant the opposite way from those of the Western knitter, and we'll take a look at why that is. When a combination knitter prepares to knit two stitches together, she is starting with two stitches, each of which is sitting on the needle in the open, Eastern orientation, and she is going to knit them together through their back legs. I hope that sounds familiar from the first decreases article -- it's exactly what the Western knitter has when she does an SSK. And, of course, this decrease leans to the left. If the combination knitter wants a right-leaning decrease, she needs to slip two stitches as if she were going to purl them through the back loops, replace them on the left needle, and then knit them together through the front, which is sort of a combo SSK, and the same structure as a Western k2tog. It's reasonable to think of this as "flipping" the two types of decreases, and many combination knitters do.
The fact that the combination k2tog is exactly the same structurally as the Western SSK gives rise to a neat little trick which the Western knitter (whether Continental or English style) can use to make her SSKs neater, with some advance planning; on the row before the SSK will be worked, work the two stitches which will be involved in the decrease with a clockwise wrap (whether knitting or purling), so they sit in the Eastern orientation, and then they can simply be knit together through the back loops without slipping, which will give you a tighter SSK because there's less manipulation tugging on the stitches. And, of course, the combination knitter could employ the same trick to set up her right-leaning decrease; work the two stitches with a counterclockwise wrap, and they'll be in the Western orientation and set up for a Western k2tog.
There are a few other, less common, areas of compensation, where the difference that the two methods make is subtle. For instance, to make a twisted stitch, the Western knitter works through the back leg of the stitch. A combination knitter can make a twisted stitch by working through the front loop, but the twist will be in the opposite direction. This will rarely matter, but she should think about whether it does. As another example, when doing yarnovers, the combination knitter may wish to change their orientation to match the orientation of the other stitches on the row; if she does not, she'll want to make sure that she works the stitch on the subsequent row through the right leg, whether it's in front or in back, so the yarnover doesn't twist closed. Combination knitters need to have their heads in the game, and work to develop an understanding of why stitches are executed in the way they are and whether their method makes a difference to that execution, for the best experience. I'd highly recommend Annie Modesitt's book, Confessions of a Knitting Heretic, for learning more about the structure of knit stitches and knitted fabric, for both combination knitters, and Western knitters who simply want to learn more about why knitting works the way it does; it's a great resource.