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Knitter’s Choice

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Knitter’s Choice

When it comes to knitting in the round, most people either love it or hate it. No matter which camp you’re in, it’s likely that you will, at some point in your knitting career, fall in love with a pattern that is designed for the other side. If you are like me, you will probably wonder why in the world the designer would write this to be a flat/circular pattern when it so clearly works as a circular/flat pattern. You may even use some strong language, depending on how much you really, really need to knit this pattern.

But wait! Put away the strong language and get out your pencils. You can convert many patterns in either direction (I’ll talk about exceptions in a minute). And guess what? It’s really, really easy. The one thing you need to remember is:

When you are knitting flat, you are alternating working on the “right” side and the “wrong” side. When you are knitting in the round, you are only working on the “right” side.

What this means practically speaking is that when you are converting patterns in either direction, you will need to reverse the stitches on every other row (I said it was easy; I didn’t say there was no work at all involved). Let’s do an easy example, stockinette stitch:

Flat R1: Knit
Flat R2: Purl

Circular R1: Knit
Circular R2: Knit

When it gets tricky is when you are working on something a little more complicated, like a cable pattern. Just remember that all you’re doing is reversing knits and purls on every other row:

Flat Rows 1, 5, 9, 13, 17 and 21 (RS): P3, *K8, p3, k8, p3; rep from * to end.
Flat Row 2 and all WS rows: *K3, p8, k3, p8; rep from * to last 3 sts, k3.
Flat Rows 3, 7 and 11: P3, *[4-st RC] twice, p3, k8, p3; rep from * to end.
Flat Rows 15, 19 and 23: P3, *K8, p3, [4-st RC] twice, p3; rep from * to end. Row 24 Rep row 2.

Circular Rows 1, 5, 9, 13, 17 and 21 (RS): P3, *K8, p3, k8, p3; rep from * to end.
Circular Row 2 and all WS rows: *p3, k8, p3, k8; rep from * to last 3 sts, p3.
Circular Rows 3, 7 and 11: P3, *[4-st RC] twice, p3, k8, p3; rep from * to end.
Circular Rows 15, 19 and 23: P3, *K8, p3, [4-st RC] twice, p3; rep from * to end. Row 24 Rep row 2.

Now, there are patterns that should not be converted. Obviously, any pattern that has a flat finished project, like an afghan, shouldn’t be joined and knit circularly. I would also recommend staying away from converting patterns from circular to flat that have cables or twists on both odd and even rows. Finally, any particularly large or heavy sweater should be knit flat and seamed — the seams add stability and will help the sweater maintain its shape.

With those few exceptions, you can rework just about any pattern to be knitted in your preferred style. Try something simple first, like a knit hat. Soon you’ll be on your way to converting every pattern you see, and enjoying the freedom that comes with using the style you prefer to create your knitted projects!

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  • Thank you so much for this post! I am getting ready to do a double knit mitten pattern that is knit flat and then seamed up the side, and I would rather do it in the round, so I’ll try it to see if it works. Thanks again!

  • I have seen patterns for rugs that are knit in the round and then steeked. Could an afghan be done the same way?

    Zontee says: Hi Sheri, knitting a pattern in the round and then steeking is usually done for pieces with a lot of stranded colorwork. If that’s something you’re doing with an afghan, then yes, you could definitely do it. Good luck!

  • Thanks for the conversion information. I am a beginning knitter and would like to see more patterns using circular needles.

  • I respectfully disagree that all bulky/heavy items should be knit flat and seamed. Seams add even more bulk in large gauge projects and can be uncomfortable to wear. If you are really concered about maintaining a garments shape, try adding a fake seam at the sides (a la Elizabeth Zimmerman) and add a row of crochet slip stitches along the shoulders and/or neckline seams.

    Laura says: You’re absolutely right — many bulky items are designed to be knit in the round and are just fine that way. However, often a heavy (not necessarily bulky — think cotton or silk yarn as opposed to wool) or oversized (finished measurement-wise, not necessarily gauge-wise) item is designed with seams for structural reasons. Care should be taken when converting those patterns, as you may lose some structural integrity.

  • I loved this article and it will really help me. There is the hotwater bottle pattern I was looking at and asking whey that was not a circular knit instead of flat. I am going to try to convert it. We shall see how that goes.

    Also, I have a question about the circular directions. Shouldn’t this row be stated differently?
    Circular Row 2 and all WS rows: *p3, k8, p3, k8; rep from * to last 3 sts, p3.

    When your circular knitting shouldn’t it state Row 2 and all even rows? I think talking WS rows would really confuse new knitters.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to talk about all the important yarning issues. It is great to have experience talk and save me from always learning the hard way!!!

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