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What’s Reverse Shaping and How Do I Do It?

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What’s Reverse Shaping and How Do I Do It?

Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiterauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.

When knitting cardigans, you are making two fronts that are reversed and mirror images of each other. The armholes are on opposite sides of your knitting as is the neck shaping.

The neck and armhole edges are at their logical, respective places. When you are knitting the right side of the piece, you are looking at the reverse of how it will be worn. With the right side of the work facing the public, hold the left or right front up against you. This is the easiest way to tell which is the armhole edge and which is the neck edge if you get confused.

Almost all cardigan patterns will give you exact instructions for knitting one front; the instructions for the other front will usually tell you to knit it the same way, but reverse shaping. This can seem like a cryptic instruction intended to confuse you, but it avoids pattern errors (like one side being written one way and then the other side being written differently).

To reverse the shaping, work the shaping at the opposite end from where you worked it for the first front. The armhole shaping and decreases must be at opposite ends so that when it’s sewn together, you will have one armhole on the left and one on the right. The neck shaping must be on the inside of both pieces, where it would logically be.

Usually you will begin to shape an armhole by binding off stitches (in knitting) or slip-stitching into the first few stitches (in crochet). If you bound off the stitches at the beginning of a right side row for one front, you would bind off stitches at the beginning of a wrong side row for the other front. You are always essentially reversing the right side and the wrong side rows. This keeps the shaping on the correct edge (for instance, the left edge versus the right edge). Remember you can only bind off stitches at the beginning of a row and have the yarn be in the correct place to continue across the row; thus, you will be one row off numerically (you may be binding off on row 25 instead of row 24), but this will not effect the end result or the look of the cardigan.

If you are increasing or decreasing at the beginning of a row for one front, you would increase or decrease at the end of the row for the other front.

And again, remember if you get confused just hold the piece up against you as if you were wearing it to tell which edge is which. With a little patience and concentration, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

For more articles from Barbara Breiter, click here.

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  • Sorry, I understand the theory of what you said. That much was obvious without reading this blog. What is not obvious to me is what stitch on the left side is the equivalent of say Slip Slip Knit on the right side. What I would love to have is a table of equivalent stitches, together with complete definitions of each stitch so I can remember whether in Slip Slip Knit, I am supposed to slip knitwise or slip purlwise. For those of us who are not yet masters of these matters, yes all the information is available, but in so many different places and with so many slightly different explanations that I am not able to put all the pieces together and find out what to do.

    • Hi Kit, the matching decrease for an ssk (left slanting decrease) is actually a k2tog (right slanting decrease). Our friends at have a good chart here:
      Hope that helps!

      • Zontee – Thank you. That link was very helpful.
        I have originally learned to knit right handed, because I could get better lessons that way, but I am a lefty. If I also learn to knit left handed, now that I am very comfortable right handed, by mirroring everything that I now do right handed, could I make the matching pieces for the other side that way? I have tried this, and I think it is going to work, but I haven’t done it very much yet so I am still not sure.

        • When I’m knitting fronts and sleeves I knit 2 at the same time.
          That way you can easily see what you’re doing and the pieces will come out the same, especially the length

          • Inge – I heard a similar suggestion for making socks and gloves and it makes a lot of sense. I have one sock I knit last fall and I haven’t even started on the matching sock. But since it was the first sock I made, I wanted to be sure that I was successful before I started on a second one.

  • Ei lá ! Este post não ser escrito melhor! Leitura este post faz-me lembra de minha velho
    colega de quarto! Ele sempre manteve falando sobre isso.
    Vou transmitir isso write-up com ele.
    Razoavelmente certo ele terá uma boa leitura. Muito obrigado por compartilhar!

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