Using a stitch pattern: converting from flat to round and vice versa

This is the third and final part of my very basic series about how to use a stitch pattern. Here are the first two:

  1. The parts of a stitch pattern.
  2. Using gauge to figure out how many stitches to cast on.

Stitches in stitch dictionaries are usually written to be worked flat, but they can usually be converted to be worked in the round. This post discusses how. Occasionally, you’ll find a stitch pattern written to be worked in the round; the instructions here will work for those, too.

The general principle for converting a stitch pattern from flat to round and vice versa involves working stitches so that the motion is reversed. That is, a stitch that is knit from the wrong side would be purled from the right side, and so on. Just about everything can be flipped around successfully, from cables to decreases, to brioche, to slipped stitches.

One kind of stitch that I know of that doesn’t rotate precisely is the kind that involves passing one stitch over the others. An example of this kind is abbreviated as SKYP: slip 1, knit 1, yarn over, pass slipped stitch over. It is possible to work this in the opposite direction, so long as you don’t mind having the stitch that’s passed over leaning the other way. That said, usually such stitches are worked on right side rows, so it doesn’t usually matter for conversion to the round.

Here’s how to change the instructions for a stitch pattern:

If you’re working from a chart, it’s easy (if you work from the kind of chart that shows what the stitches look like from the right side). Just move all the row numbers on the left side of the chart to the other end where the round numbers belong, and you’re all set.  Seriously. (Of course, do the opposite if converting round to flat)

Chevron Seed Stitch

Chevron Seed Stitch (worked flat)

becomes

Chevron Seed Stitch (worked in the round)

(This is Chevron Seed Stitch, from my Mon Tricot stitch dictionary.)

If you’re working from written instructions, it’s a little more laborious. The key is almost always to rewrite the even numbered rows in two ways:

  1. Start at the right side of the instructions and move toward the left. At the same time,
  2. Reverse all the stitches from their wrong side versions to their right side versions.

This is easiest to practice with a knit-purl design.

(If the stitch pattern starts with a wrong side row, then rewrite the odd numbered rows instead.)

Here’s the written instructions for Chevron Seed Stitch:

Notes:

  • Chevron Seed Stitch is a multiple of 8 stitches and 4 rows
  • Note that I realized while knitting the swatch that to end with mirror symmetry, this really should be a multiple of 8+1, and I knit it accordingly (by knitting an extra column 1 at the left side of the knitting).

Abbreviations:

  • k: knit
  • p: purl

Row 1 (RS): *p1, k3; work from *.
Row 2 (WS): *k1, p5, k1, p1; work from *.
Row 3: *k2, p1, k3, p1, k1; work from *.
Row 4: *p2, k1, p1, k1, p3; work from *.

All the odd-number rows are going to stay the same, and all the even-number rows will be reversed, and everything will be labeled with rounds instead.

Round 1: *(p1, k3) x 2; work from *.

Row 2 was *k1, p5, k1, p1; work from *, so start at the right end of the text and invert all the stitches:

Round 2: *k1, p1, k5, p1; work from *

Round 3 stays the same.

Row 4 was *p2, k1, p1, k1, p3; work from *, so start at the right end and invert all the stitches:

Round 4: *k3, p1, k1, p1, k2; work from *.

And the final version is therefore:

Round 1: *p1, k3; work from *.
Round 2: *k1, p1, k5, p1; work from *
Round 3: *k2, p1, k3, p1, k1; work from *.
Round 4: *k3, p1, k1, p1, k2; work from *.

(It’s always worth comparing the chart to the written instructions to double check for mistakes.)

There’s an extra step when the stitch pattern is a multiple of some number plus another number. Locate the repeat between the asterisks or repeat lines on the chart. These are often the only stitches needed for working the stitch pattern in the round.

Here’s Openwork 2 by 2 Rib from my Mon Tricot stitch dictionary, as worked flat:

Openwork 2 by 2 Rib

Openwork 2 by 2 rib, worked flat

Notes:

  • This stitch is a multiple of 4+2.

Abbreviations:

  • k: knit.
  • p: purl.
  • ssk: slip each of the next 2 stitches as if to knit, then knit them together through the back loop. (Left-leaning decrease)
  • yo: yarnover.

Rows 1, 3, & 5 (WS): *k2, p2; work from *, k2.
Rows 2 & 4 (RS): p2, *k2, p2; work from *.
Row 6: p2, *yo, ssk, p2; work from *.

Here is the new chart for working in the round:

Openwork 2 by 2 rib, worked in the round

This is the section inside the repeat lines of the previous version.

The first thing to note when changing the written instructions is that here the odd rows are the wrong side rows.

So

Rows 1, 3, & 5 (WS): *k2, p2; work from *, k2.

becomes

Rounds 1, 3, & 5: *k2, p2; work from *. (That’s anticlimactic, but k2, p2 worked in the other direction and inverted is still k2, p2.)

Therefore, Openwork 2 by 2 Rib worked in the round looks like this:

Rounds 1, 3, & 5: *k2, p2; work from *.
Rounds 2 & 4: *k2, p2; work from *.
Round 6: *yo, ssk, p2; work from *.

But wait! Rounds 1-5 can be consolidated:

Notes:

  • This stitch is a multiple of 4.

Rounds 1-5: *k2, p2; work from *.
Round 6: *yo, ssk, p2; work from *.

I think this about covers it. Please do let me know in comments (or contact me on Ravelry) if you have any questions.

Here’s a few examples of the stitches to use when converting back and forth:

knit purl
k2tog p2tog
ssk ssp
k 1 below p 1 below
sl 1 wyif sl 1 wyib
(k1, yo, k1) in next st (p1, yo, p1) in next st
(k1, p1) in double yo (k1, p1) in double yo (yes, it’s the same)

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