Knitting in the Round: Converting Knitting Stitch Patterns Like a Pro

Learn how to convert knitting stitch patterns into patterns for knitting in the round!

Just a few of the knitting stitches you’ll find in our Knit Stitch Dictionary.

Traditionally, knitting stitches in a stitch dictionary are presented for knitting flat (back and forth in rows). If you want to use one of the stitches for something knitted in the round (a sock, say, or a hat), then you have to do a little bit of conversion magic with knitting stitch patterns.

Here are the basic conversion steps for knitting stitch patterns:

  1. Pick an appropriate stitch pattern.
    Some patterns are easy to convert from rows to rounds; some can be mind-bendingly difficult. Before you get your heart set on a particular stitch pattern for use in a cute baby hat, check to see if it looks like it will convert easily to working in the round. There are two things you want to look for: First, a pattern where the wrong-side rows contain only purl stitches or knit stitches, and second, a pattern where the number of edge stitches is the same on all rows. (Remember that edge stitches are the ones outside the repeat section.)
  2. When figuring out how many stitches to cast on: Drop the “balancing” stitches from your calculations.

    In other words: Drop the Y number in the “multiple of X stitches plus Y” notation discussed above. Cast on only the “multiple of X” number for your in-the-round pattern.

  3. When you are knitting: Work from asterisk to semi-colon only.

    In other words, everything between those two punctuation marks is your stitch repeat, and you will knit just those stitches around and around your “tube.”

  4. Convert the wrong-side rows to right-side rounds.

    You’re always on the right side when you knit in the round, right? So there are no “wrong-side rows,” technically. There are two steps to getting the wrong-side right in your circular knitting. First, all purl stitches become knit stitches and all knit stitches become purl stitches. Second, the “wrong-side” instructions are read backwards! An example will help here: Say that the wrong-side ROW instructions tell you to work “p3, k1” across. For circular knitting, you would work “p1, k3” around. So: Purls became knits, knits became purls, and you work the repeat in reverse. This can be a bit confusing, so WRITE OUT the wrong-side instructions in the new circular “language” in order to help yourself keep it all “straight”!

If in doubt, chart it out.

The steps given above for converting flat stitch patterns to in-the-round stitch patterns will work well for symmetrical patterns that are simple in design. If you have your heart set on a complex or asymmetrical pattern, then graph paper, pencils, swatching, and patience are your best friends. Or, for the computer-savvy individuals, try using a spreadsheet program, setting a narrow column width and using your own set of symbols for the stitches to see how things line up. I do this with all my own designs, and although the results are not publishable, my home-grown charts are a huge help in my knitting.

Here are a couple of resources on knitting stitch patterns:

The Knit Stitch Dictionary, by Debbie Tomkies—This is an excellent reference guide for 250 of the most popular, fresh, and customizable knit stitches with both written and charted instructional examples.

17 Free Knit Stitches: A Guide to Knitting Stitches—We’ve gathered some of our favorite knitting stitch patterns to share with you in this free eBook. With 17 techniques in all, you’ll discover knitting stitches for beginners to tackle, plus more intermediate and complex designs such as the lattice pattern, herringbone and many more!

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