A few rounds knitted on circular needles

How do you know which way you are knitting in the round?

When you are knitting in the round you are essentially knitting a tube. You cast on to circular needles, you join in the round, and then you knit a round or two. You may not be aware of this, but you are knitting on the outside of the tube so that the so-called “right side” of the fabric is always facing you. Then your kids come running through the door, or your lunch break is over, or the train is at your stop, and you put your knitting away. A day later you pick it back up, but how do you know which way you are knitting? How do you know if the knitwork has turned itself inside out in the meanwhile? Well, there’s a trick.

First things first. When you have knitted 10 or more rounds, you will never be in doubt which way is the inside of the knitted tube, and which one is the outside. For one thing, you can usually recognize which pattern is supposed to be the “right side”. It tends to be the “prettier” side with more knit stitches than purls. For another thing, the knitwork will not easily turn inside out on its own, once you have knitted 10 or more rounds. This only happens when you have a few rounds on your circular needles. So one way to avoid having to accidentally knit inside out is to knit enough rounds in your first session that you will not be in doubt the next time you pick up your knitting project. This is easier said than done… Life happens.

Another important thing to note is that it’s not a disaster if you do accidentally knit inside out. Often, when you notice, you can simply push the knitted fabric to the other side so that you are again knitting on the outside of the tube. However, sometimes you will mess up your pattern if you do knit on the wrong side of the fabric. That depends entirely on what kind of pattern it is, and how much you are paying attention, reading your knitting. If you have messed up the pattern, you can tink (knit backward) to correct the stitches you did wrong.

Sometimes, you may even prefer to knit on the inside of the tube (the wrong side) on purpose. It could be that you are one of the very rare knitters that prefer purling over knitting, or it could be that you prefer knitting, like most knitters, but you are knitting a pattern in reverse stockinette, or maybe you prefer knitting fair isle patterns inside out to get the tension right.

Whatever the case, it’s useful to be able to recognize the right side (the outside) and the wrong side (the inside) of your knitted tube even when you’ve only got a few rounds on your needles. Here’s how.

a few rounds of knitting on circular needles
When in doubt, place the needles in front of you on a table, with the working yarn attached to the right-hand needle and the tips facing you. Then pick up keeping the needles close to your body and start knitting.

Recognize the right side (the outside) of the knitwork

First, locate the needle with the working yarn attached to it. The working yarn is the yarn that is attached to the ball of yarn you are knitting from. One of the two needles will have the working yarn attached to the stitch which is closest to the tip of the needle. This is your right-hand needle. Place the needles in front of you on the table with the right-hand needle on the right and with the needle tips facing you. Gently turn the knitted fabric so that the cast-on edge is turning down. Now pick up the needles and keep the tips facing you. With the cast-on edge below the needles and the tips closest to your body, you will now be knitting on the right side (the outside) of the work.

knitting in the round on the right side and the wrong side of the work
To knit on the right side of the knitwork (the outside), hold the circular needles so the needle tips are facing you and with the working yarn attached to the right-hand needle.

Place a stitch marker on the right side of the work

If you want to be sure never to forget which side of the fabric is the right side, you can place a locking stitch marker on that side. That never fails.

stitch marker attached on the right side of the knitwork

Video tutorial

Here’s a really good video from Jessica Kaufman from HappyGoCrafty on the Howcast Youtube channel demonstrating how to make sure you are knitting on the right side of the knitwork for circular knitting.

Please leave a comment

Have you ever experienced knitting on the wrong side when knitting in the round? How did you come to realize your mistake? Have you ever knitted inside out on purpose? Please leave your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you.

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4 thoughts on “How do you know which way you are knitting in the round?”

  1. Hi Henni, can’t believe I only discovered your website only now, after been knitting for a year – taught myself in lockdown last year. I love your website, and immediately signed up for the newsletter. Yes, I knit on the “wrong side” when it comes to circular knitting, it just happened that way. I probably didn’t pay enough attention to the YouTube videos I guess.

    Yesterday when I posted a question in Knittinghelp (for the first time on circulars I had that unworked stitch at the end and didn’t know how to fix it) I was asked why I’m knitting like that? I never realized that the right side should be outside! I’ve knitted quite a few beanies without any problems, maybe I was just lucky with the (easy) patterns. I really don’t know how I missed this?!

    Now I’m wondering what I’m going to do when I switch to magic loop? This time I’m doing a beanie with faux cables…keep going on the inside or turn inside out? Going to be interesting when I get there!

    Thanks again for a great site, I’ve pinned it and will have a look often.


  2. I am a left handed knitter so am wondering if this needs any modifications? It seems that my working yarn is on my left side but I would still knit at the 6 o’clock position if I want to be knitting on the right side?

    1. Hi Marian. Many left-handed knitters knit exactly the same way that right-handed knitters do, but if you have the working yarn attached to your left needle, then you are one of the left-handed knitters who do mirror knitting. You knit from the right needle and onto the left, so when you knit in the round, you are knitting anti clockwise. I know that a lot of of left-handed knitters find mirror knitting more natural, but the one big drawback is that you have to mirror every single knitting instruction you will ever read. You mirror along a vertical axis, but the horizontal. In this case, there should not be a difference, because turning the knitwork inside out happens on the horizontal axis, not the vertical. 6 o’clock should work for you too. Please do try and let us all know! There are many left-handed knitters out there, who will be happy to read your comment 🙂

  3. Ahhh I never thought of it this way before but you are correct – I do knit anti clockwise! (Interesting – I often have to stop and think about clockwise and anti-clockwise by visualizing the clock.). So now, here is another dilemma. If the pattern has an ssk for the right side and a p2tog for the wrong side, should I be reversing those? I am knitting the bottom of a bootie and the ssk and p2tog are supposed to be tapering the sides. I am wondering about “you have to mirror every single knitting instruction” and whether this instruction would be a reflection of that? Ouff complicated. Many thanks for your help!!

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