Converting Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

Papyrus Lace from Lace & Eyelets

Continuing our little "use your stitch dictionary like a cookbook" series…

Traditionally, 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. Here are the basic conversion steps:

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 more computer-savvy, 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.

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? The yarn for Nicholas' cabled pullover has been delivered, and swatching is done. Now for the knitting!


Knitting Daily Blog, Knitting in the Round

72 thoughts on “Converting Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

  1. I’ve converted easy flat patterns to circular because I love having no seams. For me, it’s so much easier to chart out more complex designs, giving myself something to mark off as I finish. I use Excel, I’ve even downloaded graph paper to use. I’ll be on the lookout for a pattern I can use to try your method. Or maybe I’ll make something up, just so I can try this. Thanks.

  2. I think that “wrong side” rows could include yarn overs, and slip stitch, besides knit and purl. For slip stitch, if it says “with yarn in front”, it would have to be converted to “with yarn in back” and vice versa, of course.

  3. I always try out a stitch pattern converted to circular knitting by casting on enough to fill a 40cm needle and experimenting. If you go wrong but it looks good anyway you might just have invented a new stitch!

  4. This is great information. I was about to experiment with this myself. Seems like there are so many patterns out there that could be made in the round rather than flat as the pattern calls for (a vest I want to knit, for instance). Thank you!!

  5. Thank you for this article! I’ve got a few patterns I’d like to make to sock patterns, but have been a bit in the dark as to how to do this. You’ve opened my eyes. Thanks!

  6. This is one of the reasons that stitch dictionaries should show stitch patterns as charts; then you’re just reading a chart right-to-left, and that’s easy. Converting to your own chart is next best, I think.

  7. This is one of those areas where knowing how to read one’s stitches (not just charts and written instructions) comes in handy. So is understanding the relationship between “the way it looks on the front” to “the way it looks on the back”. Remember it wasn’t so long ago that people would make sampler strips to use as “charts” instead of doing all this paperwork!

    Being able to read stitches also means that if you’re on the bus and spot someone with a great stitch pattern on their sweater, you can just jot it down yourself :-).

  8. Hi, Sandi!
    May I please have permission to re-print the info on converting stitch patterns in my shop newsletter? The newsletter is distributed free of charge to our customers and we certainly will give Kniting Daily credit as the original source. Please let me know if this is OK. Thanks!
    Kathy Zimmerman, Kathy’s Kreations

  9. Thank you so much for covering a topic that’s been burning in my mind! I’m gradually coming into my own on understanding what goes on when I use a particular stitch, what it looks like, what it does for the overall piece, etc. You’ve just added a great picture and piece of the puzzle rattling around in my head. :~D

  10. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
    I am getting ready to design a pair of fingerless mitts using a lace pattern I found – but I didn’t know how to convert it to use in the round. Your post came in just the nick of time!

  11. Thank You. This is a great article. I have been wanting to do some socks of my own design and this is great info on adapting standard stitches. And add it to the Stitch of the Day, well, what more does one need.


  12. Oh my goodness! Thank you sooo much for this post. I’ve got this gorgeous stitch pattern that I’ve been dying to use on socks but I wasn’t sure how to convert them for in the round until I saw this post. So helpful! I love this site!

  13. love this concept! I’d rather knit in the round on some things but was just too chicken to try it on a pattern that didn’t call for it. My next top will be knit in the round! lol

    as for UFO’s – I just finished up 2 tops, a cute little purse(I lined it too!)and am almost done with another top and the pink knitters bag. Rather than using needles for the top, I am using some chopsticks I got somewhere that are really nice looking. I just need to glue the stitches down really good so they don’t slip off. I even thought about making some cool ‘tip’ covers out of polymer clay…

  14. Remember also that if the original pattern had “sl wyif” on a wrong side row to convert that to “sl wyib”. I’m making a chemo cap using the triple gull stitch (thank you, Barbara Walker), so I’m very aware of this important step.

  15. You must have read my mind; I was wondering about this very topic just today. Thanks once again for sharing so much helpful information with us.

    (Are you tired of hearing how much we love Knitting Daily yet? :)

  16. For Mary in NC,
    Excel is a spreadsheet program, a part of Microsoft Office. If you have a version of Windows on your PC, you probably have at least a stripped down version of Excel as a part of Works. I’m sure you could use that. If you have a Mac there is probably an equivalent, but I don’t know about them.

    For those of you who are familiar with Excel but without it at home, try downloading Open Office for free. I think it runs on any OS.

  17. hi sandi, thank you very much for this invaluable info, i am sure it will come in handy, i have a question: if we reverse everything, then isn’t it just “logical” to replace a K2TOG with a sl1K1PO? and the latter with the former? also, shouldn’t then they be P2TOg? and not K2TOG? since the knit is replaced with purl?

  18. Mary D, the Papyrus lace was the stitch of the day sometime last week. These are not archived. Get ’em while you can! (I missed one last week and was bummed, so I know how you feel.)

    I just want to say that this information is extremely helpful, Sandy. I never thought I’d do my own designs, but with the tips on here, I’m feeling braver… (Actually, once I converted a dishcloth pattern into a scarf, but that was simple… Turned out gorgeous, though!)

  19. Thanks so much for the terrific tutorial!! I’ve printed it out and saved it in a binder with all the hints and tips I find on the net to help me with my knitting. This one is invaluable. :o)

  20. Hello,
    I’m so happy about this topic. It opens up so many possibility to knitting that I’ve never thought of!

    I have a question though and can’t seem to find an answer to. It also seems that it’s not a much covered topic. If I use a different stitch, how do I count the stitch when I knit a swatch? I can’t ever seem to figure that one out.

    Thanks for any thoughts and help.

  21. Thank you for this – it’s a great help. Would you also do an article on cast-on methods for joining in the round? I usually end up with the ‘wrong side’ on the outside and have to knit a straight row first before joining. There must be other ways.

  22. ok cindi, i understand now the writing the K and P and doing them ooposite and in reverse order, this was for the “WRONG” side of a flat pattern! so i guess the rest (all the odd rows) stay the same.. i had this as a flash in the morning, we just couldn’t do the K2TOG as a P2TOG, right :)

  23. Joy Z: yes, you would replace a P2tog with a K2tog, and an SSK with an SSP. K2tog and P2tog slant in the same direction, so you would replace one with the other.

  24. Ummm – what X and Y stitches? “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.”
    Thanks for any clarification. Lynn

  25. This is actually regarding the holiday interweave knits issue– will there be pictures of the garments on various body types? The sugarplum shrug is sorely tempting me, but I’m afraid to knit it up before I see what it looks like on someone with a 40-ish bust (I’m afraid I may inadvertently look like a bosom sandwich on white bread… er, lace…)

  26. haha Cathy M, thank you for your reply, i guess sandi was speaking about reversing the “wrong side” of a flat pattern and i understood it first that she was saying to reverse absolutely everything! how silly of me, lol

  27. I also want to thank you for sharing your ideas. I am a “converted knitter-in-the-round” ever since my fronts and backs did not match on a cotton summer top! To prevent my gauge from being drastically different in sleeves and socks I work them at the same time (a few rows on one; a few rows on the other).

  28. I usually chart in Word, in table format, but Excel would be a good option, too.

    Thanks for the idea.

    It’s strange – sometimes I prefer reading a chart, while other times I prefer having it in words. I usually have both on hand, if possible, and then I can go back and forth as the need arises.

    I convert nearly all my patterns to “in the round” knitting, especially if you see “work front as same as back to {whatever point}” Then you can split it off and eliminate a couple of seams (and have them both the same length as a bonus)

  29. I love knitting in the round and do so whenever possible, sometimes even when in doubt. I once made my new baby a cardigan in the round. It was so much easier, it had a lot of color work. When I was done with the tube I simply put it on my sewing machine and sewed a couple of stips and then cut. My worst fear happened when I cut too close. So I put it back on the sewing machine and fixed it. No big deal. What a time saver. Shireen

  30. Is it possible for someone to explain how to handle the sleeve openings when doing something in the round. I’ve got a lovely stitch pattern that I would like to try for a sweater however, I’m unsure about what happens when I get to the sleeve openings. HELP. Thanks..

  31. I found the article to be helpful, but I need more information…Could you give an example turning a “straight pattern” into a circular one including calculations and with pictures for each diagram and step?

    Thank you.

  32. I work in the round whenever possible. Here’s a tip for sweater knitting when you are using place markers: Use a different colored marker for the beginning of your round (i.e. if you have 4 markers where sleeves meet front and back). It makes it easy to see where the beginning/end of each round is.


  33. The advise on how to convert a flat knitting pattern to a circular knitting pattern is the best! Thanks a million.

    I have also purchased all of the books in the Interweave series: Knit and Purl; Lace; Cable and Aran; Edges and Trims. All are wonderful. The instructions are so clear for each pattern. I highly recommend this series of books.

    Does anyone know a good book or resource on how to design your own sweater and choose the right stitch pattern? It is sometimes hard to imagine how a pattern might look in a sweater vs. a vest vs. on the body or the arms. etc.

  34. I just converted a simple cardigan from flat to circular and when I got to the openings for the sleeves, simply added two additional strands of yarn to work the right front, back and left front separately, but on the same row keeping my stich markers as visual references. My motivation is that I lack the skills for professional finishing – I hate seams too and haven’t found a class nearby that’s held in the evening. Does anyone know of an online virtural knitting circles???

  35. Hi, I would like to knit this hat on two circular needles, (the pattern itself calls for straight needles) let me know if i am wrong, I am converting all the even rows. The one part that I do not fully understand, the first (WS) where it says *P1, pb&f*, do I k f&b instead. And then (for shape crown, row 2 it says to k1 tbl, do I have to p1 tfl instead.


    Cast on 88 sts. Work in K2, p2 Rib until piece measures 5 in. (12.5 cm) from beg.
    Next Row (WS): *P3, p into back and then front of next st (increase made), rep from * across row – 110 sts at end of row.
    Begin Cable Pattern
    Row 1: *k6, (p1, k1 tbl) twice, p1; rep from * across.
    Row 2: *k1, (p1 tbl, k1) twice, p6; rep from * across.
    Row 3: *3/3 LC, (p1, k1 tbl) twice, p1; rep from * across.
    Row 4: Rep Row 2.
    Rows 5-8: Rep Rows 1 and 2 twice.
    Rep Rows 1-8 until piece measures about 9 1/4 in. (23.5 cm) from beg, end with a Row 3.
    Shape Crown
    Row 1 (WS): *K1, p3tog, k1, p6; rep from * across – 90 sts at end of row.
    Row 2: *K6, p1, k1 tbl, p1; rep from * across.
    Row 3: *k3tog, p6; rep from * across – 70 sts at end of row.
    Row 4: *K6, p1; rep from * across.
    Row 5: *K1, p3, p2tog, k3tog, p2tog, p3; rep from * across – 50 sts at end of row.
    Row 6: *K4, p1; rep from * across.
    Row 7: *K1, p2tog, p1, p3tog, p3; rep from * across – 35 sts at end of row.
    Row 8: *3/3 LC, p1; rep from * across.
    Row 9: K1, *p2tog; rep from * across – 18 sts at end of row.
    Row 10: Knit.
    Row 11: *P2tog; rep from * across – 9 sts at end of row.

  36. My question is can patterns be reconfigured into a basic construction format? If so I would love to know where to get the info on how to do it.. I just saw the Maple Street Sweater being considered for the Spring knit a long and loved it until I saw it was done in the round. I have done several, but never enjoyed or very happy with outcome. And since we are supposed to enjoy our stolen hours of knitting I need some help. Thank you

  37. I feel like my head is about to explode…. please help!!!! I want to knit this pattern in the round:
    Row 1: purl
    Row2: k1, *k1, k2tog, yo, k1, yo, ssk, k1. repeat from * to last st, k1
    Row 3: k1, * p2togtbl, yo, p3, yo, p2tog. Repeat from * to last st, k1
    Row 4: k1, *k1, yo, ssk, k1, k2tog, yo, k1. Repeat from * to last st, k1
    Row 5: k1, * p2, yo, p3tog, yo, p2. Repeat from * to last st, k1

    Thanks so much

  38. Hey, got one for you. Why can’t you invert the ”’IN THE ROUND ITEM”’…..inside out and make flat stitches work in the round? Keep popping a WIP inside out – outside in as you work.

    I can make REVERSIBLE anything, also in the round on circulars. You don’t have to keep the wrong side ‘inside’…..pop the inside out if you want and make reverse stockinette…backwards…..sorta..

    Crochet works this way, too. A granny square can be revrsible, too. Just turn it around 180* (degrees) and keep on stitching. Caps, too.

    Anytime you join a round, just turn granny around 180* (degrees) and you’ve got a reversible item.

    Of course you can have it ‘onesided’ but you can also turn it 180* (degrees) and make it reversible.

    A sock in the round isn’t glued down……pop that inside out and try any stitch you want.

    ALSO…….just turn your needles 180* (Degrees) and you’re on the back side…….or the wrong side in flat work……stitch away.

    I’m going to study this some more tomorrow. We just had this thread over on Knitting Paradise and I thought of the INVERSION then and as I was just swatching and thought, heck, Raspberry stitch… I just turn the circulars needles over (which is the back side) did the back work, turn to the front side again and finished the stitch.

    You folks try it and let me know, please. TKS!


  39. I have done this with lace and aran patterns. The first thing to note is which side of the knitting has the patterning work on it? This is harder if both plain and purl sides have patterning stitches.

    If every other row is in plain knitting or stocking stitch form on the right side then all you need to do is have a stitch marker and a pen to note rows completed and when finishing a period of knitting knit until the marker is 1 stitch from being moved to your picking or throwing needle held in your hand. Each pattern row on every 2nd row follows the pattern instructions and the next row is in all knit stitch.

    Where both rows are patterned then a charting plan must be created as the pattern moves stitches differently, right side rows are formed and moved onto the right-hand needle for right-handed knitters and left-handed needles for left-handed knitters.
    When knitting on the reverse or wrong side of the fabric the knitting stitch formation moves the opposite way from the method used to form the stitch when the right side is facing the knitter. I hope that I have helped with this problem and practice is suggested as this technique becomes so much easier by using it and creates such beautiful fabric.

  40. Additionally I have used circular needles for many years. The only way is to cast on and when joining carefully keep all the selvedge of the cast on edge to the underneath of the needles, I have been lazy sometimes and have made one slip stitch and followed using an e-wrapped a cast on edge and will use this again when making mobius cowls. The technique of knitting mobius circles creates a hard stitch formation in the middle of the created piece, a circular row dividing the garment through the centre between the casting off row. When a slip stitch is followed by a set of e-wraps the knitted item is much more like a standard piece of purl and plain knitting.

  41. I don’t do dpns and would love to do your Vine Lace Baby Hat. Can this beauty be done on straight needles?

    Thank you for all you do! [it’s been cold here in sunny southern California, too]

  42. Marny, have you tried double pointed needles? You only use two at a time, and then use the spent needle for the next needle. It is easier to start with more stitches, rather than fewer, eg, band of a baby hat, not the very top. the inactive needles with stitches on them are left to hang until it is their turn. Please don’t rule dpns out.

  43. Question: I am a beginner knitter and trying to use a stitch pattern from the Knitting Stitch Bible for a hat working in the round. When you say “Drop the Y number in the multiple of X stitches plus Y’, does that mean do not include them at all or only in your calculations? I am starting with a rib pattern 72 sts then inc to 80 for a 20″ size hat. So, I’ll be working my pattern with 80 sts. Thanks so much!