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Ask Amanda: Which side of my knitting is the right side?

Reminder

Remember what it was like before you learned how to read? Every time I wanted to know what something said, I’d have to ask my mom or dad. Letters looked like weird scribbles, and I was always in awe of older kids and their almost magical ability to decipher writing.

In the same way learning to read opened up a whole new world when we were young, learning to “read” your knitting can bring a new level of understanding to your projects. Instead of letters and words, a knitter can learn to recognize the loop of each stitch and the shape of each row. Once you’ve started to identify these shapes, you can look at your knitting and see exactly what’s happening, and you’ll be able to notice and correct mistakes quicker.

One of the first steps in learning to read your knitting is being able to tell the difference between the right and wrong sides. Right side in knitting patterns is often abbreviated as RS, while wrong side is written as WS.

The right side of your knitting is the face of the fabric. This is the side that will be on the outside of a garment. The wrong side is the back side of the fabric, and will be on the inside of a garment. When the right side of the fabric is facing you, you’re working on a right side row. When the wrong side of the fabric is facing you, you’re working on a wrong side row.

Many stitch patterns are reversible, meaning that both sides of the fabric are attractive enough to be used on the right side. Other stitch patterns have a definite wrong side, like many cable patterns. Let’s look at a few examples of right and wrong sides of knitted fabric:

Stockinette is a great fabric for learning right and wrong sides, as well as the difference between knitting and purling. The “v” shapes created on the right side of stockinette are the knit stitches. The curvy bump shapes on the wrong side are purl stitches.

Stockinette

On stranded stockinette, the right and wrong sides are even clearer. The floats between colors are always held to the back, creating a very distinctive wrong side.

Stranded
Ribbing is basically small alternating vertical panels of stockinette. On the right side, the center rib is worked in purl stitches, which naturally recede. On the wrong side, the center rib is worked in knit stitches, which pop forward.

Ribbing

Garter stitch results in a reversible fabric – both sides look exactly the same.

Garter Stitch

A helpful trick when you’re using a stitch pattern with identical right and wrong sides is to use a safety pin to mark the right side. Every time you see that safety pin, you know it’s time to work a right side row.

Marking the RS

Identifying the right and wrong sides of your fabric is an important part of mastering knitting basics. With practice, you’ll be able to see everything that’s happening in your project and have a greater understanding of the craft!

32 Comments Post a comment
  1. I was just wondering this. Thanks!

    March 5, 2013
    • amandakeep #

      That’s great – what good timing :)
      Thanks!

      March 5, 2013
  2. Thanks for such a great blog post! It’s so hard for new knitters to recognize the difference between the stitches – this is such a great visual!

    March 6, 2013
    • amandakeep #

      Thanks Nancy!

      March 6, 2013
    • Jodi #

      It depends on the cast on, no? Long tail v. Backwards loop or knitted cast on?

      March 6, 2013
      • Sherry #

        Which cast-on I choose often depends on which side is right or wrong, and so which side of the cast-on I want to show.

        March 10, 2013
  3. Danielle Lewis #

    I generally use the tail from cast on as a reference as to the correct side. Most projects I find start rs, so the tail is always on the right side of my work. Especially when knitting garter.

    March 6, 2013
    • amandakeep #

      Thanks for the tip, Danielle!

      March 6, 2013
    • Jodi #

      I think my reply ended up in the wrong spot!

      March 6, 2013
      • amandakeep #

        Hi Jodi – that’s true, it does depend on the cast on. Good point!

        March 6, 2013
  4. Jane #

    I think I’m missing something here. The ribbing above looks the same to me in both pictures. Would you please clarify?
    Thanks.

    March 6, 2013
    • amandakeep #

      Hi Jane – the ribbing looks very similar on either side (it is a reversible fabric, so both sides look nice). In the photos of my swatch, if you look at the very center column of the RS, the column is made of purl stitches. In the center column of the WS, the column is made of knit stitches. That’s the only difference – all the stitches that are knits on the RS will be purls on the WS. I hope this clarifies!

      March 6, 2013
  5. Regina #

    Amanda, I watch your wonderful illustrations you have on Berroco’s website and I keep all of them in a special folder. It is good to visually see how stitches are made because I sometimes forget.

    March 7, 2013
    • amandakeep #

      Thanks Regina – I’m so glad they’ve been helpful!

      March 7, 2013
  6. Janey #

    Hang on – garter stitch is not COMPLETELY reversible. At the bottom, the first row after being cast on, starts with a line and a space across on one side.There is no line on the other side, it immediately starts into the garter stitch shape.
    I cannot remember which side is the right side and which is the wrong side, despite your labelling above.

    March 9, 2013
    • amandakeep #

      Thanks for mentioning, Janey – it’s true, there will either be a ridge of purl bumps or a space of knit stitches directly after the cast on. Since each side looks almost identical, I always end up using a safety pin to mark my RS!

      March 11, 2013
  7. Knitting Bernart “My favorite blue/white blanket” and I don’t know once I get into the repetion rows if I knit the right side only or not.

    June 16, 2013
  8. jokediana #

    i get wrong side of stockinette stitch, I did’nt find to do the right side. when it looks purl, i know this is wrong, could you tell me how? when you do stockinette stitch, you just complete row one with knit and row two with purl? is this is right? reply me, thanks!

    July 1, 2013
    • That’s correct. In stockinette stitch, row 1 is knit, row 2 is purl.

      July 1, 2013
      • jokediana #

        but do you know why i get the wrong side of stockinette? how do i get the right side? in my knit project, both of side is purl, is something wrong?

        July 2, 2013
  9. jokediana #

    or may be i can say my stockinette just look like garter stitch

    July 2, 2013
    • With practice it all begins to make sense. For a stockinette stitch you knit 1 row purl 2nd row and repeat.
      To make a garter stitch you knit each row.
      Hope this helps!

      July 2, 2013
  10. Hannah #

    Thankyou very much for this advice and the clear pictures. I have searched around on the Internet looking for answer for the question but this is the only one that has really made me understand and helped me with my knitting project. Thank you!

    July 27, 2013
    • emilyoneil #

      I am so glad this helped Hannah!

      July 29, 2013
  11. Esthet #

    Ok. I understand the difference between the right and wrong side, but what does it mean to knit on the right or wrong side? If I had to cast on twenty stitches and knit ten rows isn’t whether I’m knitting on the right or wrong side determined by what number row I’m on? Help!

    November 3, 2013
    • I see why you might get confused, since whether you are knitting or purling, you are “knitting” (as opposed to crocheting or tatting…). However, if Berroco instructions say to knit 10 rows, you should take it very literally. You perform theknit stitch for 10 rows.The result is called garter stitch. If you are supposed to knit on the RS and purl on the WS, we call that stockinette stitch (st st).

      November 4, 2013
  12. Cindy Brooks Prock #

    If I use long tail cast on in a stockinette pattern, my first row is the purl row – right? I read it’s because the cast on row is counted as the knit row. I’m using a mohair blend yarn so I just don’t see the stitches in v’s and curvy bumps. I’m knitting on the side that curled on the end… which “feels” like it should be called the wrong side. I have no one to ask and I’ve got 74″ to go! Sure hoping I’m okay with this.

    February 2, 2014
    • emilyoneil #

      Sometimes your pattern will specify whether you will be knitting or purling on your wrong side row.
      However, usually with a long tail cast on I purl the first row and consider it my wrong side. Then I knit the second row to create a stockinette fabric. I hope this helps!

      February 3, 2014
  13. Thank you so much for this! It has made understanding what a WS/RS is so much clearer, and I love how it includes different styles of knitting. :)

    February 18, 2014
  14. Tere #

    Thank you so much. Your explanation was very clear and helpful

    June 11, 2014
  15. This was a perfect explanation. I could tell what was the right side, but I couldn’t figure out that “working a RS row” meant the RS was facing you. Thanks!

    July 1, 2014

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