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