emily explains

Emily Explains: Knitting a Flat Pattern in the Round

On my last trip to Maine, I was sitting on the porch with my mom and flipping through Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. She’d given me this book as a gift, at a time when I believed I would never become a good knitter. It has been an endless source of inspiration and knowledge ever since and I have a habit of lugging it around with me wherever I go… just in case!

On this particular morning, I noticed a section in the front of the book that I had never read before, explaining how to convert patterns for circular knitting. I was so excited to find this! I felt silly that I had not noticed her help on this technique that I’ve struggled with over the years.

Here are some of her simple tips that I found helpful for some of my knitting projects…

  1. Translate your wrong side (ws) rows to right side (rs) rows. When circular knitting, you typically are working on the same side the entire time.
  2. Think of rows as rounds
  3. WS knits become purls
  4. WS purls become knits
  5. WS slip with yarn in front (wyif) becomes slipped with yarn in back (wyib)
  6. WS slip with wyib becomes slipped wyif

I find that taking the extra time to carefully write your revised pattern instructions prevents confusion. Adapting a pattern for circular knitting works well if the pattern is symmetrical. Personally, I like doing this with stitch patterns that seem easy to convert. For example, a lot of cable patterns direct you to the  knit the knits and purl the purls on the wrong side rows, which would be the same thing on the right side rows. Also, a lot of lace patterns direct you to purl on the wrong side rows, which translates to knitting on the right side rows.

I am going to try this with a simple sweater to start, and maybe work my way up to something more complicated.

Don’t be afraid to try, though! As Barbara herself said, “All knitters can create.”

Have you converted any seamed patterns to in the round recently?

I’d love to hear your tips too!

Happy Knitting,


45 thoughts on “Emily Explains: Knitting a Flat Pattern in the Round

  1. Working on a fun jacket pattern recently I saved myself some extra steps by joining to work in the round. The original directions put the sleeve stitches on a holder, and join the front and back panels together to end up with an assembled “vest”. Then it picks up the sleeve stitches and works them flat to sew them up at the end. Instead, i worked the sleeves in the round, so I didn’t have to do any finishing at the end (except to take care of my “ends”). It was much easier, and a pretty easy garter patern, so I just had to get used to purling in the round…

    1. I am to the point that I avoid patterns that are not knit in the round and I prefer top down. I have not mastered a conversion from flat pattern to top down but I can make a flat pattern in the round up to the arm pits. So far I have made set-in sleeves but I am on the brink of constructing the sleeves from there (also in the round). After that I intend to figure out the shoulder modifications.
      Overall, if I can do it in-the-round, I do.

  2. Part of the reason I don’t do sweaters is that I can’t think about all the pieces that have to be made. Maybe I could figure out a way to do it circular?? There are some great Berroco sweaters I have been dying (but scared) to try.

    I do love my circulars instead of straight needles. Easy to carry, easy to use. No dropped stitches.

    1. Don’t be scared! There are so many great patterns in the round that you can definitely accomplish.
      Check out Norah’s book NGv13. All the garments are seamless, knitted from the down.

    2. If you are a member of Ravelry, there are lots of projects to choose from, that are knit from the top down/in the round. If you are not a member, it’s time to sign up and get inspired.

    3. Barbara Walker devised a method of knitting a sweater with set in sleeves, top down and in the round.
      Check out books by Elizabeth Zimmerman too—she was a huge proponent of knitting in the round.

  3. I started a vest for my son in pieces, but wasn’t happy with the differences in my knit and purl tensions (working on a new way to hold my yarn). So I tore it out and restarted in the round. This is a simple stockinette with some ribbing up the sides and front. It took a couple tries before I realized I had to reduce my stitch count by one on each side of each piece, for what would have been seam allowance incorporated into the ribbing. I also had to re-think the bind-offs at the underarm, but figured it out eventually. Paper and pencil are key!

  4. I’m in the middle of a conversion project – I’ve taken Alice Starmore’s St. Edna (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/st-enda) for my Dad. Not only am I working it in the round, but I’ve also converted it from a full-blown sweater to a v-neck vest so that I can use some fantastic handspun I found at the NH Sheep and Wool Festival a couple of years ago. I’ve just gotten up to the arm holes, so this is where I think it will begin to get very interesting for me!

    1. Good luck Nicole! Great job! It sounds like you have so much work and preparation. I am sure the vest is going to look wonderful

  5. If there is a conceivable way to knit a flat pattern in the round, I figure it out. I knitted AG sized dolls in the round that all pieces of the body and the clothing were flat. I converted every piece to in the round and where it was possible, I also picked up stitches to knit the connecting body parts when it was possible to do so. I have converted glove patterns, sweater patterns, socks, hats, oven mitts, bags, etc. from fat to in the round. Ihave also mastered knitting backwards so I very seldom have to turn my work in areas like wrap & turn heels. I believe if you’re determined (some say stubborn) you can do anything that’s possible in knitting as in life.

    1. Do you have any recommendations on converting WS yarn overs? I am trying to convert Barbara Walker’s double brioche in A Treasury of Knitting Patterns and I am stuck. Thanks for any help you can offer.

      1. Hi! Hmmm…I’m not an expert on brioche stitch but Nancy Marchant and Elise Duvekot are two designers to definitely look up! They have written many patterns and books specializing in these techniques. Check them out on Ravelry too for possible forum discussions

        Good luck!
        Happy Knitting : )

  6. Emily,
    do you need to subtract any stitches when you change the pattern to the round because you won’t be stitching the sides and therefore possibly losing a stitch on each side with the mattress stitch? Are there any other things to consider? Thank you!


    1. Hi BJ,
      I believe that there are cases where you will need to consider stitches that were written for seam allowance.
      With each unique pattern there are different changes that may need to be done. I really believe that every project we knit, we learn new techniques and skills to help you in your next knitted piece.
      Happy Knitting!

  7. Hello,
    I’m currently trying to convert a cable pattern to knitting in the round. I’m just not getting it. I see where you say change the (WS) from knits to purls but are you also saying where the pattern says (RS) knit you would also switch that from knits to purls? Or do you leave those instructions alone? I’ve been trying to figure this out for days now and one article said reverse the instructions, meaning start from the end. When do you know to do that?
    Thanks for the hep.

    1. Hi Stacey!
      This is a confusing transition at first but I am confident you will master the technique. When following your directions, but knitting in the round, your RS rows remain the same. Your wrong side rows are typically reversed. So after you complete a right side row and start your wrong side row, you will be doing the opposite of what your instruction reads.

      I hope that this clarifies the confusion!


      1. thanks for the reply. What are the lines in a pattern that do not indicate rs or ws? They just don’t have anything in front of them.

      2. Hello again!
        So sorry for the delayed reply! You are bringing up good questions. If I understand you correctly, you are confused on how to determine what is considered rs or ws when a pattern does indicate it row by row. This can be confusing. I have been looking through stitch dictionaries and Berroco pattern books to see what others have done. It seems common for stitch dictionaries to determine which side you are on in the first row of stitch pattern. This will help you determine every row from then on.
        First row is WS then all odd number rows are WS, even number rows RS…First row is RS then all odd number rows are RS, even number rows WS

        In Berroco pattern books, if the ws and rs rows aren’t written out on a chart, you can determine what side is right or wrong at the beginning of your directions. The pattern should tell you as you cast on. For example “Cast on 3 stitches, begin on WS…”

        I hope this helps!

  8. I converted the Tesserae slip-stitch pattern to knit it in the round. I made a hat and a cowl and plan to make mittens. I’ve never been quite sure how to convert seamed patterns for in the round. How do I determine the seam allowance and what do I do with it-ignore it or omit it or a combination of ignore/omit?

    1. When converting to the round I typically do not add seam allowance. Cast on number of stitches to complete a full repeat and measure your desired circumference.
      Happy knitting!

  9. For a Cable to be converted from flat to in-the-round
    from flat

    Row 1,3,5 (WS) – *k2 p6 K2*
    Row 2,6 (RS) – *P2 k6 P2*
    Row 4 (RS) – *P2 hold 3 sts at front/back k3 k 3 held sts P2*

    Since the odd rows were WS, wouldn’t they be the only rows to be reversed?
    Should it be this?

    Rounds 1, 3, 5 – *P2, K6, P2*
    Round 2 & 6 – *K2, P6, K2*
    Round 4: *P2, slip 3 sts to CN & hold at back or front, k3, k3 from CN, p2*

    Others have told me I’m wrong, so am confused.

    1. The answer is that you are right! The right side rows remain the same as they are still seen from the right side. The wrong side rows are worked in reverse.

    2. I could be wrong since I’m a newer knitter, but you would only switch the even rows. This would make every row a right side row.

      Row 1,3,5 (WS) – *k2 p6 K2*
      Row 2,6 (RS) – *P2 k6 P2*
      Row 4 (RS) – *P2 hold 3 sts at front/back k3 k 3 held sts P2*

      Rounds 1, 3, 5 – *P2, K6, P2*
      ~> Round 2 & 6 – *P2, K6, P2*
      Round 4: *P2, slip 3 sts to CN & hold at back or front, k3, k3 from CN, p2*

  10. Any suggestions on armholes? I cannot seem to figure them out when going from flat to round.

    1. There are a few options for working armholes in the round. One way is to work in the round until the armhole, then work the front and back of your sweater by knitting back and forth separately from the arm hole up.

  11. Praise baby jebus, thank you for explaining this in the simplest terms possible. I’m actually going to reknit the entire sleeve I already did because you helped me figure this out.

  12. Not a tip but a question. How to convert k2p2 ribbing so that you don’t 4 of the same stitches together at the connection point.

    1. Hi Vivyan,

      K2p2 ribbing is a 4-stitch repeat, so if your cast on numbers are not a multiple of 4 (if they’re a multiple of 2, such as the number 50), you’ll end up with four of the same stitches together at the connection point. You can always add or subtract two stitches in that case (so in our example, you could cast on 48 or 52 stitches) and then increase or decrease as necessary to achieve the stitch count your pattern says you should have.

      1. Thanks for the quick and very helpful response. Math is obviously my my thing or I would have been able to figure it out!

  13. Thank you for these answers! Now…..is it possible to knit a raglan sleeve cardigan made for flat knitting into a top down sweater in the round? Any resource would be enormous.mously helpful.

  14. After knitting many sweaters flat and joining pieces I would like to try my first sweater in the round. What is the name of Barbara Walker’s Book that helps with this issue? I never could understand Elizabeth Zimmerman or Meg Swanson; although they are fabulous.

  15. Hello! I’m trying to knit a Christmas sock from flat pattern to circular. Can you advise me what changes I should be aware of when I come to the heel? Thank you.

  16. I’m really glad to have found this blog! I’m knitting the Keira Sweater (Conway&Bliss pattern it took me forever to track down) and I’m going to try knitting it in the round. Knitting the smallest size (next up is too big) so I’ll keep all the sts; CO 228 to start. I’ll be looking to see what other good tips and goodies you have here!

Leave a Reply