Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

With so many stitch patterns available these days, it is quite easy to turn a basic project into a one of a kind creation. Unfortunately, most stitch pattern dictionaries provide instructions for stitch patterns worked flat. So, if we want to change the look of socks, mittens or any other project worked in the round, we should convert a stitch pattern of our choice for working in the round.

That might seem like a huge task that can only be done by some kind of superhumans. In reality, anyone can do it in three simple steps. The process does not require any complicated math, just a bit of logic and common sense. 

To make things even more straightforward, I created a printable worksheet for you. You can download it from the Library of Free Knitting Resources.

Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

SAMPLE STITCH PATTERN

The “guinea pig” will be a stitch pattern that that gave me the idea for this tutorial. I learned this stitch from Helga, a knitter in our community. It is a beautiful fully reversible ribbing that will work great for pretty much any project.

Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

Helga told me that she used this stitch pattern many times to make shawls and blankets for charities. Then she tried to use it for a hat worked in the round, but the resulting texture looked very different from the texture of the same pattern worked back and forth. 

I helped Helga convert this pattern for working in the round, and then I thought there must be other knitters out there struggling with the same issue. That’s what sparked the idea to make this tutorial. I do hope you’ll find it helpful ๐Ÿ™‚

The pattern that we’ll be converting is quite simple. It has a small 4-stitch and 1-row repeat.

Pattern row: [knit 2, knit 1 through the back loop, purl 1], repeat brackets to the end of the row.
Work the pattern row in every row.

When it comes to converting stitch patterns for working in the round, a 1-row repeat could be a bit tricky to convert. That’s why this stitch makes a good example for this tutorial. 

STEP 1

The first thing we are going to do is turn the written instructions into a chart-like representation. This could feel a bit intimidating if you haven’t worked with charts before, but there is nothing complicated in this process. If you want to learn more about reading charts, this tutorial should help.

We don’t even have to use any symbols. We’ll only put each stitch into a box on a grid. You can use the worksheet available in the Library, or any graph paper, or even a grid that you hand-draw on a simple sheet of paper. Anything will do. The only guideline here is to look for a grid with bigger boxes so that you have enough room in each box for the names of the stitches.

1.1. Start with row 1 and, first, mark the number of the row at the bottom right side of the grid. In the worksheet, I’ve already marked the odd-numbered rows. 

Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

1.2. Now write the type of every stitch in the pattern repeat into the boxes at the left side of the row number

It is easier to use abbreviations, for example, use “K’ for a knit and “P” for a purl. There is no need to follow a certain chart of knitting abbreviations. As long as you understand what kind of stitch is in the box, it’s fine. 

If you feel more comfortable using symbols, go ahead and use symbols. For example, a vertical dash “|” can mean a knit stitch and a horizontal dash “-” a purl stitch.

No matter how you choose to mark the stitches, make sure that each stitch gets a separate box. If you have a “knit 2 together”, spread it across 2 boxes on the grid. Use the same logic to mark “knit 3 together” and other similar knitting manoeuvres.

If the pattern has any selvedges or balancing stitches (the ones that help centre the pattern), omit them. Mark only the stitches within the pattern repeat.

For our sample stitch pattern, we put “k, k, ktbl, p” into the boxes at the left side of the digit 1 (the row number).

Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

1.3. Draw a vertical line at the left side of the last marked box. This line shows where the pattern repeat ends. 

Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

STEP 2

Now let’s mark all stitches in the second row of the pattern repeat. This time, we’ll fill the boxes from left to right starting from the box at the right side of the vertical line.

If your pattern tells you to “purl all stitches in every even-numbered / wrong side row”, put a “P” into each box of the pattern repeat in row 2. Do the same in rows 4, 6, 8 etc if the pattern has a several-row repeat.

Our sample pattern is not that easy in that sense. We won’t get away with simply marking a “P” or a “K” in each box. The pattern has a one-row repeat. That means that we have to mark the same “k, k, ktbl, p” in the second row as well, but this time, we’ll do it from left to right.

Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

That’s it – the sample stitch pattern is charted. 

If your pattern has a 1-row repeat, chart 2 rows just as we did with the sample pattern.

If the stitch pattern you are converting has more rows, chart all rows the same way as we charted rows 1 and  2. Include all even-numbered / wrong side rows. The chart should have an even number of rows marked. 

STEP 3

This step is the most fun. Now, after we’ve done all the tedious preparation work, we get to actually converting the pattern from working flat to working in the round.

We won’t do any adjustments to the odd-numbered rows. They will stay the same. But we do need to modify even-numbered rows to make sure the look of the stitch pattern does not get distorted when we work this stitch in the round.

3.1. Take a marker or a pen with ink in a different colour than the one you used to mark stitches in step 2, and write the number of each even-numbered row at the right side of that row. In our sample chart, I marked “2” on the right side of the second row. 

Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

From now on, we’ll read instructions for these rows the same way as we read the odd-numbered rows – from right to left.

3.2. Now rewrite each stitch in every even-numbered row changing knits to purls and purls to knits. That means that “knit 2 together” becomes “purl 2 together”, “slip slip knit”, becomes “slip slip purl”, and as is the case with our sample stitch pattern, “knit through the back loop” becomes “purl through the back loop”.

From our chart, we see that in round two of the converted stitch pattern, we should work “knit 1, purl 1 through the back loop and purl 2”.

Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

That turns our 1-row repeat worked flat into a 2-round repeat worked in the round. This adjustment is necessary to preserve the texture of the pattern.

As you see from the photo below, the pattern worked flat looks identical to the pattern worked in the round.

Three Simple Steps to Convert Stitch Patterns for Working in the Round

Of course, there are many stitch patterns that are more complicated than our sample pattern. Converting those stitches for working in the round might require a bit more creativity and some test knitting. But the guidelines explained in this tutorial will serve as a good starting point regardless of the complexity of the stitch pattern you are trying to convert. Have fun ๐Ÿ™‚


If you like this tutorial, you will LOVE e-books and charts
in the Library of Free Knitting Resources


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Happy knitting ๐Ÿ™‚


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