Beginner knitters often find reading garment pattern instructions challenging. If you have been knitting for awhile, you’ve realized that not all pattern instructions are clearly written and easy to understand. I too have challenges with project instructions. Sometimes I have difficulties visualizing how something is put together, and I have even made paper cutouts of the project pieces to see how they fit together. Much confusion surrounds the use of the words “right” and “left” in knitting terminology. Before you start knitting, read the pattern instructions to familiarize yourself with the shaping methods used, but also to help you understand how the garment is constructed.
The following definitions should help you understand how “right and left” is used in knitting terminology.
- Left (used before words like front, shoulder, neck, front border, etc.) refers to the left side of a garment as you are wearing it. The left front of a cardigan is the front piece that fits over the left side of the body. In pattern instructions, the left shoulder is the top edge of the left front piece that sits on the shoulder.
- Left needle is the knitting needle that is held in the left hand.
- Next Row (RS) or (WS) means that the row following the one just worked will either be a right side or a wrong side row.
- Right (used before words like front, shoulder, neck, front border, etc.) refers to the right side of a garment as you are wearing it. The right front of a cardigan is the front piece that fits over the right side of the body. The right shoulder is the top edge of the right front that sits on the shoulder.
- Right needle is the knitting needle that is held in the right hand. Note that in some instructions left-hand is abbreviated as LH, and right-hand as RH.
- Right side (RS) is the surface of the garment that faces the outside when worn, or the visible side of the knit fabric. Stitch patterns usually indicate the row that forms the right side of the knit fabric, such as “Row 1 (RS): k1, p1 across”, and is the side that is visible when wearing the garment.
- Wrong side (WS) is the surface of the garment that faces the inside when worn. I recommend marking the RS or WS of your work with a safety pin or closed stitch marker, if you tend to get confused.
- With RS facing means the right side of your work must be facing you, and the wrong side facing away from you. This term is often used when picking up stitches. Stitches are picked up with the RS facing you, so the ridge is formed on the inside (WS) of the garment. Armhole shaping often begins with the right side of the work facing you.
- With WS facing is the opposite of the latter; the wrong side of the work is facing you, and the right side facing away from you.
- With right (wrong) sides together is the phrase commonly used when sewing seams and working the 3-needle bind-off. Place the two pieces together so that the right (wrong) sides are facing each other.
So when the instructions say something like “Dec row (RS): on left shoulder, work to 3 sts before neck edge, k2tog, k1“; you’ll know which side of the garment the instructions are referring to.