How to Tell Right from Wrong (in Garter Stitch)

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I love garter stitch. I love the texture, the built in pattern and the way it hides shaping more easily than stockinette stitch. I also love that it’s not commonly used in fashion and that it’s nostalgic, remember that first scarf you knitted when you were seven, it was in garter stitch wasn’t it?

All knitted fabric has a right and I wrong side, the right side is what is seen on the outside and the wrong side is unseen, on the inside. In stockinette stitch the right side is easy to find, it’s the flat side, however in garter stitch, both sides look the same, so how do you tell right from wrong in garter stitch?

The textbook response is that your first row, and therefore every odd numbered row is knitted with right side facing. This corresponds to the right and wrong side of stockinette stitch, where your first row would be in knit stitch and your second would be in purl. To keep your right and wrong sides clear in your head, make a note of where your cast on tail is after you have knitted the first row (it will be different for different cast on methods), the cast on tail will be in that same position when the right side is facing you. This is a perfectly reasonable standard and if your garter stitch fabric is part of a garment, the pattern may rely on this standard for the piece to be the correct shape.

However, when it comes to toys, the right side standards don’t always apply. Here is a close up on the traditional right side of an owl body knitted from my pattern:

right side

and here’s the wrong side:

wrong sideI think the wrong side looks better, so I sew up this toy with the traditional wrong side on the outside.

So, if you have a garter stitch piece with a pull on the right side, or a twisted stitch or some other funky business, you can turn it inside out. And no-one will ever know. Let’s add that to the list of things I love about garter stitch, it’s reversible.

(A quick post script for those of you who write knitting patterns and are wondering why I don’t just add an extra row, so that my right side is prettier – yes, this can be done on larger toys where an extra row doesn’t make much difference, however, on this little owl, who is only 3″ tall, I choose to turn my wrong side out.)

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