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What is Flat Knitting?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated Feb 25, 2024
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Sometimes referred to as back and forth knitting, the art of flat knitting is a procedure that produces knitted goods by knitting from alternating sides of the material. This results in the production of a finished item that in effect has two faces or sides.

As a somewhat more complicated process than circular knitting, flat knitting is produced by employing the use of different types of stitches on the two sides of the material. Generally, the side that is meant to face out is referred to as the right face, while the side that is mean to face inward is referred to as the wrong face or side. By using the two different stitches, both faces realize their own unique look and feel. For example, a knit stitch may be used on the right face, while a purl stitch is used on the wrong face. This will help to yield a pattern on both sides that is more complex than could be obtained with a simple circular stitch pattern.

Using flat knitting can produce some interesting results. For example, using different size needles as well as different stitches can produce a unique look and feel to the gauge of the pattern. This is especially true when stockinette fabrics are used as the basis or foundation for the knitting. Adding in a garter stitch to produce an unusual flat knit will only enhance the look and feel, although it does make the task a little more complicated.

In most examples of flat knitting, the fabric is turned each time a row is completed. However, there are techniques that employ various combinations of knit stitches and require that the fabric be turned after completion of two rows. Both techniques will yield a finished product that has a distinctive texture and a feel that is usually very smooth to the touch.

Flat knitting may be accomplished by hand, or produced in bulk with the aid of textile machinery. When produced in a factory setting, it is usually categorized along with circular knitting under the title of weft knitting. This helps to distinguish the two styles from another common textile knitting application that is known as warp knitting. Mass produced fabrics that are created with flat knitting are used for a number of applications, among them clothing and household linens.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.
Discussion Comments
By ceilingcat — On Jun 03, 2011

While many knitting projects such as sweaters and hats can either be knit flat or in the round sock knitting is normally done in the round on double pointed needles. A sock is usually started from the cuff down or from the toe up. Toe up socks require no seaming while cuff down socks require minimal seaming at the toe.

By KaBoom — On Jun 01, 2011

You know, even though I prefer circular knitting, I think that knitting flat and knitting circularly both have their place. Luckily the same knitting equipment can be used for both techniques. You can knit flat on circular or straight needles while circular knitting must be done on circular or double pointed needles.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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