Doing it in the round

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The biggest part of my recent frustration has been trying to adapt different stitches that are generally worked flat to being knit in the round. Now, I’m no stranger, as you know, to working flat on straight needles and love to work this way as much, if not more, than in the round. Yet a couple of my current designs require working in the round so that’s the flow I’m going with.

And then I thought – what we need is a stitch dictionary all about knitting stitches in the round! Wouldn’t that be great? It would save us all the trouble of converting and working out what’s possible, and it would have saved me many a headache lately.

The stitches that I want to work with are textural and sturdy, and the sort of stitch patterns where the texture is created on the wrong side rows, or on the purl rows in flat knitting. That causes problems when you try to convert to knitting in the round – it means that generally you have to work the piece inside out (not a major issue – have done it plenty of times before) but it also means that most of the knitting will in fact be purling (which is an issue – folk aren’t keen on purling and there’s nothing gonna make them run faster from a pattern than excessive purling).

Example: here’s a photo of my swatch for ‘Star Stitch’ (no doubt known by other names but that’s what the old Harmony Guides call it)

As I said, working it the way the stitch dictionaries say isn’t a problem – the design would be knitted (or rather, purled) inside out, so all the shapings would be reversed (something to bear in mind when designing) and it all gets turned inside out at the end to reveal a lovely little Hat.

The Star Stitch is created (as the stitchionaries say) like this:

Row 1, wrong side: Purl one, make star; repeat to end, et cetera

Row 2, right side: Knit all stitches

Row 3: Purl three, make star, purl one; repeat to end, et cetera

Row 4: Knit all stitches

where ‘make star’ = purl three together and leave stitches on needle, yarn round needle, purl same three stitches together again.

To work this one in the round, the second (right side) row would also have to be purled… see the problem?

All that purling is a serious problem. And although I have no issue with designing a Hat inside out, methinks folk like to see their knitting (or purling) grow before them, and that’s not so easy when you’re working the other way round.

So I thought I’d try to reverse the pattern. I have this stitch in my Barbara Walker’s too, and am sure she also suggests that the wrong side rows are the ones that create the pattern. If this is the case, that the stitch bibles say it works on purl rows only, what would happen if I reversed it and created the stitch texture on the right side rows? It would be lovely, nay, fantastic if it worked, because it could be knit in the round, right side out with only knit stitches…. but would it all go horribly wrong?

And here’s the result. Now tell me honestly, can you tell the difference between this photo and the one above?

I tell you, it’s not the same stitch. It looks the same. Identical even. But it’s different, honest. And these are two different photos.

Now, the instructions for the second photo go like this…

Row 1, right side: Knit one, make star; repeat to end, et cetera

Row 2, wrong side: Purl

Row 3: Knit three, make star, knit one; repeat to end, et cetera

Row 4: Purl

where ‘make star’ in this case = knit three together and leave stitches on needle, yarn round needle (but wrap it the opposite way to before), knit same three stitches together again.

and for the purposes of working in the round, the second (wrong side) row would have to be knit…

Now, isn’t the second way so, so much kinder? So why, oh why, do the stitch dictionaries insist on purling for this pattern, when it can just as happily be knit?

Out of interest, I did design a fab Hat using this stitch sideways for (my book) Going Straight, but had to ditch it because the graft was awful. Horrible. And even if I tried to give it an easy graft, removing the provisional cast-on was even more horrible… so it was dumped. As a sideways design at least 😉

And with all this, I’ve broken the back of another design and I’m off to knit 🙂


As always, if you have a question about this technique or need some help with it, leave a comment below! I’m afraid I’m unable to offer help via email or private message, but you’re welcome to post in our forum.


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Woolly Wormhead


  1. Kathleen

    I love the way we can all benefit from your analytic approach and your novel way of looking at things. Why purl, indeed? Because "that’s the way we always do it." 🙂 Independent thinking = excellent design.

  2. Cybèle

    What a beautiful stitch. If you design a hat with this stitch pattern, I’ll be first in line to make it.

  3. =Tamar

    Hooray! The old way worked for methods of needle holding that made purling easier than knitting, and now the rest of us can do it just as easily. I may actually use this stitch soon. Thank you!

  4. torirot

    I much prefer knitting in the round, and I don’t like too much purling. So thank you, I’ll definitely try this stitch pattern in the round 🙂

  5. Fa. San

    hi i'm new on this, and i have a question in the 3rd row at the end with 17 stitches just left 2 stiches not 3 is it ok?? or maybe i'm doing somethin wrong…

    i appreciate to much if you can help me with this..
    thank you !!!

  6. Auntie noo

    So how did a post from 2009 end up on zite today? Glorious stitch tho 😉

  7. mrsmicrobrew

    Thank you for this! I have been trying to reinvent this stitch for combined knitting. I rather like purling, because it's so fast, but for this stitch to work in combined, I could only find two ways to make it work and I didn't want to p3 through the back loop of the stitch (really????) and didn't want to constantly reorient my stitches (another really????). I knew there had to be a way and finally sat down with needles to figure it out, but decided to google it one more time and here I landed. This post is much appreciated!

  8. Hooker Leo

    Love this stitch, but "make star" makes no sense to me. What are the instructions for "make star?"

  9. Alison

    You're brilliant, someone in my knit group here in Santiago wants help with knitting star stitch in the round WhenI googled it and your name came up I knew it would be a great method. You are saving the world from ecessive purling, so thanks for that

  10. Teresa

    Hi I am no expert, but for working in the round should not the 2nd row be:
    K to last st, sl last st to next needle on the left
    and then 3rd row: K to last 2 sts, sl last 2 sts to next needle on the left
    This way I think that the pattern will "flow" continuously and I thin k will answer Fa. San

  11. Woolly

    Teresa – moving the stitch marker would be one way of managing the pattern if the stitch pattern is being used all over in the round.

    The aim of this post was to convert a stitch pattern flat to in the round as given in a stitch dictionary – how the stitch pattern is used from there depends on how the knitter/designer implements it, exactly the same as if it were flat 🙂

  12. Karen Chinn

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. So write the book! I have been searching for an in the round stitch dictionary. PLEASE write one!

  13. catsmum

    you are a genius and I'm just sad I missed this post up until now. I've been wanting to make a cowl ITR with this stitch ever since I first saw it but couldn't face all that purling. Write the freaking book already!

  14. Patti

    I love the way you reversed the star stitch pattern.

    It looks a lot easier to me!

  15. Gina T

    Hi, I rally love the pattern, and I would like to do it in the round for a hat, however I dont understand it really the way it is posted. Can you do me a favor, and write the pattern for doing it in the round only and how many stitches i need? Multiple of 3 or 3+1(than it's multiple of 4?)Please, please explain, I am so confused. Also can you include the decrease for it too, i really want to get that hat done.
    Thanks for all you do for us!
    Gina T.

  16. Diane

    Thanks so much for this wonderful conversion of the star stitch so that it can be done in the round. My question is what is that beautiful you used in the photo? It appears to be shades of orange.

  17. Bonnie M

    I'm doing the Asterisque Cowl on Ravelry right now. First time with flat star stitch. Since I cannot master continental knitting, I found that Portuguese purling (and knitting in ribbing) helps me knit faster and I have no aversion to purling anymore. But your star stitch in the round is brilliant! Thank you.

  18. Elaine


    i have tried to do both ways and my frustration knitting in rounds is the beginning and ending of each row as they through the pattern out. And you end up with plain and purl stitches mingled together…any suggestions

    • Woolly Wormhead

      It would depend on which stitch pattern you’re working in the round, but moving the stitch marker is often a good option, which is what I would advise for the Star Stitch pattern 🙂

  19. Shirley Fitzgerald

    I cannot understand what these directions are telling me to do. I’m so confused. What is (yrn)?
    I absolutely love the pattern and have been trying for 2 days now trying to figure it out. My yarn is tattered from pulling it out! Thank you, Shirley.

    • Woolly Wormhead

      yrn = yarn round needle.

      This post is 9 years old and support for it is limited, but I will try to answer questions when I can.