Being a left-handed “mirror” knitter is a little more challenging than knitting the conventional, right-handed way, but I think most of us lefties don’t mind trading in a little confusion for the comfort of doing something that feels more natural. After all, we’re accustomed to dealing with lots of tiny, mildly annoying little thing like the perpetual ink on your pinky, having to look around your scissors to actually see what you’re cutting, or carving up one wonky bread slice after the next, and let’s not forget, being called sinister (though let’s be honest, maybe some of us think being spoopy is kind of cool).
As I’m starting to write out some patterns that hopefully will be intelligible to other knitters besides me, I find myself doing the mirror switcharoo backwards, swapping my lefty instructions to the righty way. An overview of exactly what it is that that needs switching and what just stays the same seemed like a good idea, so for my own reference as well as for any fellow lefties out there, I decided to put together this list of what to do when following a regular knitting pattern as a mirror knitter.
Obviously, the “left-hand needle” becomes the “right-hand needle” and vice versa. Needles 1, 2, 3 or 4 don’t change when working with DPNs and the front and back needles in magic loop also stay the same, but keep in mind you’re going in a counter-clockwise spiral rather than clockwise when you’re knitting in the round.
I think we need to start a campaign for “working needle” and “holding needle,” by the way! This one is one of my biggest bugbears even though it doesn’t even come up that often.
Directional decreases – k2tog and ssk: do them as pattern call for them. If the designer specifies which way the decreases lean in the abbreviation list, “left-leaning” will mean “right-leaning” and vice versa.
Central double decreases: just do what the pattern says. Yes to central double decreases!
Directional increases – m1r and m1l: do them when the pattern says, and follow the instructions in the abbreviations. Now, a lefty make 1 right – if you follow the exact instructions for that stitch (pick up the bar between the stitches from back to front, knit it through the front loop) – technically leans left and vice versa, but it will look right because the entire piece is flipped around too. With these two, I tell myself the R in m1r means “rear” as in, enter the bar from the back.
Other directional increases: in the abbreviations, swap out all instructions about the “left” leg of things on the “left” needle for “right” and vice versa. Just, as above, keep the name of the increases intact to make sure you’re doing the correct increase when the pattern calls for it.
There will be some cognitive dissonance when you read patterns that use stitches with the directions right there in the name, but I still find that easier to change things in the abbreviations and accept that “R” usually means “L” to me, than going through a whole pattern to modify things.
Yarn overs, kfb: go ahead, no changes necessary.
First, you’ll be reading charts from left to right because that’s the direction you’re knitting in. You can completely ignore the legend and solely go by what the chart looks like. This works fine for colourwork charts, knit and purl only charts, or simple lace charts with only decreases and yarn-overs, for example.
If you also want to make sense of the key, a good idea for complicated charts and cables, there are two options – swapping words or flipping images:
- Swap the words. Leave the chart itself as it is but in the key:
- swap the descriptions of k2tog stitches for ssk stitches, m1rs for m1ls, etc;
- swap out “hold to back” for “hold to front” and vice versa in the written description of cables. Change the names of cables if they indicate the location of the cable needle: a C4B read from left to right will actually be a C4F. Just don’t change the names of cables if they indicate direction: a 2/2 LC will still cross to the left for us, although we must slip 2 to cable needle and hold it to the back instead of the front. This method won’t give you a mirrored garment so if you want to be undercover about your leftyness, this is a good method to use.
- Flip the images. Flip the chart, and the diagrams of stitches and cables in the key, but leave the written descriptions as they are. For decreases and increases, this will give you the same end result as swapping k2togs for ssks, etc. It will make that 2/2 LC cross to the right, though.
This is a bit more involved as it will require flipping a bunch of images, but it’s good if the chart has one specific stitch you don’t want to swap out because its mirrored version is more annoying/fiddly/slow to do. This will make your final charted piece a mirror image of the original pattern, which can be a problem if you’re doing, say, a chart of writing, but it can be good if the charted area flows into another design element that isn’t charted.
When it comes to constructing garments, the “left” front of a cardigan, the “left” shoulder of a sweater and the “left” sleeve will all be the “right,” and vice versa, and the same goes for gloves and mittens. On clothing, you could also just think of the left or right side of things as you hold them in front of you, rather than worn on the body.
When picking up stitches for the front bands of a cardigan, you can start on the opposite edge than you’re instructed to and go ahead from there, but if you have buttonholes they’ll end up on the opposite side of your garment. If this bothers you, you can fudge the pattern a little by still picking up from the opposite edge but starting the buttonholes a row too early or too late (so they’re on the WS rather than the RS, for example). You can also do a little math and work out how many stitches wide each buttonhole is, how many of them there are and how many stitches apart they are from each other. Add these up and you have how wide your buttonhole section is. Add to that how many stitches away from the bottom edge your lowermost buttonhole should be to get your total number. If your pattern has you doing buttonholes at the beginning of the row of one of the front bands, mark your total number of stitches from the opposite edge of your other front band, and start your buttonholes there. If you should be doing your buttonholes at the beginning of a row instead, just start off with those bottom edge stitches and begin your buttonholes.
Extra tools for learning
It can be hard to mirror a (moving) picture in your mind without external help, but looking at or watching someone do a new stitch or cast-on is so useful! For this, I have two tools:
- A mirror. Very lo-fi, very accessible, works when held next to computer screens, books and friends!
- A Chrome extension called “Flip this”. I love this one. You can set it to flip only on the x-axis, and you can flip a whole page (good for videos) or specific images when right-clicking on them (good for pages, when you actually want to read the text too).
If you’re a mirror knitter, let me know what tricks you’ve got up your sleeve!
HI. So…just to be clear. When i have to do a M1L, should i do a left ? or do i make a M1R in order to get the correct slant. I am doing a raglan sweater, w/ slanting increases starting after the collar…so i have to start off correct!!
When the pattern tells you to do an M1L, do an M1L – as in, pick up the bar between the sts from front to back and knit into the back of the stitch (or however your pattern describes it). Technically if you do this as a left-handed knitter your M1L will lean to the right – but as the rest of the knitting is mirrored too, your increase will slant correctly.
Thank you so much! I am self taught and have had no issues with making handwarmers, fancy cowls and lacework on blankets, but recently I did my first charted pattern and realized several rows in that it was reversed – now I have lost my nerve and worried everything will lean the wrong way for increases and decreases, although I’d never noticed any issues before. This is so helpful.
And I agree: I wish the term “working needle” would become standard!
I remember how discouraged I felt when I started to run into trouble, that was no fun, so I’m really happy this helps and I hope you’ll give that chart another go!
Diane Roth says
everyone keeps telling me that I have to swap my ssk and k2t but I do it exactly as the pattern says and I’m okay. HOWEVER, I don’t use charts. does that make a difference? I THINK I can see where I would have to do it differently with a chart, but it (currently) makes my head hurt to think about it.)
You’re correct not to swap them, you don’t need to when reading written instructions! Charts are a little more involved, there are two ways to go about it, one will produce a finished item that will look like a mirrored version of the original (as will following written instructions), the other will produce an identical item to the original and involves swapping which may mean you’re working different stitches than the designer intended. So in conclusion, you may have to swap them when knitting from charts, though not always, but you definitely don’t need to when knitting from a written pattern.
Valorie White says
My question is: When knitting from a chart & one has brackets; if one is to do 14 sts at each end of one’s work w/repeats of 8 sts for a total of 78 sts, what happens to the 2 remaining sts? Does one do a repeat pattern of only 2 sts?
I found it instructions for left handers extremely helpful!
Hmm I don’t know how to answer that, it really depends on the pattern, the chart, and what the designer intended…
Hi, I just discovered your blog and I’m so relieved to see there are lots of us mirror knitters out there!
A question – what does v.v. mean in some of your instructions above?
Thank you for taking the trouble to write these out for us and also, love your minimalist patterns!
Hi! Left-handed high five! It means vice versa, I edited the post to just say that instead 🙂
I knit left-handed. I just reverse and rewrite everything.
Another thing, when knitting in the round, going from left to right, the garment will be inside out, and sometimes also backward. I’ve found it easiest to just rewetie everything in reverse. Purls for knits, knits for purls, left slanting decreases for right and vice versa and for increases, *purl decreases and increases* (I even figured out a near invisible single centred purl decrease), reversing cables, everything. It guess it adds some extra work, but I often find myself wondering if other left handed knitters have the same deep understanding of knitting that I’ve come to have. I think it’s from having to understand things more fundamentally in order to figure out how to reproduce them. I don’t know a single other left handed knitter, but the right handed knitters I know just take things for granted and generally have a more shallow understanding of what it is they’re doing than I do. I find I have more of an appreciation for the ‘anatomy’ of stitches and why or how you get the results you do working stitches in certain ways.
Going from left to right when knitting in the round doesn’t make your garment inside out! I knit left handed and never knit inside out. Knitting from the ‘inside’ the tube will make your garment appear inside out, but that will be the case for both left- and right-handed knitters. You really don’t need to rewrite everything, either. If you just knit the knits and purl the purls, the only thing that will be different is your finished object will be a mirror image of the pattern. Which, if the pattern is for a symmetrical item, won’t make a difference or be noticeable. I do definitely agree with you that figuring out the left handed thing has given me a greater understanding of the anatomy of stitches.
Anyway, now you know me!
So just to make sure I’m understanding, if a colourwork chart for the yoke of a sweater knit in the round includes instructions to LLI, then I would do an LLI and not an RLI, is that correct? Also in the chart there are two rows that call for LLI on the WS (purl side) of the garment. Would I just do a purled LLI? Thanks so much in advance for your help! And thank you so much for this post; it is so hard to find information as a lefty knitter!
Hi Sarah, yes, you should do an LLI when instructed to do an LLI, as long as you’re following the written instructions for the LLI, which should be something along the lines of: lift left leg of of stitch beneath previously worked stitch onto working needle and knit it. I did just conveniently leave out all directional words from the instructions there, though. Most patterns tend to mention left and right legs and needles when describing the lifted increases; you will need to swap out “left” for “right” in the instructions. This will also mean that your LLI will technically lean right, but as the rest of your knitting will be mirrored too, it will still lean in the correct direction for the pattern!
Regarding the chart, does the legend not explain how to handle the LLI on the WS? It could be that you should work the increase for the WS, as an LLI-P, but it could also be that a normal LLI is intended there.
linda Woodward says
Oh my goodness! I have been looking for you all of my knitted life. I took a class in lace knitting online and the instructor told me to just do it by knitting right handed! I have a big project coming up so I will be studying your instructions very intently!
That chrome extension for flipping videos is the best! Finding it opened a whole new world of understandable videos, trying to flip things around in my head was getting very tiring. So after 30 or more years of knitting ‘right handed’ english style I was finally able to try continental knitting without it feeling absolutely awful and uncoordinated.
Thank you so much for this post. Very helpful. I found a fantastic Chrome Extension that’s called VideoMirror. Perfect for my needs. I never would have even thought to look for it without your suggestion.