How to knit a garment in both directions

An image of a woman standing in a garden, under an archway. Camera is focused on her torso, she wears a handknitted grey jumper and a denim shirt. She is looking at the camera and smiling.

When I did my write up on my Merino Blank Canvas jumper, I mentioned that I had knit it both top-down and bottom-up, by casting on in the middle of the project. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Choose a place to cast on. This decision might be based on which direction you prefer knitting in, or where will be the most discreet place for your join. I chose to cast on about 1″ beneath the underarm, with the join in the round directly below the underarm so it would be hidden.
  2. Cast on your required amount of stitches using a provisional cast on. I used Judy’s Magic Cast On but have since discovered Fleegle’s Totally Stretchy and/or Provisional Cast-On which is much quicker and less fiddly – you could cast on your entire stitch count in under a minute.
  3. Now you should have stitches ready to be knit in either direction. But – you will have one less stitch on one needle than the other. This is because although it looks like you are knitting equivalent stockinette stitches in either direction, you are really knitting into loops which are offset from each other. You can’t really notice it by eye, but there will definitely be a difference in stitch count! This is easily remedied by knitting a couple of rows in one direction and decreasing or increasing as needed. (TechKnitter explains this better than I can.)
  4. A close up image of hand knit fabric. One row of knitted loops is highlighted in red, and arrows extend in either direction.
    You can see here on my swatch that a row of knitting is more like a series of interlocking loops, which can be knit in either direction.
  5. Join in the round and work your yoke upwards as per pattern instructions. Then, using the other needle which holds your live provisionally cast on stitches, knit down to your desired length.

 

Too easy, right? The only real difficulty is that the provisional cast on might be of a slightly different tension to the rest of your work. You can see it a little in these pictures, but it’s not enough to bother me. If it bugs you, you can always go back with a knitting needle and tug on the stitches to redistribute the tension more evenly.

An image of a knitted jumper laid flat on a floral carpet. There are red arrows indicated a row where the tension is slightly loose.

You can probably see how useful this technique can be. It’s not only for knitting garments from both directions. For instance, if you like working sock heels from the foot up but still want to adjust the length of your foot as you go, you could cast on just before heel shaping. Or if you’re knitting for growing children, provisionally cast on above the ribbing bands and work them later, ready to be ripped out and replaced when your kid grows in length.

The only time this technique won’t work is in patterned stitches, eg ribbing. This is because of the oddity mentioned above – you are working interlocking loops, not aligned stitches, so any offset stitches which would be invisible in stockinette would be extremely noticeable in ribbing (I tried this. Don’t make the same mistake!).

Author: Siobhan S

20 something, living in country Australia. Spoonie profile: ME/CFS, dysautonomia, anxiety. All about sewing, knitting and food. Unapologetic feminist and disability advocate.

6 thoughts on “How to knit a garment in both directions”

  1. this is a great technique! and like you said, would be so handy for socks… it means you could complete the foot and then keep knitting up the leg until you run out of wool… this is terrific for minimum leftovers 🙂

    Like

  2. I love that idea to knit from the middle! When I’ve tried knitting things, the cast-on edge never came out quite right. The sweater you knit fits perfectly and looks great!

    Like

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