Yeah, I’m a backwards knitter. Is that weird?

As it turns out, yes. Being a backwards knitter IS weird.

I had no idea. When I started knitting “backwards” my reasoning was pretty simple: I hated turning my work. I didn’t find the sense in it. I had two hands. They could each do the work. Why not forget about the whole business of turning my work and just go back and forth? I have a history of doing things with both sides equally: dancing, typing, painting my nails, sweeping, playing piano–I even switch hit on the rare occasions I play any kind of bat and ball game. I haven’t mastered ambidextrous handwriting but I work on it occasionally. Why not add knitting to that ambidextrous mix?

Because it’s hard. Or at least that’s what “they” say. I’ll admit that it was a bit difficult to learn but I think it was because I was teaching myself to do it. I didn’t have a book or a teacher to help me. Youtube wasn’t invented yet so there weren’t any easy-to-access videos to help me out. It was just me, my hands and a lot of peeking at the back of my work to see what it looked like so I could reverse it. I taught  myself how to knit and purl backwards. Everything after that is cake.

I’ve been doing this for about a decade and I’ve never looked back. I also cease to realize it’s not “normal” to knit this way. Other knitters watch me and ask if I’m knitting backwards which, of course, I am. Truth be told, I only recently discovered the term “backwards knitting” and I must admit I’m not a fan of the term. Calling myself a backwards knitter seems like there’s something wrong with me. According to the knitting world, I’m special.

A knitter has written a review of an entrelac book which has a section on backwards knitting. She said she’s been dying to try the technique and is very excited about the section. I’ve seen youtube videos demonstrating backwards knitting and the comments that follow usually express awe and hesitation at starting this technique. Can it be done on a purl stitch or just a knit stitch? Can you do a pattern stitch (like seed stitch)? Being the superior asshole that I am, my response is, “Um, yeah. Duh.” It’s like driving a car. If you can do it forwards, you can do it backwards.

I urge everyone who knits to try knitting backwards. It will change your life. You’ll think to yourself, “Wow. I’ve been turning my work all this time. What a waste! Backwards knitting is AWESOME!” It makes things like entrelac and those time consuming bubbles from the Timmy costume so much easier because you’re not constantly turning your work. It’s GREAT! Plus, you’re able to see your pattern emerge slowly without wondering if it looks right on the other side.

However, it does have its drawbacks. Half the directions for any conventionally written pattern will have to be reversed. If I have a picture of my pattern, I don’t have a problem. It’s easy enough to figure out just by looking at it. For the most part, you’re reversing your stitch pattern on the WS row anyhow so all you have to do is pay attention to the RS row of instructions and be done with it. Most of the difficult stuff like lace work and cabling is done on the RS row and the WS row either continues the previously established pattern or it’s a rest row of simply purling (or in a backwards case, knitting).

I liken knitting to the Matrix: Once you can see the stitches and fix them without having to rip EVERYTHING out to that point, you can see the Matrix, Neo. Backwards knitting is like becoming master of the Matrix. There is no spoon? There is no turning.


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