A question I am often asked is “Why is the first row after cast-on sometimes considered a right side (RS) row and sometimes considered a wrong side (WS) row (when knitting flat)?” My answer is – it depends! For me, there are two main factors that will determine whether my first row after cast-on is a RS or WS row:
Factor #1: Type of Cast-On
The first factor to keep in mind is that different cast-ons will result in different looking edges, and this can impact whether that first row is considered a RS or WS.
Factor #2: Type of Stitch Pattern Following the Cast-On
The other factor to consider is the stitch pattern that you will be working after the cast-on – I treat garter stitch differently than ribbing for example.
Because a majority of my patterns use the long-tail cast-on, factor #2 is the most important one for me. In general, here is how I prefer to treat my “row 1”:
If working in garter stitch…
If I’m working in garter stitch (i.e, knitting every row), I like my row 1 to be my RS row. I just prefer the look of this. You can see the difference below:
But I totally understand that this is completely subjective! I’ve met many people who prefer the look of the row 1 = WS row in garter stitch, so everyone may feel a little differently about this.
If working in ribbing…
I take the complete opposite point of view when it comes to ribbing – when working in any kind of rib stitch, I tend to always make row 1 the WS row. I find the bottom edge to be smoother and I just prefer that look with ribbing. You can see the difference below:
These are just some basic examples, but as you can see if can be quite subjective! Understanding how treating “row 1” can achieve slightly different looks in your edging can help you decide if you ever want to revise a pattern a little bit in the future. Sometimes designers may have specific reasons for starting row 1 as a RS or WS row (for reasons other than aesthetics), but often it’s just the look they prefer, especially when it comes to simpler stitches like garter or rib stitch.
Helpful hint – add a removable marker
If you have a hard time telling which side of your garter stitch or rib stitch hem is the RS or WS row (sometimes it can be tricky to see at first and you need to work an inch or so to really see the difference), add a removable marker to what is considered the RS of your fabric as pictured below. So after you’ve knit a row or two, you can attach the marker to the front of the work the next time you work a RS row. This way you’ll know every time the marking is facing you that you are currently on a RS row!
I hope this information has been helpful! If you have any follow-up questions feel free to reach out.