Sometimes referred to as back and forth knitting, the art of flat knitting is a procedure that produces knitted goods by knitting from alternating sides of the material. This results in the production of a finished item that in effect has two faces or sides.
As a somewhat more complicated process than circular knitting, flat knitting is produced by employing the use of different types of stitches on the two sides of the material. Generally, the side that is meant to face out is referred to as the right face, while the side that is mean to face inward is referred to as the wrong face or side. By using the two different stitches, both faces realize their own unique look and feel. For example, a knit stitch may be used on the right face, while a purl stitch is used on the wrong face. This will help to yield a pattern on both sides that is more complex than could be obtained with a simple circular stitch pattern.
Using flat knitting can produce some interesting results. For example, using different size needles as well as different stitches can produce a unique look and feel to the gauge of the pattern. This is especially true when stockinette fabrics are used as the basis or foundation for the knitting. Adding in a garter stitch to produce an unusual flat knit will only enhance the look and feel, although it does make the task a little more complicated.
In most examples of flat knitting, the fabric is turned each time a row is completed. However, there are techniques that employ various combinations of knit stitches and require that the fabric be turned after completion of two rows. Both techniques will yield a finished product that has a distinctive texture and a feel that is usually very smooth to the touch.
Flat knitting may be accomplished by hand, or produced in bulk with the aid of textile machinery. When produced in a factory setting, it is usually categorized along with circular knitting under the title of weft knitting. This helps to distinguish the two styles from another common textile knitting application that is known as warp knitting. Mass produced fabrics that are created with flat knitting are used for a number of applications, among them clothing and household linens.