When you're a new knitter, there are many parts of patterns that can be confusing. One of the most common concerns is figuring out what the right side is versus the wrong side.
Your pattern may begin with something like this:
Row 1 (and all wrong side rows): Purl.
What does this mean and how do you know which side of your project is the wrong side? It's actually quite easy and, as with all knitting patterns, you simply need to break it down piece by piece.
As you gain more experience, recognizing the right and wrong sides becomes second nature.
The Right Side vs. the Wrong Side
The "right" side of knitting means the side that faces out on a garment or other project, it is the side you want to showcase. This includes the outside of a sweater or bag or the pretty side of a scarf or afghan. That is, of course, assuming the stitch you're using isn't reversible.
The easiest way to distinguish the sides is to look at a simple swatch in Stockinette Stitch. The flat side with all the V's on it is the "right" side. The bumpy purl side is the "wrong" side. If your pattern calls for Reverse Stockinette, it's the opposite.
In other patterns, you will quickly be able to recognize the right and wrong sides after working a few rows of the pattern. Most often, the right side is the one that is dominated by knit stitches while the back side is predominantly purl stitches.
For instance, the simple Herringbone pattern looks like a fabulous set of knitted V's in an overlapping series of 'V' patterns on the front side. The back, however, looks like a bunch of messy bumps.
When working a stranded knitting project like Fair Isle, you'll always want to strand your yarn on the wrong side. This ensures your excess yarn is hidden on the back of the work.
The Right and Wrong Sides on Reversible Patterns
It's pretty easy to tell right from wrong with a stitch that doesn't look the same on both sides. What about Garter Stitch, ribbing, or other patterns that look the same on either side? This is where things get a little tricky, but there's an easy solution.
In this case, if you have instructions that call for shaping, say, on every other "right side" row, you'll need to make a decision. Simply choose which side you want to call the "right side" and stick with that consistently as you work the pattern.
There are a few ways that you can remind yourself about which side you chose:
Stick a locking stitch marker on one side of the work when you get started and declare that side the right side.
Or you can wait until you need to decide which side is the right side and pick the side that looks prettier to you.
With reversible patterns, it really doesn't matter which side you choose. What does matter is that you're consistent about it and you leave yourself a clear indication of your choice.
If you don't work on a knitting project for a week or more, you want to be able to return to it without messing up your pattern. With time, every knitter develops little reminders that work best for them and you will too.