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Flat knitting is a method for producing knitted fabrics in which the work is turned periodically, i.e., the fabric is worked with alternating sides facing the knitter. Another method of reaching the same result is to knit alternately from right to left and left to right without turning; this back-and-forth technique requires either innate or learned ambidextrous motor skills. The two sides (or "faces") of the fabric are usually designated as the right side (the side that faces outwards, towards the viewer and away from the wearer's body) and the wrong side (the side that faces inwards, away from the viewer and towards the wearer's body).
Flat knitting is usually contrasted with circular knitting, in which the fabric is always knitted from the same side. Flat knitting can complicate knitting somewhat compared to circular knitting, since the same stitch (as seen from the right side) is produced by two different movements when knitted from the right and wrong sides. Thus, a knit stitch (as seen from the right side) may be produced by a knit stitch on the right side, or by a purl stitch on the wrong side. This may cause the gauge of the knitting to vary in alternating rows of stockinette fabrics; however, this effect is usually not noticeable, and may be eliminated with practice (the usual way) or by using needles of two different sizes (an unusual and less effective way).
In flat knitting, the fabric is usually turned after every row. However, in some versions of double knitting with two yarns and double-pointed knitting needles, the fabric may turned after every second row.
In Industrial Knitting applications, the terms "Flat" and "Circular" have very different meanings to those given above. A "Flat" or Vee Bed knitting machine consists of 2 flat needle beds arranged in an upside-down "V" formation. These needle beds can be up to 2.5 metres wide. A carriage, also known as a Cambox or Head, moves backwards and forwards across these needle beds, working the needles to selectively, knit, tuck or transfer stitches. A flat knitting machine is very flexible, allowing complex stitch designs, shaped knitting and precise width adjustment. It is, however relatively slow when compared to a circular machine. Knitting speed up to .5 m/s or low is considered the low speed in flat knitting which is generally in hand flat machines. The two largest manufacturers of industrial flat knitting machines are Stoll of Germany, and Shima Seiki of Japan. The industrial hand flat knitting machine is considered to be launched by the Isaac Lamb patents.
- Hiatt, June Hemmons (2012). The Principles of Knitting: Methods and Techniques of Hand Knitting. Illustrations by Jesse Hiatt. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 22–34. ISBN 978-1-4165-3517-1. OCLC 709673472.
- Spencer, David J. (2001). Knitting Technology (3rd ed.). Cambridge, England: Woodhead. ISBN 978-1-85573-333-6. OCLC 57250778.