How to Knit the Stockinette Stitch

Most Knitting Patterns Don't Explain this Basic Stitch

Stockinette stitch
Erin Stevenson O'Connor/Flickr/CC By 2.0

Stockinette (or stocking stitch) is a basic stitch that most knitting patterns don't explain because they assume it's already in the crafter's repertoire. If you're a seasoned knitter, chances are you are already well on your way to understanding this stitch and may even be using it regularly.

You begin by learning the knit stitch. Then, once this stitch is mastered, you learn to purl. Next, you learn that when the knit stitch is repeated on every row (or conversely, if the purl stitch is repeated on every row), it yields a "garter stitch" pattern. However, knitting one row, purling the next, and then repeating this process consecutively creates the most classic pattern of all, known as stockinette stitch.

Stockinette Stitch Basics

Stockinette stitch works with any number of stitches per row and it can be used on patterns that call for both an odd or an even number of stitches, as long as you follow the pattern. Yet, when working in the round, stockinette stitch is formed by knitting every stitch of every round. You do not purl any of the stitches when working this way, as you do not change the direction of your knitting.

A pattern for flat-knitting stockinette stitch looks something like this:

  • Row 1: Knit across
  • Row 2: Purl across
  • Repeat these two rows until the desired length is achieved.

Note: You may see stockinette stitch abbreviated in a pattern as "St st."

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Watch Now: How to Knit in Stockinette

Stockinette Stitch Outcome

Stockinette stitch creates what's commonly known as "knit fabric." You'll find it used in sweaters, hats, scarves, and any other type of handmade or machine-knit, store-bought garment. The "front" (or "right") side of the fabric looks like it contains a series of V's, while the "back" (or "wrong") side resembles rows of waved ridges.

Alternatively, reverse stockinette stitch is made when the first row is purled and the second is knitted. Working in this way, the purled side (the wavy, bumpy side of the fabric) is meant to be the front.

Stockinette Stitch Knitting Patterns

Stockinette stitch is used in almost any knitting pattern. Try it out on a simple project, like a basic hat pattern or baby socks. You can also simply cast a dozen, or so, stitches onto your needle and work the stockinette stitch back and forth to create a scarf. Making one of these quick projects gives you the practice to you need to master the stitch.

Patterns using stockinette stitch are usually great for beginner knitters. Even still, stockinette will continue to be implemented in advanced projects as well, even those that mix in intricate stitches.

Stockinette Stitch Versatility

The versatility of stockinette stitch goes unparalleled. It's simple and it's easy to increase and decrease stitches without messing up the pattern. It knits up quickly, making it perfect for pieces that need to be reproduced. Once you've had some practice, you can knit stockinette stitch without even paying attention to what you're doing, making it a great stitch to tackle while watching TV and during travel.

Stockinette provides a great backdrop for embellishment, too. For instance, you can easily add stripes to a project worked in stockinette stitch without changing the gauge of your needle or yarn. You can also add designs by integrating a duplicate stitch on top of an already knitted piece. Embroidery or beads added on top of this stitch can make a project more interesting, as well.

Lastly, stockinette is commonly used to frame cables and other advanced patterns. These highly textural patterns stand out beautifully from the flat background created by stockinette.

Stockinette Stitch Drawbacks

One of the perils of stockinette stitch is the infamous "curl" it tends to produce on the edge of a garment when left to its own devices. Some yarns show this tendency more than others, but this stitch structure cannot always be predicted.

Some projects use the curl as an advantage—for edging sock cuffs or creating curled scarves. And if your edges will be sewn together for a sweater seam, the curl is only a nuisance when it needs to be flattened to check measurements. It will not affect the look of your finished project.

For flat projects like scarves and dishcloths, avoid the curl by adding a border of ribbing, garter stitch, or another non-curling pattern to the edges.