Learn How to Knit the Stockinette Stitch

It's so easy, most knitting patterns don't explain this basic stitch

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

Stockinette (or stocking stitch, as it's called in some parts of the world) is so basic that most knitting patterns don't explain what it is or what they mean when they want you to knit it. Chances are, however, that you are already well on your way to doing it or already use it all the time.

Most knitters begin by learning the knit stitch. When the knit stitch is repeated for every stitch of every row that gives you garter stitch.

Once you have that down, you'll learn to purl. If you purl every stitch of every row you also get garter stitch. However, if you knit one row and purl the next, then repeat that pattern, you'll end up with the most classic of all knitting patterns, known as stockinette stitch.

Knitting Stockinette Stitch

If you were to write out a pattern for stockinette stitch, it would look like this:

  • Row 1: Knit across
  • Row 2: Purl across

Repeat these two rows for the pattern.

Stockinette stitch works on any number of stitches. It can be used no matter if you have an odd or an even number of stitches on your needles. Unlike some patterns, it also doesn't matter what multiple of stitches you have.

  • You might see stockinette stitch abbreviated in a pattern as "St st".
  • When working in the round, stockinette stitch is formed by knitting every stitch of every round. You will not purl any stitches.
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Watch Now: How to Knit in Stockinette

What Stockinette Looks Like

Stockinette stitch creates the most common knit fabric. You'll find it on sweaters, hats, scarves, and any other type of handmade or machine-knit store-bought garments. The "front" (or "right") side of the fabric looks like a series of V's, while the "back" (or "wrong") side looks like a bunch of bumpy ridges.

An alternative is reverse stockinette stitch, where the first row is purled and the second is knitted. When working in this way, the purl side is meant to be the front, creating a bumpy fabric.

Stockinette Knitting Patterns

Stockinette is the most popular knitting stitch out there and it is used in a multitude of patterns. Give it a try with a simple project, such as a basic hat pattern or these baby socks. Alternatively, you can simply cast on a dozen or so stitches and work the stockinette stitch until you create a scarf. By the end of any of these quick projects, you'll have the stitch pattern down!

Patterns using stockinette are usually considered good for beginner to advanced beginner knitters. Of course, you will keep knitting stockinette for the rest of your knitting life, even after you learn other stitches and skills.

The Versatility

Stockinette is a great knit fabric for many reasons. It's simple and is easy to increase and decrease in because you can't mess up the pattern.

It knits up pretty quickly as well. After all, you're just repeating the same stitch across an entire row, then working the next row in a single stitch. Once you've had a little practice, you can even knit it without paying much attention to what you're doing, so it's great for watching TV and travel.

Stockinette is also a great backdrop for embellishment. For instance, you can easily add stripes to a project worked in stockinette stitch without changing the gauge. You can also add designs with duplicate stitch after the knitting is done. Embroidery or adding beads can make a project more interesting as well.

Additionally, stockinette is commonly used to frame cables and other advanced stitch patterns. These highly textural patterns pop out beautifully from the otherwise flat fabric.

The Stockinette Curl

One of the perils of stockinette stitch is that it tends to curl on the edges when left to its own devices. Some yarns show this tendency more than others, but it's a fact of the structure of the stitch that you can't always predict.

Some projects take advantage of the curl, using it as the edging for sock cuffs or to create curled scarves, for instance. And, if your edges will be sewn together, such as in a sweater seam, the curl is only a nuisance while you work and check measurements. It will not affect the look of your finished project.

You can counteract the curl in flat projects like scarves and dishcloths if you want to. This is done by simply adding a border of ribbing, garter stitch, or another non-curling pattern to the edges.