How to knit garter stitch in the round

Step by step written instructions for knitting garter stitch in the round, how to add stripes, and how to avoid the jog.

So, you want to knit a hat or a cowl in the super squishy and easy garter stitch knitting pattern? You know how to knit it flat, but now you are wondering how to do garter stitch in the round? Well, this step-by-step tutorial will give you the answer.

a swatch in garter stitch knit in the round

No matter if you prefer magic loop or knitting in the round on dpns (double-pointed needles), you can easily adapt the standard garter stitch repeat so it works out for circular projects. It’s going to be just as stretchy and will look exactly the same (thus you also can count rows the same way). The only difference is that it will be a 2-row repeat instead of just one row.

So, let’s dive right into it!

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Garter stitch in the round: The Instructions

a swatch in garter stitch knit in the round

To knit garter stitch in the round you have to alternate knit and purl rounds. It's recommended to use a stitch marker so you don't lose track because it's important that you switch between these two stitches at the beginning of every round.

  • Cast on any number of stitches
  • Round 1: *knit*
  • Round 2: *purl*

Note: If you are using circular needles the repeat is exactly the same. And of course, it doesn't matter if you are a continental knitter or an English thrower either.

Active Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes

Instructions

  1. Cast on any number of stitches with a longtail cast-on and join in the round.
    casting on stitches as a prepation for garter stitch in the round
  2. Row 1: Knit across the first round.

    someone knitting row 1 of garter stitch in the round

  3. Row 2: Purl across the second round.


    purling across the whole second round
  4. Continue switching between knit and purl rounds until you reached the desired length.
    knitting garter stitch in the round

Notes

I know a lot of beginners don't like purling. So you might be wondering if there is a way to knit garter stitch in the round without purling. And the easy answer is: no, there isn't. The only viable alternative is knitting flat and then joining the finished project in the round with an adapted mattress stitch.

In flat knitting, there is something called "reverse garter stitch". That's when you purl across all rows instead of knitting across. When knitting in the round that distinction is non-existent. You could, however, start with a purl round and then knit the second round.

If you stick to the standard repeat, you will end up with a visible seam, aka jog. To knit a jogless garter stitch in the round, you need to slip the first stitch of every round. There's are step-by-step instructions further below.

Jogless garter stitch in the round

a visible jog at the start/end of the round when you are knitting garter stitch in the round
The visible seam you create at the stard/end of your round

Now, there is one thing you will notice once you covered a couple of rows. At the beginning/end of your round, you will create a visible seam. That’s because when you are knitting in the round, you are actually knitting in an upward spiral, and this creates a jog every time you start a new round.

But there are two easy ways to knit a jogless garter stitch in the round:

1. Slipping the first stitch

comparing a method to knit garter stitch in the round with a jogless option that is less visible

For beginners, the probably easiest way to avoid the jog is slipping every first stitch of the round. This will move the beginning of your round with every round that you knit. So, best use a stitch marker so you can keep track.

This has two effects: First of all, slipping the first stitch creates a smoother transition. And by moving the start of your round forward, you mitigate the effect on top of that as the seam cannot create such a jarring vertical line anymore. So, here’s what you need to do;

  • Round 1: Knit across.
  • Round 2: Slip the first stitch, place a stitch marker, and purl across until you come to the stitch marker.
  • Round 3: Remove the stitch marker, slip one stitch, place the stitch marker again, and knit across until you come to the stitch marker.
  • Round 4: Remove the stitch marker, slip one stitch, place the stitch marker again, and purl across to the stitch marker.
  • Repeat rounds 3+4 until you reached the desired length.

2. Helix knitting

knitting jogless garter stitch in the round using the helix method - without a seam

Helix knitting is a really advanced technique to knit jogless stripes in the round. And it’s the only technique that truly creates an invisible transition. Now, you might wonder why I’m mentioning a colorwork technique when you actually don’t want stripes.

Well, stripes can be knit in the same color as well. Normally you would never do that because it adds needless complexity for the exact same outcome. But in this case, it could be a viable solution. The technique makes even more sense if you are knitting a large project with indie dyed yarn where this technique will help you create a uniform color across your whole project or you actually want stripes (see below).

Here’s the repeat:

  • Round 1: Knit all stitches with skein A
  • Round 2: Join in skein B and purl all stitches but stop three stitches before the end. Place a stitch marker, and slip three stitches.
  • Round 3: Pick up skein A again and knit across until three stitches before the stitch marker. Place a new stitch marker, and slip three stitches.
  • Round 4: Remove the stitch marker, pick up skein B, and purl across until three stitches before the stitch marker. Place a new stitch marker and slip three stitches.
  • Repeat rounds 3+4 until you reached the desired length.

As I said, this method is a bit more complicated but no matter how you turn around your project there will be no visible seam. This is a method for creating a truly jogless garter stitch in the round.

Close-up of the first round of garter stitch helix knitting in the round with a visible little 1 row jog
The only noticeable step you create when doing helix knitting.

With one exception. The first two rounds, so where you start the helix, will have a noticeable step. You can mitigate the problem by closing the cast-on gap by grafting a stitch. But that won’t be able to fix the start of your helix. If it’s a large project (like a hat, a cowl, or socks) then I’d say having 10 inches of garter stitch in the round without a seam more than makes up for a tiny little 1-stitch offset at the beginning.

If you are knitting wrist-warmer or so, then arguably, slipping only the first stitch over every round might be better.

Changing colors the right way

knitting garter stitch in the round with stripes in two colors

So, how about changing colors in garter stitch in the round? Is there anything you need to be aware of when knitting stripes? Well, there’s just one rule: Always change colors in a knit row.

So, essentially there is no difference compared to knitting flat stripes. It’s the anatomy of a purl stitch that there will be a visible little float at the bottom of the stitch mixed in with the old color.

This, however, means, that your fabric won’t be fully reversible anymore. So, you really need to do some planning and decide what will be your right and wrong side before you start your project. Here’s a possible repeat:

  • Round 1: knit
  • Round 2: purl
  • Round 3: knit
  • Round 4: purl
  • Round 5: Join in color B and knit
  • Round 6: purl
  • Round 7: knit
  • Round 8: purl
  • Round 9: Pick up color A again and knit
  • etc. etc.

Do know, however, that the problem with the seams will be even more visible when you are knitting with two colors. So in these cases, I absolutely recommend using one of the two methods to avoid jogs.

a) Slipping the first stitch

a close-up shot of the barely visible little seam when joining in a new color when knitting garter stitch in the round with stripes

Just as I already showed you above, you can also slip the first stitch of every round. I think that is by far the easiest way to knit stripes in garter stitch in the round. The color transition is very smooth.

If you look really closely, you will see the start of each round, though. There is that one sort of elongated stitch that moves upward in a diagonal way. But in the big picture, I doubt anyone but a professional knitter will even notice it.

the very visible floats on the wrong side when knitting garter stitch stripes in the round

On the downside, because you are constantly moving the start of your round, it’s a bit more difficult to carry the yarn across. If you think of each knit stitch as a square, then it’s a much shorter distance to bring up the yarn straight than diagonally. You can create floats in every knit row but for larger stripes that probably is not a viable option. Which means you end up with a lot of ends to weave in.

B) Helix knitting

garter stitch helix knitting in the round in two colors totally jogless

Helix knitting is the only truly viable in case you want your stripes to be only 1 stitch high. Then, it’s by far the neatest solution to change colors in garter stitch in the round – setting the very first round aside.

close-up of stripes in garter stitch in the round using the helix knitting method

The problem, however, is that 1-round stripes don’t look very distinct. They sort of blur into each other. While that can look stunning if you pick yarns in a similar hue (and thus creating a kind of shadow effect), it usually isn’t what most people want.

Theoretically speaking, you can also knit a helix using 4 balls. So with a 4-ball helix, you could knit jogless stripes that are 2 rounds high. And if you use 8 balls (in only two colors as well), you could achieve stripes that are 4 rounds high. Comment below if you want me to add a tutorial showing you how to do that. It will be complex but for some projects, it might be worth the extra effort.

Further reads:

Anyway, that’s how to knit garter stitch in the round. Comment below in case you have any questions.

how to knit garter stitch in the round - step by step instructions

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