How to knit reverse garter stitch

A step-by-step tutorial for the reverse garter stitch knitting pattern and what’s the difference compared to the normal way to do it

Almost every beginner starts out with knitting a little scarf or a coaster in garter stitch. It’s arguably the easiest knitting stitch pattern. It’s warm, it’s stretchy, and easy to handle. But some instructions don’t call for the regular way to knit it. Instead, they ask you to knit in reverse garter stitch and this tutorial is all about it.

View of a swatch in reverse garter stitch on the knitting needles

What is reverse garter stitch and why do you need it?

Reverse garter stitch means you have to purl every single stitch across all rows. It works because a knit stitch will look like exactly a purl stitch from the reverse and vice versa. Think of it like this: You can turn left four times to go around the block or right four times. So, by purling all stitches you create the exact same fabric. You only switch the right with the wrong sides but since it’s a reversible knitting stitch that hardly matters.

a swatch in garter stitch vs reverse garter stitch next to each other

This knowledge, however, comes in handy in two scenarios. For some people, purling is actually easier than knitting. Portuguese or combination knitters come to mind or I’ve recently seen a video of a one-handed knitter who also preferred purling.

And then there are quite some knitters who knit and purl with a different tension. As a result, their reverse garter stitch might be tighter or looser. This can be very helpful if you are working on a bigger project with only a short section of garter stitch you need to integrate and you want to maintain the same stretchiness/gauge.

So, if one of these factors applies to you, definitely consider using reverse garter stitch. If they don’t, feel free to knit your pattern with knit stitches.

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How to knit reverse garter stitch

a swatch in reverse garter stitch from above on a wooden board

You knit reverse garter stitch by purling every single stitch across all rows. It's a fully reversible knitting stitch pattern with a 1-row repeat that doesn't curl in on the edges.

  • RS/WS: *purl*
Active Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  1. Cast on any number of stitches.
    casting on for reverse garter stitch (purlwise)
  2. Turn your work around and bring the yarn to the front.

    bringing the yarn to the front to start knitting
  3. Purl across all stitches of the row.

    purling across the first row to knit reverse garter stitch
  4. Turn your work around, bring the yarn to the front again, and purl across all stitches.
    purling the second row of reverse garter stitch
  5. Repeat steps 3+4 until you reached the desired length.
    the reverse garter stitch after you knitted a couple of rows


Remember to bring the yarn to the front every time you turn your work around so you don't accidentally create a yarn over or a wonky selvage stitch.

Also, if you plan to add stripes, remember to do join in a new color on the right side so get very clean and neat transitions.

And there is one difference I need to address. A typical cast-on technique adds knit stitches. This means, if you want to have a reverse garter stitch edge as well, you would have to cast on purlwise. Otherwise, the first row you knit will look like reverse stockinette stitch.

two different versions of an edge for reverse garter stitch

And the same applies to binding-off. Here, you also need to bind off in pattern, meaning, you purl the stitches before you pass them over.

Reverse Garter stitch selvage

a reverse garter stitch selvage keeping stockinette stitch from curling

Selvage stitches are useful to keep knitting from curling. A 2-stitch reverse garter stitch selvage could be a great choice for stockinette stitch. In this case, the repeat would look like this:

  • Row 1: purl 2, *knit*, purl 2
  • Row 2: *purl*

And again, this makes sense for all knitters who purl/knit with a different tension. So, simply start a little swatch and see if you can spot a difference. If there isn’t, just pick whatever version is easier for you (reverse vs regular). But if there is, you can use this technique to create a tighter or loose edge.

Reverse Garter stitch in the round

Of course, you can also knit this pattern in the round. However, there is barely a difference between knitting the regular garter stitch in the round. The only difference is you start with a purl round.

  • Cast on any number of stitches
  • Round 1: *purl*
  • Round 2: *knit*
  • Repeat rounds 1+2 over and over again

You can avoid the jog by slipping the first stitch of every round.

Further reads:

Anyway, that’s how to knit the reverse garter stitch. Comment below in case you need any help.

how to knit reverse garter stitch - step by step tutorial for beginners

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