How to knit the Garter Stitch

A detailed tutorial on garter stitch knitting for beginners. Step by step instructions for this classic pattern.

At the beginning of your knitting career, you probably only know one stitch: the knit stitch. But here’s the good news – with this single stitch you can already finish amazing projects in the so-called Garter stitch (like a simple coaster). Here’s how to knit this versatile stitch and what you need to know.

What is a garter stitch?

how to knit garter stitch - two sample swatches in green and brown close up

A garter stitch is the most basic knitting pattern that results from knitting standard knit stitches across all rows. It creates a very sketchy and elastic fabric that was once used for garters and similar hems that require a tight grip (before the age of rubber bands). The resulting texture looks a bit like meandering little waves and is quite fluffy. This is why it’s also a popular stitch for baby clothes.

  ⓘ In knitting patterns, the garter stitch is sometimes abbreviated with g st.

Interesting to know: The Garter Stitch is one of the very few knitting patters with a square gauge.

How to knit the garter stitch

A sample swatch knitted in garter stitch on the needles

What you need:

Knitting this stitch is incredibly easy. Cast on as many stitches as you desire. Unlike a lot of other stitches and patterns, it doesn’t matter if you cast on an even or an uneven number. Then, keep your yarn in the back of your work and proceed as follows:

  • Row 1: Knit every stitch
    (turn the work)
  • Row 2: Knit across again

Repeat row 1+2 until you reached the desired length of your work.

You also do not need to worry about the selvage (edge) of your work. In fact, a lot of other stitches/patterns use a 2 stitch garter selvage to prevent the work from curling (typically stockinette stitch).

Note: You can knit the garter stitch by knitting purl stitches across all rows as well. As a lot of knitters find it a bit harder to knit these, it’s not the preferred method. But try it out! (Once you started with one method, you have to stick to it, though!).

How to count garter stitch rows

illustration showing you how to count garter stitch rows

Sometimes you lose track of your knitting. Your pattern says “knit 20 rows” but which row are you in now? Counting garter stitch rows is really easy. If you look closely at this pattern creates, you’ll see little “bowls” and “cupolas” (for a lack of a better word).

Now, simply pick one of these little bowls and go straight up from here with your needle tip and count every bowl above it. Multiply this number by two. That’s how many rows you have knitted. But be careful, don’t forget to count the row currently on your needle and the one below as well (or the cast on edge, if it’s row 1 in your pattern).

Depending on the wool you work with, you can also count the rows.

Garter Stitch in the round

nitting garters stitch in the round

Some patterns require you to work in the round (typically socks or gloves). If it says knit x rows in garter stitch, then you have to be careful because you won’t be able to knit across all rows anymore.

When knitting the garter stitch in the round, you have to alternate knit and purl rows.

  • Row 1: Knit across
  • Row 2: Purl across
  • Row 3: Knit across

Tip: Use a row marker so you don’t lose track!

The is just one problem with this method. It will create a visible faux seam. Knitting in the round means you are actually knitting a spiral, and not round after round, so every new round you begin, there will be a quite visible little jog.

Jogless knitting in the round

The visible seam when you knit garter stitch in the round
The seam is quite visible at the start of the round

There are two solutions to this problem. You can either move the end of the round by one stitch with each round by slipping the last stitch purlwise and then purl, but this will still be somewhat similar.

The more ingenious solution to this age-old problem is actually knitting with TWO yarns. So, when you finish one round, you switch to the second yarn (can be the same or different color). This method is called helix knitting and I talk about it in my post about knitting jogless stripes (you can knit “stripes” in the same color as well *smirk*).

Next lesson: How to cast off knitting stitches

So, this was my little tutorial on how to knit the Garter Stitch. I hope you enjoyed it and you are ready to start some fun little projects. Make sure to comment and tell me how it went!

How to knit the garter stitch for beginners - step by step tutorial

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