How to knit the moss stitch for beginners

A step-by-step tutorial to knitting the moss stitch pattern which is also known as seed stitch

A very popular and easy pattern for knitting beginners is the Moss Stitch. It can be a great pattern for your first scarf or a little baby blanket since it has a very nice texture, lays flat, is not too stretchy, and is reversible on top of that. So, it has all the best ingredients, eh?

A close-up of a swatch in teal cotton knitted in the irish moss stitch pattern on brown hardwood knitting needles

You can easily knit it flat, in the round, and there is even a fun variation called the Double Moss Stitch (see below). In short, it’s a very versatile pattern you will often find on Ireland’s famous Aran sweaters (usually as fillings for the wider cables). I also have a lovely little free dishcloth pattern here on my blog for you with this stitch.

ⓘ The Irish Moss Stitch is sometimes also called American Moss Stitch or just Moss Stitch – they all mean the same thing. In knitting patterns you sometimes find it abbreviated to “moss st“. Some people confuse it with the seed stitch, which looks similar but only has a 2-row repeat.

Irish Moss stitch: Step by Step instructions:

Another close-up of the irish moss stitch knitting pattern

The Irish moss stitch has an easy four-row repeat. You just switch between purl and knit stitches:

Cast on multiples of 2:
  • Row 1: *Knit 1, Purl 1*
  • Row 2: *K1, P1*
  • Row 3: *P1,K1*
  • Row 4: *P1,K1*

Make sure to pay close attention when you knit row #3. That’s where you will have to knit all purl stitches and vice versa. If you don’t, you will create a 1×1 rib. That can also be very beautiful but it’s probably not what you were looking for.

Here’s a simple way to keep track. If the cast-on tail is on the right side of your work, you need to switch stitches. If it’s on the left side, you can knit all stitches the way they appear.

Reading tip: Here’s how you can improve your stitch definition and fight loose stitches when switching from a knit to a purl stitch.

Another close-up of the irish moss stitch knitting pattern a bit more from the side

In theory, you can knit the moss stitch with an odd number of stitches as well. You will have to add an extra knit stitch in row 1 and a purl stitch in row 2. So the repeat will look like this: Row 1: *K1, P1*, K1; Row 2: P1,*K1, P1*, Row 3: *P1, K1*P1, etc.

Note: This won’t work if you are knitting in the round


The good part: the Irish Moss stitch pattern is neither too stretchy nor too rigid. So it’s perfect for the standard bind-off and the standard long-tail cast-on.

There really is no need for any special techniques. Do, however, take care to cast off the stitches the way they appear (so, don’t knit every stitch, but continue alternating to purl and knit).

The same applies to the cast-on. You can get an extra neat edge if you alternate between casting on knit and purl stitches.


For easy projects like a scarf or a blanket, you might not need a pattern. So, I want to show you how to decrease a moss stitch quickly. The knit two together (k2tog) is perfect for that. There are a couple of things you might want to consider to get an extra neat decrease

  1. You always have to decrease two stitches next to each other starting in an odd-numbered row.
  2. Always start the decrease with a purl stitch first on the right side. That way, the knit stitch will lay on top of the purl stitch.
  3. On the return row, decrease the two adjacent purl stitches (for that’s what they appear to be) as a p2tog.
  4. The decrease is the most invisible if you start from the edges and not in the middle.

Increases can be handled the same. Use M1L and M1R but make sure to knit tightly to avoid holes. So, increase with M1R after a knit stitch in an odd-numbered row. In the return row, you will have to P1L between those two stitches. Again, try to start from the edges.

Moss stitch in the round

You can easily knit the simple Irish Moss stitch in the round. It’s basically the same repeat. The only different thing is that there is no return row where you have to pay attention so you don’t accidentally purl a knit stitch. So, it’s actually even a bit easier.

Cast on multiples of 2:

  • Round 1: *K1, P1*
  • Round 2: *K1, P1*
  • Round 3: *P1,K1*
  • Round 4: *P1,K1*

There is just one thing that may feel odd. At the end of round 2 and the beginning of round three, you will be purling 2 stitches in a row. But since those two stitches won’t be on the same level, you won’t really notice it later on. But it will still feel a bit weird. Using a stitch marker can be a smart idea to avoid confusion.

Double Moss Stitch

A close up of a swatch in dible moss stitch

A nice variation of the Irish moss stitch is the Double Moss stitch. It’s a bit more stretchy but is knitted with almost the same repeat but you double the knit and purl stitches:

Cast on multiples of 4
  • Row 1: *K2, P2*
  • Row 2: *K2, P2*
  • Row 3: *P2,K2*
  • Row 4: *P2,K2*

Find my full tutorial on how to knit the Double Moss stitch here.

This was my step-by-step tutorial on how to knit the moss stitch pattern. Make sure to comment with your questions!

How to knit the irish moss stitch for beginners -step by step

11 thoughts on “How to knit the moss stitch for beginners”

  1. Hi

    You say this is for beginners but you use knitting lingo like we already have a broad understanding of knitting

    Personally – I have made a couple scarves using garter stitch and am perfectly happy. I am finding it impossible to graduate to moss stitch. All the other guides irritatingly also use very insider baseball language which is supremely unhelpful

    • Hey Julia,

      great to hear from you. While I understand your problem, it would be a bit more helpful to name specific phrases and not just “lingo”. Then, I’m sure we can find a way to solve the problem.
      Also, there are tons of beginner tutorials on my blog that are more geared to people just starting out. So, why don’t you have a look around.

    • I am a knitting dunce – lifetime award. But the instructions here are so clear that even I can follow them. There is no “lingo” used. In fact, this is the most straightforward instructional I have ever read.

  2. Hi Norman,

    Thank you so much for this and all your other helpful tutorials!
    I started knitting less than a year ago, and am knitting myself a moss stitch scarf in a dégradé yarn. I got stuck for weeks because I’d knitted the wrong row somewhere. While I could see where I’d gone wrong, I couldn’t work out how to get it right. That is, until I saw your magic sentence “If the cast-on tail is on the right side of your work, you need to switch stitches.” Because I started my scarf with 5 rows of garter stitch, it turned out I had to switch your instruction around, but now my scarf is back on track.

  3. Dear Norman,
    I enjoy your videos and advice very much. I am knitting a 3/4 length sweater jacket in the Irish Moss Stitch 4 row pattern, Rows 1 & 2: K1 P1 and Rows 3 & 4: P1 K1. Since this stitch has so many names, I wanted to be precise. I will be sewing it together soon. Could you please advise me the best method/stitch to use when sewing it together? I want it to look as good as possible since I have put so much effort into knitting it. I greatly appreciate your advice and guidance and thank you in advance for your kind help and consideration.
    Warm regards,

    • I would actually recommend knitting two little swatches. Just like 8 stitches wide and maybe 20 rows high. And then try to seam things. Basically you have to do a matress stitch..but hm..i think Suzanne bryan has a good explanation on her youtube channel.

      • I will take your advice and make some swatches to practice which seam stitch I like. I watched Suzanne’s video about seaming fabric knit in the seed stitch. Do you think for the purposes of seaming that the methods Suzanne uses in her seed stitch seaming video also apply to the Irish Moss Stitch and work equally as well? Thank you so much, Norman, for your time and for helping me.

  4. My reverse side looks slightly different (like larger, longer knit loops leaning on one side and the purls are almost invisible) while the right side looks defined, checkered and the knits and purls are seen clearly enough. I don’t understand why, the pattern is supposed to be identical on both sides.
    I don’t mind, I like the effect, but I am worried I will bring the ”wrong” side forward without realising it if I don’t know why it happens.


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