A detailed tutorial on The stockinette stitch knitting patter for beginners, plus tips and tricks.
Are you wondering how to knit the stockinette stitch? Then you came to the right place. In this tutorial, I’m going to show you step-by-step how to knit the most basic knitting stitch pattern. While the repeat itself is pretty easy, I’ll show you a couple of things you need to be aware of, some important alternatives, and how to fix common mistakes.
What is a stockinette stitch?
The stockinette stitch is a classic knitting pattern where you alternate knit stitches in the first row and purl stitches in the return row. It creates a very smooth and stretchy surface on the right side and that’s the reason why it is a favorite for very fine stockings. Most commercially available socks and pullovers are knitted in this stitch.
ⓘ In knitting patterns, the stockinette stitch is often abbreviated as st st. You’ll sometimes also hear stocking stitch.
Let’s show you how to knit it, eh?
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- Step: Cast on any number of stitches. A moderately stretchy cast-on works best with this stitch.
I recommend the longtail cast on, but any other technique is fine as well.
- Row 1: Knit across all stitches. Just the plain knit stitch into every loop single loop on your left needle.
After you finished the first row, turn your work around, and bring the yarn to the front. Make sure that you don't accidentally catch the yarn with your knitting needle as you do this.
- Row 2: Knit purl stitches across the whole second row.
- Repeat rows 1 and 2 until you reached the desired length. It’s that easy. Just switch between knit and purl rows.
It's very important to keep an even tension across all stitches. A lot of beginners struggle with their purl stitches. They sometimes are a bit too loose. If you own an interchangeable needle set or some spare needles, you can try knitting the return row with a smaller needle to fix that problem.
Another very common issue is twisting either the knit stitches or the purl stitches. This happens when you are inserting the needle the wrong way and accidentally knit a purl through the back loop (ptbl) or a knit through the back loop (ktbl).
And last, but certainly not least, here's another common "problem": When you are knitting with a yarn with a very high twist (say 8-ply merino wool) or a single thread yarn, then the "V"s of the stockinette stitch will often have a different appearance. It almost looks a bit like a continuous vertical line with a slanting line in between.
If that happens, there's nothing wrong with your stockinette stitch. It's just the way the yarn wants to lay.
How to fix mistakes
When you are just starting out, your muscles often haven’t learned the necessary fine control yet. And then you accidentally drop a stitch. But do not despair. There’s no need to unravel your whole work. Instead, you can use a crochet hook (or your knitting needles if you are nimble enough) to fix the mistakes in no time.
This tutorial will show you how to fix a dropped stitch the easy way.
How to count rows
A knit stitch always creates a little V. And when you knit stockinette stitch, you create pure knit stitches on the right side (knit and purl stitches are mirror images). So if you want to know how many rows you have knitted so far, you just have to count the little Vs stacked upon each other in one column.
Be careful, though. Some cast-ons create the first row of stitches in the same breath and you may or may not have to count those! Here’s my full tutorial on how to count rows in knitting for more details.
Cast on alternatives
Typically knitters care a lot about different cast-off methods but always cast on the same way. If you think about it, that makes little sense. If you have a stretchy pattern, then you need both a stretchy cast-on and a stretchy cast-off. Otherwise, you end up with a rigid edge on one side and a loose edge on the other side.
Stockinette stitch is moderately stretchy. Hence the standard longtail cast-on is perfect, quite easy to do, and super simple to knit across.
The only thing you need to consider is that a longtail cast-on will create a row of knit stitches in the same breath. Once you turn your work for the first row, these will appear as purl stitches. This means you can…
- either start your project with a purl row
- or do a longtail purl cast-on (in case your pattern prevents you from switching right and wrong sides)
…at least, if you want a nice in-pattern edge. This edge is quite beautiful and invisible and will make a nice hem, but tends to curl rather easily.
If you don’t mind your edge being a bit more conspicuous, then do the standard longtail cast-on and knit the first row. That way, you create a flat, non-curly garter-stitch edge. It won’t be able to take away the full tendency to roll up – so don’t expect any magic in that regard (see below).
The single cast-on works with stockinette stitch knitting as well but is a bit looser. So, I personally prefer the longtail cast-on. But for a hem or a cuff that needs to be stretchy, it could be a very nice option.
The knitted cast-on creates a loose edge with what almost appears like little eyelets. It could be ideal for a scarf where you want to attach fringes. As you are casting on in the other direction, you can start with a knit row directly. Here’s my full tutorial for the knitted cast on.
How to prevent curling
Once you start knitting the stockinette stitch, you’ll soon notice the edge curling in and it doesn’t really lay flat. If you join your project to another piece later on (like when you are knitting the front of a pullover) it doesn’t matter. But for a scarf, it’s probably not what you want. To prevent your knitted fabric from curling, you have a couple of options. Here are the two easiest solutions:
- Add a non-curly selvage. A garter stitch edge (so knit the last two stitches on each side in both rows) or a seed stitch helps a lot to prevent the edges from curling in. Also, a cast-on in a different stitch (see above) can help to prevent curling.
- You could also block the finished work. This is a method where you wash your finished project and block it in the intended shape with pins while still damp. It will not take out all of the curling but will help to achieve a nice stitch definition.
I wrote a detailed guide with 7 more ways to prevent knitting from curling here.
Stockinette stitch in the round
A lot of people are wondering how to knit stockinette stitch in the round. The good news: This is incredibly easy.
You only have to knit across. That’s it. So it’s:
- Round 1: Knit across
- Round 2: Knit across
This is probably one of the reasons why it became such a popular pattern for socks, as it’s super easy to knit. It’s just endless rows of knit stitches. And you don’t need to purl at all.
Now, I received this question a lot: Why do you only need to knit and not alternate stitches between the rows when knitting in the round? Well, the reason is quite simple! A purl stitch is a mirror-inverted knit stitch. If you think about it, that’s quite easy to understand. You carry the yarn in front and enter the stitch from left to right – everything is exactly opposite.
So, when you are knitting stockinette stitch flat, you are actually trying to create a pattern of all knit stitch as seen from the front. This creates the super smooth appearance of the finished knitted fabric. But since you have to turn your work around after each row, you have to knit the wrong side in a mirror-inverted way – meaning purl stitch.
Reverse Stockinette Stitch
The reverse stockinette stitch is actually the very same stitch. The only difference is that you’ll use the reverse side (“wrong side”). It sounds a bit like it was a different stitch order or some other magic, but it’s really that simple.
- Row 1: Purl across
- Row 2: Knit across
- Repeat row 1+2 until you reached the desired length
2-Colored stockinette stitch
The fun starts, when you add a second color, a third, or a fourth. You can easily knit 2-colored stockinette stitch by starting with a different yarn in every knit row. This post here will show you how to change colors in knitting in case you want to add some stripes.
If you switch colors every two rows, you don’t even need to sew in any tails. Just pick up the other color at the beginning of every right-side row. 4-row stripes also work without cutting the yarn as long as you remember to twist the yarn around each other at the beginning of every third row.
Using the Fair Isle method, you can achieve even more elaborated multi-colored patterns. You might need a special knitting thimble in this case as you will be knitting both colors at the same time.
Note: Fair Isle patterns are not reversible. The wrong side is rather messy, with a lot of so-called “floating threads” (or floats), so it’s not ideal for scarfs and other flat projects.
Double Stockinette Stitch
If you like the way the standard stitch looks but you want it to be reversible and not curling in at the edge, then you would have to knit the double stockinette stitch. It is a bit more difficult to knit, but only slightly so:
- Right side: Knit 1, slip 1 purlwise with yarn in front*
- Wrong side: *Knit 1, sl1 purlwise wyif*
Read my full tutorial on the double stockinette stitch here.
Garter stitch vs stockinette stitch
In garter stitch, you knit across every row. Garter stitch will produce a reversible pattern, meaning there is no visible difference between the right and wrong side. For stocking stitch, you alternate between purl and knit rows. In this case, you end up with two different sides – one very smooth and a purl side that looks a bit like the ridges of garter stitch.
Unlike stockinette stitch, garter stitch will produce a soft and pretty stretchy fabric with a square gauge. The stretchiness is also towards the top, rather than just to the side. Both patterns easily allow you to add colors by knitting two rows or multiples thereof in a different yarn.
Please note that when you are working in the round, things are completely opposite. To knit garter stitch in the round, you have to switch between purl and knit rows, while you’ll produce stockinette by just knitting across. I think that’s what confuses a lot of beginners.
One more thing: Both garter stitch and stockinette stitch can be used to create beautiful edge stitches (click on the link to read more about selvage techniques in knitting)