Stocking stitch, known as stockinette stitch in the USA, is one of the most popular knitting stitches you’re likely to come across in the knit-esphere, popping up in most patterns and appearing in your favourite knitwear from socks, hats, cushion covers and scarves. Once you know how to knit a row and purl stitches, stocking stitch is the perfect next step as you learn how to knit! In patterns you might be more familiar with its abbreviation ‘st st’, short form for (you’ve guessed it) stocking stitch.
Despite being absolutely everywhere, people often neglect to explain what the stocking stitch actually is or mention it by its full name! If you’re a knitting newbie the mere mention of st st might have you scratching your head, so let us give you a quick rundown on what it means to stocking stitch and how to do a stocking stitch step by step.
What is stocking stitch?
Stocking stitch is where you knit one entire row, and then purl an entire row, and then repeat. The result is a wonderful even flat texture made up of those gorgeous stacked ‘v’ shaped stitches on the ‘right’ (or ‘front’) side of the fabric. The ‘wrong’ or ‘back’ side of the fabric has yarny river like ridges which tend to curl.
Right side (or ‘front’ side)
Wrong side (the 'back' side)
How to stocking stitch step-by-step
First row. Tie a slip knot and cast on the number of stitches you'd like to knit. Knit one row, by inserting the tip of the right needle into the stitches cast onto the left needle, knitwise.
Second row. When you come to the end of your knitted row, swap hands so the needle containing the knitted stitches is in your left hand. Now purl an entire row, by inserting the tip of the right hand needle purlwise into the stitches in your left hand needle.
Third row. After you have purled an entire row, it's time to knit again.
Repeat knit and purl alternate rows to build your stockinette fabric, and watch your beautiful 'v' rows emerge in all their glory!
If you’re perfecting your stitches, we’d recommend using a chunky yarn so that you can easily see every stitch and keep track of your progress. It’s easier to spot blips when you’ve got a nice thick yarn!
Where did stocking stitch originate?
Most knitting-muggles will recognise the stocking stitch as a ‘classic’ knitting stitch. For us knitters, stocking stitch gets its name from early knitting artefacts dating back to the thirteenth and fourteenth century, which saw this characteristically stretchy stitch used to create stockings and sock-heels.
How stocking stitch can be used today
As a classic stitch, stocking stitch is not only used for basic or beginner knitting projects. In fact the classic flat texture is a perfect basic stitch to experiment with colourwork and intarsia. Advanced knitting designs often combine the stocking stitch with more complex stitches, from moss stitch to romantic lace, for playfulness and character.