How to knit stockinette stitch

Published on March 6, 2019 4 min read

Stockinette stitch, known as the stocking stitch in British terms, 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 favorite 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) stockinette stitch.

Despite being absolutely everywhere, people often neglect to explain what the stockinette 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 stockinette stitch?

Stockinette 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)

right side of stocking stitch (stockinette): A stacked 'v' shape of stitches

Wrong side (the 'back' side)

wrong side of stocking stitch (stockinette): small wave ridges

How to stockinette stitch step-by-step

1

how to stocking stitch: cast on your stitches and knit a row

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.

2

how to stocking stitch: purl one row

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.

3

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!

Pro Tip

If you’re perfecting your stitches, we’d recommend using a bulky 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!

Why is my knitting curling? 

When knitting stockinette stitch you might find your fabric beginning to curl around the edges. Don’t worry, this is completely normal! The reason for this is because of the difference in tension between knit and purl stitches. Knit stitches tend to be shorter and tighter compared to purl stitches, so when you have all your knit stitches on one side of your fabric, as you do in stockinette stitch, the tighter knit side tends to curl.

How do I stop my fabric curling?

Great question! Sometimes a curled edge can make a beautiful design feature on a cozy cowl or brimmed hat, but if it’s not the effect you’re after there are few great techniques to stop your fabric from curling. From creating a border in an alternative flat stitch (like rib or seed stitch) to changing the elasticity of the fiber for acrylic yarns, we’ll show you lots of great ways to stop your knitting from curling.

Autumn Baby Blanket
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Autumn Baby Blanket

By Rachy Knits Rachel Kleynhans

What is reverse stockinette stitch?

Reverse stockinette stitch is the same as stockinette stitch, alternating between knit and purl rows, except you start with a purl row, which means your ‘right side’ of fabric is made up of purl stitches instead of knit stitches. Remember purl stitches are characterised by little ‘bumps’ which will appear in the right side of your fabric, if you are knitting the reverse stockinette stitch. On the knitted side of the fabric, your knit stitches will take the shape of little ‘v’s.

How to count rows in stockinette stitch?

The easiest way to count the number of rows in stockinette stitch, is to turn your fabric to the knitted side and count the number of v’s stacked on top of one another. 

How to count your row in 2 easy steps

1

Counting rows of stocking stitch

Turn your knitted fabric ‘right side up’ if you are knitting ordinary stockinette stitch (‘wrong side up’ if you’re knitting reverse stockinette stitch).

2

Count the number of ‘v’ shaped stitches stacked on top of each other (vertically), which will tell you how many rows you have.

Where did stockinette stitch originate?

Most knitting-muggles will recognize the stockinette stitch as a ‘classic’ knitting stitch. For us knitters, stockinette 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.

Stockinette stitch projects for beginners

As a classic stitch, stockinette stitch is brilliant for beginner knitting projects, from beautiful beanies and hats to snuggly scarves and baby blankets. This classic flat texture is also the perfect stitch to get creative with colorwork and intarsia. Advanced knitting designs often combine the stockinette stitch with more complex stitches, from seed stitch to romantic lace, for playfulness and character.

Free beginner stockinette stitch patterns you’ll love!

Browse More Patterns

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