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Step-by-Step Tutorial: Stockinette Stitch
Think of Stockinette Stitch as the blank canvas of knitting stitch patterns. The most prominent of knitting stitches, it's easy to work and creates a smooth fabric that's used in many applications.
Stockinette Stitch (also called Stocking Stitch in the UK), is a millenia old technique, dating back to at least the 2nd century. Knitted remains featuring Stockinette designs have been found all over the world, including in the pyramids of Egypt and at archeological digs in Scotland. It derives it's name from stockings which, in centuries past, were hand knit using Stockinette Stitch. To this day, it remains a prominent part of most knitted sock designs as well sweaters, toys and more.
What We'll Cover:
> How to Work Stockinette Stitch
> The Stockinette Curl
> Stockinette Stitch in the Round
> Stockinette as a Background Stitch
For this tutorial, we'll be using size US 7 (4.5mm) Knitter's Pride Ginger needles and Paintbox Cotton Aran yarn in color #636 Duck Egg Blue -- part of the Tudor Garden Collection.
Step by Step Stockinette
Odds are Stockinette Stitch is one of the first stitch patterns you'll learn, as a new knitter. Second only to Garter Stitch, Stockinette is the easiest stitch pattern to master and will likely become one of your staple stitches, no matter what type of knitted projects you gravitate towards.
To get started, cast on any number of stitches. For this tutorial, we cast on 17 stitches. Stockinette Stitch is worked the same way, regardless of whether you have an even or odd number of stitches.
The first row is worked by knitting every stitch across the row. At this point, your work will look the same as if you were working Garter Stitch.
However, unlike Garter Stitch, which is the same on both sides, Stockinette Stitch is not reversible. Like many stitch patterns, the two sides have distinctly different appearances. The two sides are referred to as the Right Side (abbreviated RS in patterns) and the Wrong Side (abbreviated WS in patterns).
The first row is a 'right side row', meaning that it is the prominent 'display' side of the fabric.
On the second row, which is a wrong side row, you will purl every stitch to the end of the row.
The wrong side of the fabric looks very similar Garter Stitch, but is actually smoother and slightly different upon close inspection.
Rows 1 and 2 form the repeat pattern for Stockinette Stitch. You will continue to alternate between knit and purl rows until you've reached your desired length. After just two rows, we can already see the pattern beginning to emerge:
The right side of Stockinette Stitch has a unique V-shaped patterning, which even non-knitters may recognize. If you've ever looked at a store-bought Fair Isle sweater, a pair of knitted gloves or your favorite pair of socks through a magnifying glass, you'll probably recognize this pattern.
Each V in the Stockinette pattern is 1 stitch, which makes it easy to count the number of stitches and rows you've worked. To figure out the number of stitches in one row, count the number of V's horizontally across a row. To figure out the number of rows, count the number of V's down one column.
By darkening every other stitch in the image below, we can see that there are 9 stitches across the row from the left-most darkened stitch to the right-most darkened stitch. Vertically, we can see that there are 9 rows between the bottom darkened stitch and the top darkened stitch.
The wrong side of Stockinette Stitch looks very similar to Garter Stitch and is sometimes used in lieu of Garter Stitch, because it requires less yarn, is less prone to stretching and, for next-to-the-skin garments, the smooth right side of Stockinette Stitch is sometimes preferable to the more textured Garter Stitch.
In such a case, where the 'bumpy' side of the fabric is being used as the right side of the work, you would begin with a purl row, so that you're purling the odd rows (1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.) and knitting the even rows (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc.). This stitch pattern is referred to as Reverse Stockinette Stitch.
The Stockinette Curl
One of the only drawbacks to Stockinette Stitch is its tendency to curl on the sides. Unlike Garter Stitch, which lays perfectly flat, Stockinette Stitch curls inwards on the left and right edges of the fabric (and to a lesser extent on the top and bottom edges). How much Stockinette curls is dependant upon the exact yarn and tension of the work. But all Stockinette Stitch will curl to some degree. Pure cotton yarns, such as the yarn we used for this tutorial, is less inclined to curling than its wool and acrylic counterparts. But even with cotton, there is a visible curl, which is especially prominent on the wrong side of the fabric:
For pieces of Stockinette fabric that are going to be seamed together into a larger piece, the curl isn't a problem. Some patterns will intentionally allow the fabric to curl as a design element. But for the many designs where a curl on the sides of your piece isn't desired, there are several solutions.
The most common fix is to add a thin (or thick) border of either Garter Stitch or Seed Stitch around the Stockinette Stitch, to keep the edges from curling. This trick, commonly used on items such as baby blankets, allows you to use Stockinette Stitch for the majority of your work, while avoiding the unseemly curling.
Stockinette Stitch in the Round
Many patterns call for Stockinette Stitch to be worked 'in the round'. Items such as socks, sweater arms, mittens and hats are all examples of circular Stockinette Stitch.
While circular Stockinette Stitch is the exact same fabric as flat Stockinette Stitch, there's one important difference in the construction; you never purl!
As counter-intuitive as it may initially seem, circular Stockinette stitch is one of the most relaxing and mindless forms of knitting. The perfect thing for those TV nights.
Let's take a look at how it's done...
To begin, cast on any number of stitches on either a circular needle or a set of double pointed needles. For this demonstration, we cast on 34 stitches on size US 7 (4.5mm) Clover Takumi Bamboo Double Point needles.
Join your needles to begin working in the round, then knit the first round.
And voilà, you're working Stockinette in the round! Just keep knitting every stitch of every round and you will quickly see the Stockinette pattern developing. Here, we have just 3 rounds of knitting:
For most knitters, when working Stockinette Stitch in the round, the right side of the fabric will be on the outside, while the wrong side of the fabric will be on the inside. There is an exception to this rule, for knitters who do their circular knitting inside-out, but that's a whole different tutorial!
You're probably wondering, "Why no purl rows?". While it seems strange, there's actually a very simple reason for this. When you work back and forth in rows on straight needles, you have to purl on the wrong side rows, to create the stitch pattern. If you knit every row, you would have Garter Stitch.
But when you're working in the round, you're never working on the wrong side of the work. There is no 'wrong side row'. Circular knitting is essentially one continuous right side row, spiraling along until you reach the end of your work. That's why you'll never purl when working Stockinette in the round. So the important point to remember is:
> When working Stockinette Stitch, only purl if you're on the wrong side.
Our 34-stitch swatch of circular Stockinette, turned inside-out, displays the bumpy wrong-side of the work, while the V-patterned right side is visible on the inside of the tube:
Stockinette as a Background Stitch
While Stockinette is often used on it's own as a stitch pattern in many knitted designs, it's also used as a blank canvas, upon which to build other stitch patterns and designs.
There are many different stitch patterns which use Stockinette Stitch as a background, rather than the central focus. Referred to as 'Stockinette-Based' stitch patterns, you will often see them in cabled and lace designs.
Below we have two examples of Stockinette-based designs. The swatch on the left is a simple lace pattern, worked on a Stockinette Stitch base, which is clearly visible between the eyelets. In the swatch on the right, Stockinette Stitch creates the perfect subtle background on which we can work a two-tone colorwork design, by introducing a second color of our yarn (#637 Dolphin Blue). Almost all colorwork designs, no matter how advanced, are worked on a Stockinette base.
In both of our examples below, the Stockinette Stitch is not the primary focus, but merely an underlying foundation upon which to build our designs.
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