Garter Stitch

The ONE Stitch To Start With

Last Updated 02-10-2021

The Garter stitch is one of the first stitches a beginner knitter learns, but it doesn't stop there.  This is such a versatile stitch, and is the foundation of so many others.  It can also be called the knit stitch because you will use only one type of stitch:  the knit stitch.

In a pattern, you will see the knit stitch abbreviated k.

Garter Stitch

The technique you'll learn here consists of casting on, then knitting. 

The casting on process is something that you adapt to, over time. Everyone does it differently, there is no one way that you need to learn.

This video shows one method of casting on.  The garter stitch knitting is pretty much the same for everyone - knitting into the front of the stitch is what gives it that wavy, bumpy appearance.

The typical size of needles is whatever you're comfortable to start.  Don't use something so small that you can't see what you're doing - only experienced knitters can knit without looking! 

For the very beginner, I recommend that you use US 7 or 8 (4.5 to 5 mm) and medium weight yarn (number 4).  I also recommend that you start with a light colored yarn.  Dark colors such as black or navy are difficult to see even in natural light.  

The yarn should be thick enough to not show all the holes - large needles with small sized yarn will make lace, which may be something you want if you're knitting a shawl but not for other projects.

Good projects to make with garter stitch are simple sweaters without much shaping, blankets, a dog sweater, and more.

Practice by making some squares of this stitch, to get the hang of casting on, and also casting off at the end.

It's really easy to pull this too tight, especially casting off.

TIP: use your samples and test swatches to sew into a blanket - the textures of all your tests will make a great project.

The Garter Stitch Characteristics

The garter stitch is the simplest of all the stich patterns used in knitting and is accomplished by knitting every row.  The front and the back of the garter stitch looks the same.  It will lay flat and will not curl on the sides which is a plus.

Use this stitch when you want something stretch,  when you want to create something which is reversible - both the wrong side and the front side look identical, and when you need the item to lay flat.

Circular knitting needles, a swatch of green knitted garter stitch and a ball of yarn.The Garter Stitch

Garter Stitch Directions

Step One

One short row of stitches has been cast onCasting on or the process of placing stitches on the needle is always the first step for any knitting project.

Start by casting on 16 stitches.  Hold the needle with the cast on stitches in your left hand and the empty needle where you will do your work in your right hand.

Place the piece of yarn under and to the back of the stitch you will make.

Shown are a pair of blue knitting needles beginning to be used in the garter stitch.

Step Two

Insert the tip of the right needle into the top loop of the stitch on the left needle.  Pass the right needle under the left needle so the tips form an X.  Wrap the yarn up and over the left needle and hold with your finger. 

The garter stitch is being demonstrated with a ball of blue yarn

Step Three

While holding the yarn with your left finger, carefully pull back slightly on the right needle and pick up the loop onto the right needle.  Bring the tip of the right needle forward and over the left needle. 

Step by step instructions for making the garter stitch.  Step 3

Step Four

Slip the "original" stitch off the tip of the left hand needle. The new stitch will be on the right hand needle.  This is one stitch.

Continue to do this until the last stitch is on the right hand needle. Switch hands so that all of the stitches are now on the left hand needle again.  Turn and Repeat, knitting each stitch until you reach the end of the row.

Garter stitch, last step of the process

How to count the stitches and rows in the garter stitch

This is likely the easiest stitches to count. Each little bump represents a stitch and each ridge represents 2 rows.

Pin for Future Reference

How to Knit the Garter Stitch, pinnable image
  1. Smart Fibre
  2. How to Knit
  3. Garter Stitch