The Stockinette Stitch

by Janice Jones     |Published 02-14-2021

The Stockinette stitch or stocking stitch (Abbreviated St st) is one of those basic knit stitches that all beginners learn early on. Still, it is also a versatile stitch that is found in a variety of various projects.  

How to Create the Stockinette Stitch

Stockinette Stitch on Knitting Needles

I promise you; this is easy.  It can be done on any number of cast-on stitches and follows a two-row pattern:

Row One:  Knit the Row

Row Two:  Purl the Row

Repeat this pattern for as many rows as you need.

That’s it!

Right and Wrong Sides of the Stockinette

Take a look at the two photos below.  The first is a photo of the right side of the fabric. 

All stitches form little “v’s.”  It looks similar to the garter stitch or the purl stitch on the wrong side of the material if one were to purl all rows. 

Since both sides look very different, it is easy to tell the difference between the two.

Right Side of the Stockinette StitchRight Side
Wrong side of the stockinette stitchWrong Side

Flat versus Circular Stockinette Stitch

You can knit the stocking stitch with straight needles creating a flat piece of fabric, or work it in the round using circular needles.  There is just one big difference.

Stockinette Stitch Flat Knitting

Cast on the required number of stitches

Row 1:  Knit

Row 2: Purl

Repeat rows 1 & 2 until the desired length is reached.

Stockinette Stitch Using Circular Needles

If you are going to making a project in the round and it calls for the stockinette stitch, the pattern is just a little different.  On circular needles where you are continuously knitting in the round, you will want to cast on the required number of stitches for your pattern.  

Add a stitch marker to show where the first round begins.

Begin knitting by knitting stitches from the left needle to the right.  You won't be purling at all.  The stockinette stitch on circular needles is made entirely by making the knit stitch.  After a few rows you will notice that the right side of your work looks like the stockinette stitch and the wrong side is the reverse stockinette stitch.  

The Stockinette stitch on circular needlesThe Stockinette stitch on circular needles is done entirely with knit stitches only.

The Reverse Stockinette Stitch

The Reverse Stockinette Stitch will produce the fabric shown above as the wrong side of the stockinette stitch.   It can also be done in rows for a flat project or for working in the round.  The pattern is the same.

Cast on the required number of stitches.

Row 1 (RS) Purl.

Row 2 (RS) Purl.

Repeat rows 1 & 2 until the desired length is reached.

Does this remind you of the garter stitch?  

Many people don’t enjoy making an entire piece with purl stitches.  Most people will make the project in a typical stockinette pattern and then turn it inside out to avoid this.   

How to Count Rows and Stitches 

Counting stitches in stockinetteHow to count stitches in the stockinette stitch pattern

You can count rows and stitches on either the right or the wrong side of the fabric.

Right Side:  Each little “V” is one stitch.  With the right side facing you, count each row of v’s

Wrong Side:  Each little bump is one stitch;  Count one ridge as two rows.

Problems with the Stockinette Stitch:  

All Errors Are Easy to Spot

Errors Show Readily with the Stockinette Stitch:  The stockinette stitch can show errors easily, such as a dropped stitch or a change in tension.  Mistakes can be a good thing because it forces you to go back and pick up a dropped stitch.

Uneven Stitches

For the beginner, creating an even tension can be challenging and any differences will show up immediately with the stockinette stitch.

For beginners, tension can be inconsistent between the purl and knit rows where one or the other is worked too tight or too loose.  You will be able to see the size differences when examining stitches. 

Tension is challenging to master when you are starting.  You might find yourself making either the knit or the purl row tighter.  You can compensate for this by using two needles of different sizes. 

If you see you are knitting too tightly, adjust by using a slightly larger needle.  If your knitting is loose, you can use a smaller needle.  

Uneven Row Edges

Uneven Rows or elongated stitches at the end of the rows is another beginner challenge.  This normally happens when the yarn is either too tight or too loose at the beginning and ending of rows.     Pulling the yarn tighter at the beginning or end of the row will solve this problem.  But with that said, you will want to practice so that the yarn is tight but no so tight that the needle can not slide easily under the stitch.

The Edges Curl

One of the most significant issues with the stockinette stitch is that the edges tend to curl, but there are ways to get around.  Many beginners fear that they did something wrong, but that is not the case. 

Tension differences of these two stitches create that curling effect. A rolled neckline might be pretty, but you probably want the stockinette stitch to lay flat for most projects.

How to Make the Stockinette Stitch Lay Flat

Add a Border

One way to create a flat piece of fabric is to create a border around the stockinette stitch.  Common borders include using a garter stitch, a seed stitch, or a form of a ribbing stitch.

Garter Stitch Border

Cast on an even number of stitches and then add six.  

Row 1 – 4:  Knit

Row 4:  Knit 3, purl till last three stitches, K 3

Row 5:  Knit 

Repeat Rows 4 and 5 until you reach your desired length

Last 3 rows:  Knit and bind off.

Seed Stitch Border

This creates a nice border around the stockinette stitch and allows the finished piece to lay flat

Cast on an even number of stitches and then add 8 stitches.

Rows 1 -4 in Seed Stitch

Seed Stitch Pattern

Row 1:  K1, P1 till end of row

Row 2-4:  Knit in the Purl stitches and Purl in the Knit Stitches

Row 5:  K1, P1 K to within last four stitches, then K1 P1

Row 6:  P1, K1 to within last four stitches then P1, P1

Repeat rows 5 and 6 until desired length.

Last four rows:  Repeat Rows 1-4

Blocking

You may be able to achieve a flatter fabric, but blocking is a temporary fix and would need to be repeated after the fabric is washed.

Fabric Backing

Some experts will tell you to sew a fabric backing.  In my opinion, fabric backing doesn’t always work for most projects. 

What Can You Do With the Stockinette Stitch?

Once you get the hang of the stockinette stitch, you will find that this is likely the most straightforward stitch pattern to make.  You’ll find that knitting the stockinette stitch will become so easy that you won’t even need to pay attention to what you are doing.  This makes it an ideal stitch to do while watching TV or while traveling.

The stockinette stitch is perfect if you want to work in colors or add stripes.  You can even do embroidery over stitches or add beads or other embellishments. More advanced stitch patterns such as cables or other textured stitches are also worked alongside the stockinette creating a nice contrast with the flat stockinette.

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