How Many Different Types of Knit Stitches Are There?

Types of Knit Stitches by Janice Jones 

Have you ever wondered how many types of knit stitches you must master to consider yourself an experienced knitter?  When I first learned to knit, I was quite happy to master the garter and stockinette pattern and didn’t think about everything I didn’t know.  That was when I was a child and didn’t know better.

The truth is, there are only two types of knit stitches:  The Knit and Purl Stitches.  Once you master these two stitches, you can make anything.  Well, maybe not at once, but just about every type of stitch pattern or technique incorporates these two stitches and there are many of them.  

The Knit Stitch (Garter Pattern)

Garter knit stitch worked in gold yarnThe knit stitch

Learn How to make the Knit Stitch

The Purl Stitch (Reverse Stockinette)

Purl stitch swatch also known as reverse stockinette worked in white yarnThe Purl Stitch (Reverse Stockinette)

Learn How to make the Purl Stitch

How are Knitting Stitches Classified?

We can classify different knit patterns in various ways. You will see stitches grouped by the number of stitches or row repeats, how the stitches look, or the knitting tradition where the stitches originated (Fair Isle, in Scotland).

On this website, I am categorizing these different techniques based on difficulty, appearance, and traditions.

Here are the categories:

1. Knits and Purl Stitches

Right side of the knitted rice stitch in a closeup viewRice Stitch (Knit and Purl Stitch)

All the stitches in this group are made with just knits and purls, so the beginner should be able to master these stitches without the need to learn other techniques. These are the easiest of all stitches, but just because they are easy does not detract from the lovely textures they can create.

Go to My Knit and Purl Stitches Glossary

2. Rib Stitches

The right side showing of the interrupted rib knit stitch patternRib Stitch

The rib stitch is a stretchy, textured knit pattern created by alternating knit and purl stitches within the same row. Due to its elastic properties, it is commonly used for cuffs and necklines.

The most basic ribbing patterns include 1x1 rib stitch and 2x2 rib stitch, which refer to the number of knit stitches versus the number of purl stitches. There are many different rib stitches and most are easy for beginning knitters.

Visit my Rib Stitches Page

3. Reversible Stitches

An example of a reversible knit stitch

This category helps beginning knitters who want to make something that will show on the front and back such as a blanket or scarf. 

These stitches can be knits and purls, rib stitches, textured, or lace, and still be reversible. The only thing that stands out for reversible stitches is that they look great on both sides.

Check out my Directory of Reversible Stitches

4. Eyelet and Lace Stitches

An example of a knit lace stitch

Lace knitting involves creating patterns with open, decorative holes by pairing yarn overs (increases) with decreases. This method allows for the creation of complex, delicate patterns often reminiscent of lace fabric.

Due to its intricate nature, lace knitting is more suited to advanced knitters, but there are plenty of easy lace or eyelet patterns that beginners can tackle.  Lace patterns can be used in shawls, tops, or as decorative edges on various projects.

Reference:  Lace and Eyelet Stitches 

Learn more about Lace and Eyelets

5. Cable Stitches

A swatch of the xoxo knit cable pattern worked in pink wool yarnAn example of a cable stitch (XOXO)

Cable stitches are a technique used to create twisting or braiding patterns within the knit fabric. This is done by placing a few stitches on a cable needle to hold them at the front or back of the work, while other stitches are knitted.

The reserved stitches are then knitted, creating a twist or braid. Cables can vary in complexity from simple twists to intricate designs involving multiple stitches. They are a popular choice for sweaters and cardigans, offering a classic, textured look. Most cable stitches are complex but a few are easy for beginners to tackle.

Reference: Cables & Arans: 250 Stitches to Knit

Learn more about Cables

6. Slip Stitches

An example of a slip stitch pattern in knittingAn example of a slip stitch pattern (Linen Stitch)

The slipstitch knitting technique involves slipping a stitch from the left needle to the right needle without knitting it. This can be used for colorwork or to create extra texture in the fabric.

Slip stitches can be combined with knit and purl stitches to form interesting patterns and textures. This type of stitch is often used in multi-color knitting projects like scarves and blankets, where simple color changes can have a dramatic effect.

Visit my page all about Slip Stitches

7. Mosaic Knitting

Mosaic knitting, a method known for its colorful, geometric patterns created with slip stitches, was popularized by Barbara G. Walker in the 1970s.

Unlike other multicolor knitting techniques, which often involve managing several strands of yarn, mosaic knitting allows the knitter to use only one color in each row. This simplicity, combined with the intricate designs that can be achieved, makes mosaic knitting particularly accessible and appealing.

The technique employs slip stitches to create patterns, skipping the work of some stitches on the needles while the yarn is still at the back of the work or sometimes in front, depending on the pattern.

This approach allows two colors to be effectively used in creating detailed designs without actually needing to carry both yarns along each row.

While the concept of slipping stitches is likely much older, it was Walker’s development and naming of the method as "mosaic knitting" in her seminal four-volume “A Treasury of Knitting Patterns” that standardizes and celebrates the technique in the modern knitting community.

Her work extensively explored and expanded the possibilities of this method, providing knitters with a new array of pattern choices and creative potential.

8. Intarsia

An example of intarsia showing a red heart on the background of white.

Intarsia knitting is a technique for incorporating areas of color in a knitting project without carrying yarn across the back of the work, as seen in stranded knitting. This method involves using separate bobbins or balls of yarn for each color block.

Intarsia is particularly effective for large, intricate designs that feature solid blocks of color, such as geometric patterns or pictorial motifs. The technique allows for detailed imagery without the bulk or tension issues that can come from stranding too many colors across a row.

Perfect for creating everything from colorful children's sweaters to detailed artistic throws, intarsia knitting enables knitters to express their creativity through vibrant, eye-catching designs.

Intarsia knitting has a rich history that spans several centuries and cultures, though its precise origins are not clearly defined.

The name "intarsia" itself is derived from an Italian woodworking technique that uses various shapes, sizes, and types of wood fitted together to create a mosaic-like image.

This woodworking technique was popular during the Renaissance in Italy, which suggests a similarly intricate approach to knitting may have developed around that time, or possibly earlier.

9. Stranded Colorwork (Fair Isle, Scandinavian)

An example of a Fair Isle Knitting pattern in white and blue

Stranded knitting is a technique used to create patterns with multiple colors. In stranded knitting, two or more colors are used on a single row, and the yarn not currently in use is carried along the back of the work, or "stranded," hence the name.

Stranded knitting, also commonly known as Fair Isle knitting, has a rich and storied history that extends back several centuries.

Although stranded knitting is now practiced worldwide, its origins are most closely associated with the Fair Isle, a tiny island in the Shetland archipelago in Scotland. The name "Fair Isle" became synonymous with the multicolored, patterned knitwear that is produced using this technique.

Fair Isle knitting gained widespread attention in the early 20th century when the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) wore Fair Isle sweaters to public events. This endorsement by royalty caused the popularity of this style to skyrocket, leading to its embrace by knitters across the globe.

Stranded knitting is not only limited to Scotland. Similar techniques can be found in various cultures around the world, such as in Scandinavian and Baltic countries, each adding its own traditional motifs and stylistic preferences to the craft.

Today, stranded knitting is celebrated not just for its aesthetic appeal but also for its cultural significance, preserving a link to the rich history and tradition of the communities where it originated.

10. Twisted Stitches

twisted-stitch-sample.jpg

The twisted knit stitch is a variation of the basic knit stitch that produces a textured, elongated stitch with a crisp, defined appearance. This effect is achieved by knitting through the back loop of the stitch instead of the front loop.

When you knit through the back loop, the stitch twists on itself, creating a tighter and more prominent stitch than the standard knit stitch. Though normally considered a mistake, the twisted knit stitch is excellent for adding visual interest and texture to a fabric. It's often used in ribbing for cuffs and necklines, where its elastic and firm texture helps keep shape and snugness.

Additionally, it can be incorporated into various knitting patterns to highlight certain areas or details, such as in cables or in the borders of knitted items like scarves and hats.

11. Double Knitting

Double knitting is a unique technique in which two layers of fabric are knit simultaneously on one set of needles, resulting in a piece that has two right sides.

This method is excellent for creating items like scarves, coasters, or potholders that are reversible, often featuring mirrored or complementary color work on each side.

The technique involves alternating stitches for each layer, often using two contrasting yarn colors for better visual effects.

Double knitting can also create a thicker, warmer fabric, making it ideal for colder-weather accessories. This technique not only doubles the thickness but also offers endless creative possibilities in design and color management.

12. Textured

A collage of textured knit stitches

Textured knitting stitches add depth and interest to knitted fabrics by creating raised patterns or designs that stand out from the background. Common textured stitches include the bobble stitch, which produces small, round protrusions, or the popcorn stitch, which results in larger, textured puffs.

Techniques such as cabling, twist stitches, or slip stitch patterns can also be used to add texture by manipulating how stitches are knit in relation to each other.

Textured stitches are particularly admired in items where tactile appeal is important, such as cozy blankets, thick winter scarves, or plush sweaters, providing both visual embellishment and a unique touch sensation.

These kinds of stitches can transform a simple knitting project into something spectacular and sophisticated, showcasing the knitter's skill and creativity.

Check out my page on Textured Knitting Stitches

13. Entrelac

Entrelac knitting is a unique technique that creates a textured diamond pattern resembling woven baskets. Unlike traditional knitting methods, entrelac is worked in interconnected squares and rectangles, built row by row.

The exact origins of entrelac knitting are not clearly documented, which has led to speculation and varied claims about its start. Some knitting historians suggest that Entrelac may have roots in the Middle Ages, possibly evolving from earlier knitting traditions in Europe. Yet, there isn't concrete evidence in knitting artifacts or patterns to firmly show this link to medieval or ancient textiles.

The technique creates a textured, woven fabric composed of interconnected squares and diamonds, achieved through knitting small blocks of stitches that build upon each other in a tiered fashion. Despite its complex appearance, each block is worked using basic knitting techniques, making it accessible once the method is understood.

Entrelac knitting gained more prominent recognition and became popularized in the latter half of the 20th century. It often appears to be inspired by or resemble various weaving patterns found globally, which might suggest a cross-cultural development or evolution of the technique influenced by different textile techniques.

Each segment is knit separately, and stitches are picked up along the edges of the earlier section to connect them smoothly. This produces a patchwork of tilted blocks that can create stunning visual effects, especially when using variegated yarns.

While Entrelac may appear complex, it primarily involves basic knitting techniques, making it accessible even to those relatively new to knitting. The resulting fabric has a rich texture that is ideal for blankets, bags, scarves, and other projects where a striking, dimensional look is desired.

Reference:  Entrelac: The Essential Guide to Interlace Knitting

How Many Types of Knit Stitches Are There?

If you've read this far, you are still interested in a number.  I don't think there is an answer to that because knitters continue to come up with new stitch patterns.  Barbara Walker is probably the most prolific writer of knit stitch patterns, completing a four-volume collection of knitting stitches.  The Harmony Guide Series is also a great resource for knitting.

A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara Walker

Conclusion

Knitting offers a rich variety of stitches, each with its own unique properties and aesthetic qualities. From the simple garter and stockinette stitches to the more complex cable and lace stitches, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Whether you're a beginner looking to broaden your skills or an experienced knitter exploring new textures and effects, mastering different types of knit stitches can greatly enhance the enjoyment and outcome of your knitting projects.

By understanding and using these different stitches, knitters can expand their repertoire and embark on crafting creations as limitless as their own imagination.

The art of knitting not only results in beautiful, functional pieces but also provides a sense of relaxation and accomplishment. So, grab your needles, select your yarn, and start exploring the wonderful world of knit stitches!

Types of Knit Stitches: 
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Knitting on circular and balls of yarn shown on a pin imageTypes of Knit Stitches: Pin for Later

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About Janice

Hi, I’m Janice, the voice behind Smart-Knit-Crocheting. I love to knit and crochet and even more, I love teaching others what I know.

Though I learned to knit and crochet as a child, I didn’t get serious about these amazing hobbies until I retired. I’m a certified knit and crochet instructor through the Craft Yarn Council and am working on becoming a Master Hand Knitter through The Knitting Guild Association.

I’m currently living with my husband of over 50 years and our 7 Shih Tzu dogs.

I love hearing from you, so please drop me a line and let me know what you’re working on, whether you love knitting or crocheting more, and if you have any questions. Please visit my about me page for more information.


Happy Crocheting