Stockinette stitch

When you alternate a knit row with a purl row (knit the first row, purl the second, knit the third, purl the fourth, and so on), you create stockinette stitch (abbreviated St st); see Figure 5-2. You see stockinette stitch everywhere: in scarves, socks, sweaters, blankets, hats — you name it. In fact, most beginning and intermediate designs incorporate stockinette stitch.

In written knitting instructions, stockinette stitch appears like this (if you're unfamiliar with the abbreviations, refer to Chapter 3):

Rep Rows 1 and 2 for desired length.

Stockinette fabric looks and behaves in a particular way; to successfully incorporate this stitch into your knitting repertoire, pay attention to the following:

I Stockinette stitch has a right and a wrong side (though, of course, either side may be the "right" side depending on the intended design). The right side is typically the smooth side, called stockinette or knit. On this side, the stitches look like small Vs (see Figure 5-3). The bumpy side of stockinette stitch fabric, shown in Figure 5-4, is called reverse stockinette or purl.

If you're working in stockinette stitch and you lose track of whether you knit the last row or purled it, not to worry. You can tell what to do next by looking at your knitting. Hold your needles in the ready-to-knit position (with the LH needle holding the stitches to be worked) and look at what's facing you. If you're looking at the knit (smooth) side, you knit. If you're looking at the purl (bumpy) side, you purl.

I Stockinette fabric curls on the edges. The top and bottom (horizontal) edges curl toward the front or smooth side. The side (vertical) edges roll toward the bumpy side. Sweater designers frequently use this rolling feature deliberately to create rolled hems or cuffs, and you can create easy cords or straps simply by knitting a very narrow (say, 4 or 6 stitches across) band in stockinette stitch.

But when you want the piece to lie flat, you need to counteract this tendency by working the 3 or 4 stitches on the edge in some stitch that lies flat (like garter stitch, discussed in the preceding section, or seed stitch, discussed in the next section).

Figure 5-3:

Stockinette stitch showing the knit (or smooth) side.

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  • i t i * k * i y i * i * i ▼ i * * t k * , t il
  • i t i * k * i y i * i * i ▼ i * * t k * , t il

Figure 5-3:

Stockinette stitch showing the knit (or smooth) side.

To figure out the gauge of a swatch knitted in stockinette stitch, count the bumps from the wrong side. They're easier to see than the Vs on the smooth side.

The names garter stitch and stockinette stitch date from the 1500s, when hand-knit stockings were a major industry in England. Garter stitch was used at the top of the stocking where it needed to expand for the thigh, and stockinette (or stocking stitch) was used for the fitted leg portion.

Figure 5-4:

Reverse stockinette showing the purl (or bumpy) side.

Figure 5-4:

Reverse stockinette showing the purl (or bumpy) side.

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