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Four primary structures - plain, rib, interlock and purl - are the base structures from which all weft knitted fabrics and garments are derived. Each is composed of a different combination of face and reverse meshed stitches, knitted on a particular arrangement of needle beds. Each primary structure may exist alone, in a modified form with stitches other than normal cleared loops, or in combination with another primary structure in a garment-length sequence.

All weft knitted fabric is liable to unrove (unravel), or ladder, from the course knitted last, unless special 'locking courses' are knitted, or unless it is specially seamed or finished.

Plain is produced by the needles knitting as a single set, drawing the loops away from the technical back and towards the technical face side of the fabric.

Rib requires two sets of needles operating in between each other so that wales of face stitches and wales of reverse stitches are knitted on each side of the fabric.

Interlock was originally derived from rib but requires a special arrangement of needles knitting back-to-back in an alternate sequence of two sets, so that the two courses of loops show wales of face loops on each side of the fabric exactly in line with each other, thus hiding the appearance of the reverse loops.

Purl is the only structure having certain wales containing both face and reverse meshed loops. A garment-length sequence, such as a ribbed half-hose, is defined as purl, whereas smaller sections of its length may consist of plain and rib sections.

Although in the past structures of this type were knitted only on flat bed and double cylinder purl machines employing double-ended latch needles, electronically-controlled V-bed flat machines with rib loop transfer and racking facilities are now used.

  • Single-jersey machines can only produce one type of base structure.
  • Rib machines, particularly of the garment-making type, can produce sequences of plain knitting by using only one bed of needles.
  • Interlock machines can sometimes be changed to rib knitting.
  • Purl machines are capable of producing rib or plain knitting sequences by retaining certain needle arrangements during the production of a garment or other knitted article.

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