Garter and Stockinette

This is part of a sometime series called Anatomy of a Knitted Stitch. This part is about Garter and Stockinette.

Garter and Stockinette

To long time knitters garter and stockinette are obvious and so ubiquitous.  We don’t even think about how confusing they can be to new knitters. Patterns will say “work 20 rows in garter” or “work 20 rounds in stockinette.”  Well, that’s great if you know what that means, but garter and stockinette rarely explained in patterns.  If garter and stockinette are new terms then you must look it up online. New knitters often ask me why the designer didn’t just tell them what to do!

The thing is, they have told you what to do!  And once you have been knitting for a while you don’t even think about it. You just KNOW.  But I think it’s good to review what we “KNOW” once in awhile to see if anything has changed or if there is more we can learn. So let’s talk about the old standbys – Garter and Stockinette.


Garter and Stockinette

Generally students learn the knit stitch first.

Most people learn to knit on straight needles.

This means they knit a row, then they turn their work and knit back, and so on.

This type of fabric is called garter stitch.

When you DO garter stitch you knit every row.

When you SEE garter stitch you see a knit row then a purl row, then a knit row.

Remember that every stitch is like a coin and has two sides.  If you work a knit stitch it shows up as a purl stitch on the back of your work. And vice versa.

Garter stitch is funny because from a distance it can look like all purl rows.  The purl stitch is kind of a bully. It will take over how your fabric looks and feels.

In Knits and Purls  I said “PURL stitches are a tiny, itsy bit larger than knit stitches.” That tiny bit of bigness is the purl bump hanging out the back of the stitch. When you knit in garter stitch you see a whole row of those bully bumps, then a row of the sedate and lessy bully-ish knit stitches, then back to the big bully purls – obviously the purls are going to show up more.

This isn’t really a bad thing because it makes garter stitch into a flat fabric.  Garter is alternate rows of knits and purls which balance each other out.  This balance allows the fabric you create to lay flat and not curl up or wrinkle.


Garter and Stockinette

If you only know how to knit you can only make Garter stitch.

However, once you learn how to purl you have a million more options.

The first and most common option is to create stockinette stitch.

As a beginner on straight needles, this means you knit a row, turn, and purl a row.

When you DO stockinette stitch you knit a row, then purl a row.

When you SEE stockinette stitch  you see rows and rows of knitted stitches only.

Stockinette stitch is probably the most common stitch fabric.  Stockinette has has two distinct sides.  The knit side is smooth and you only see knit stitches.  The purl side is only purl stitches.

Fashions Change

When I was growing up we thought the knit-only side was more “attractive” than the purl side.  Back then we thought the purl-only side, or “reverse stockinette” was less sophisticated.   Nowadays people are a bit less purl-prejudiced.  You can find whole sweaters made in reverse stockinette stitch!

Reverse stockinette stitch makes a great background for cables since the rougher texture of a solid purl background makes the smooth knitted cables stand out more.

I am a bit “knit-centric.”  I don’t like the look of reverse stockinette stitch on sweaters.  They make me itch to turn the garments “right side out.”  I guess I am old fashioned. I think the reverse stockinette fad has been brought about by people trying to innovate by putting the “wrong side” on the outside. It’s good to push the envelope, of course, but I prefer in general the “right side” of smooth knits, and the “wrong side” of purls for large swathes of fabric.

Stockinette is the stitch of choice for most color work, not all certainly, but most. Color work gets muddy on the purl side.  When you start using a different color the purl side of the stitch is half the old color and half the new color.  The knit side is generally more simplistic – one stitch, one color.


No, I am not talking about the grand Canadian sport.  Stockinette may be ubiquitous but it has one really big draw back.  It is NOT a balanced fabric.  By that I mean that because all the knits are on one side, and all the purls are on the other then the thuggish purls force the fabric to curl up at the bottom.

And, to make matters worse there is another type of curl in stockinette fabric.  You already know that PURL stitches are a tiny bit larger (meaning longer) than knit stitches, but additionally, KNIT stitches are a tiny bit WIDER than purl stitches. Which mean that at the side of the fabric it curls THE OTHER WAY! (Stockinette curls UP at the bottom, and curls BACK at the sides.)

This is why at the bottom of large swathes of stockinette (like a sweater for example) you will find a border – ribbing, seed, garter, etc. That is a balanced fabric so it lies flat and can act as an anchor.

Knitting in the Round

Keep in mind that your perspective changes when you are knitting in the round. To get the same look you have to DO different things.


  • When you SEE garter stitch you see a knit row then a purl row, then a knit row.
  • IN THE ROUND when you do garter stitch you must knit a round, then purl a round.
Garter and Stockinette


  • When you SEE stockinette stitch you see rows and rows of knitted stitches only.
  • IN THE ROUND when you DO stockinette stitch you knit every round.


Garter and Stockinette


It used to be that every students learned to knit on straight needles. This meant that they learned garter stitch right off the bat.  Then they learned purl stitches so they could create stockinette.  Nowadays some shops teach students to knit in the round. The students are told that all they need is the knit stitch.  I have met knitters who have been knitting for months, and never knew how to make a purl stitch.  These new knitters are often frustrated and annoyed.  They wonder what all the fuss is about because they find knitting boring. So sad!

Garter and Stockinette are easy and useful fabric types to use in your knitting.  And reverse stockinette is much more popular now for whole garments than it used to be.  Knowing how the stitches make the fabric work can help you make your project come out the way you want it to, or help you design something you can’t find a pattern for.

Click here to learn more about the Anatomy of Knitted Stitches!

Giveaway Day 2017 – Adele’s Legacy

Last Thursday was Giveaway Day 2017 at Lee M. Waid Elementary School in Rocky Mount, Virginia.  Giveaway Day was in Franklin County this year and next year we go back to Bedford County.

We handed out almost 400 sweaters, hats and scarves for Adele’s Legacy.  Unfortunately, the Adele’s Legacy website is down at the moment (doing a little reconstruction) so I thought I would share the  joy here! Check out all those happy smiling faces!  We sure do love to keep kids cozy!

All of the staff and employees of Lee Waid also got hats, and they have some pretty big smiles, too!

Special Thanks

Thanks to our photographer, Joe Ganiaris, who took the great pictures.

Thanks to all the ladies (both from Adele’s Legacy and from Lee Waid) who helped pass out the goodies!!

And super duper special thanks to the wonderful staff and teachers at Lee Waid who fed us breakfast, snacks, and a homemade hot lunch, as well as send us home with goodie bags.  (That had chocolate chip cookies in them – YUMMO!) We had such a lovely time! Thanks for treating us so well!









































































Newspaper Coverage

Franklin News Post




Little Joys

I always seem to get to those lucky conjunctions too late.  Being in the right place at the right time is one of the little joys of life, and of being a fiber enthusiast.

We have all seen the Facebook posts “Look what I found at my local Goodwill!” And there is the picture of the $6.000 loom they took home for $25.  Or the Instagram post “My kind neighbor just gifted me with fiber!” and the image of 10 lbs of luscious spin-worthy fiber just waiting to be loved.  Even though I am very happy with my looms, my wheels, and my level of acquisition in both fiber and yarn – there is still that little stab of “Drat. Why wasn’t I in the right place at the right time?”

Recently I have had  a confluence of my own little joys in the fiber world, and I wanted to share.  They are not excessive or unusual, but to me they are little joys of fiber and I am so very pleased!!

Blinding Joy

My mum and I don’t spend a great deal of time going to yard sales.  We have more than enough STUFF as it is! But occasionally one catches our eye and we venture in.  At a recent one we had pottered around and found a few tiny things each and were headed to the pay station when I suddenly saw some old blinds, sort of hidden off to the side.

I investigated and was thrilled.  They were the old fashioned wooden kind of blinds, about 4 foot long and perfect for placing between layers of warp on my large loom.  I asked the owner and she was clearly surprised, “Oh, you don’t want those I don’t have the hanger parts and one of them doesn’t even work.”  I said I was really going to tear them apart for the wooden slats anyway, and she shrugged and offered both to me for $1. SCORE!  There are about 80 of them, so I won’t ever have to worry about getting new ones! JOY!

Little Joys on the Edge

I have a great friend who lives in England.  We get together about once every three or four years and have grand adventures.  One of the great joys of her life is shopping, which I have to say, is not one of mine.  She can spend hours in a Walmart, Old Navy, or Eddie Bauer.  I get antsy after about 10 minutes.  In order to make sure we BOTH have fun, one of the adventures we often plan are antique stores.  We both enjoy them and can spend time together, shopping, without me wanting to hurt someone!

During her last trip we were in one of those antique malls that has dozens of small booths all owned by different people.  In the last booth, of the last shop I found some joy.  Knitting on the Edge, a lovely book by Nicky Epstein that I had always wanted!  It was a bit water damaged, but totally readable and at a criminal charge of 25 cents I took it with great happiness!  Knitting books are one of those things that I often tell myself I don’t need, and to be honest don’t use very often. But when you do need one, there is nothing more inspiring and more joyful than a book full of pictures of knitting!

Niddy Noddy Luck

Then just last week a ranger at Booker T. Washington National Monument‘s Fall Harvest Festival messaged me through FB and asked me if I could identify this item in the pictures. I explained that it was a niddy noddy. A tool used by spinners and knitters to create skeins.

I check my phone later to see if she needed more info and a lot had happened in my absence.  The ranger had said that the woman was looking for a good home for the niddy noddy.  It had belonged to her mother, and she though it was handmade by her grandfather.  My ranger friend had spoken to another friend who was in the area.  She had agreed to stop by and pick it up, and deliver it to me when she saw me at the Ferrum Festival. Wow!  Such super people!!  It’s beautiful, the wood is silky smooth and the color is lovely.

I may not always feel like it, or appreciate it but I really am in the right place, at the right time, MOST of the time. And I appreciate the little joys that happen along the way.