‘Nothing lasts forever’ is one of the oldest phrases. It may be true, but some things can last pretty long. Knitting is an ancient technique of creating fabric with two needles and yarn that never goes out of trend. Maybe we’ll stop knitting one day, but at the moment knitting stitches are popular as ever. From our grannies to celebrities such as Meryl Streep, Krysten Ritter, Demi Lovato, and Ryan Gosling, to name a few, everyone seems to love knitting these days.
However, if you’re just about to start knitting it can be daunting and confusing. If you take a short look at any of the knitting websites or booklets, you’ll see myriads of different knitting stitches. It must take forever to learn and master most of them, right? Well, no. Once you get the hang of a couple of basic stitches, you can take on countless projects and it’s pretty easy to upgrade from there. And basic stitches are pretty easy to learn as you will soon find out.
Basic Knitting Stitches and Patterns
Even though you may come across numerous stitch names, there are only two basic knitting stitches: knit stitch and purl stitch. Everything else is a combo of these two stitches. And strictly speaking, there are no more different stitches. Numerous combinations and variations of these basic stitches actually create various stitch patterns, that we usually refer to as stitches.
Knit Stitch and Purl Stitch
So, let’s see the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch. It all comes down to whether you create a loop from above or from below. If the former you have a purl stitch and if the later it’s a knit stitch. It is as simple as that. Even though they look different, they are similar. If you use knit stitches, when you turn the fabric out, it will appear as purl stitches on the backside and vice versa. Alternating between knit and purls in rows and wales will allow you many combinations to create various patterns.
So, just remember that all those fancy stitches that you may have heard of are stitch patterns even though we commonly call them stitches.
Garter knitting stitch is the most basic stitch pattern and it’s usually the first one to learn. You’ll create a garter stitch by simply knitting or purling every row. Purling every stitch is not very common, though. Because of the symmetry of its sides, it doesn’t tend to curl. It is stretchy and reversible. It’s as simple as it gets and it is great for making scarves, washcloths, blankets and other similar items.
Stockinette pattern is probably the most common one. It is also very simple. To create a stockinette stitch you need to alternate rows of knit stitches and purl stitches. You alternate row by row, so you get one knit row, the next one would be a purl row, and so on. This way you get a smooth front side with the characteristic ‘V’ shape appearance. The backside will be more ‘bumpy’. Stockinette pattern tends to curl on the edges. If you want to avoid curling you need to add an edging that prevents curling.
After you master the former stitches it’s time for an upgrade. Ribbing is a technique of alternating knitting and purling in the same row. It allows a variety of new combinations because you can use different alternating formulas. The most common forms are 1×1, 2×2, 3×3, 4×4, and 3×1. The numbers show a knit/purl ratio. For example, 2×2 rib means 2 knit stitches, then 2 purl stitches and continue. Following the same pattern in all rows will result in wales of knits and purls that alternate across the fabric.
Seed stitch is a little bit more complicated but still easy to do. To create a seed stitch you need to alternate knit and purl in every wale and every row. As a result, fabric lies flat, it is the same on both sides and it doesn’t curl. However, it is not as smooth as the stockinette knit stitch.
These basic knitting techniques or stitch patterns are enough to cover myriads of projects. For beginners, it allows a lot of possibilities to be creative while honing knitting skills. There’s no need to get ahead of yourself trying to master every possible stitch pattern. The more you polish your basic skills, the easier you’ll move on to the next level. Heck, you may even want to commit to some indie knitting projects such as yarn bombing!