Stockinette stitch, known as stocking stitch in the UK, is one of the most popular knitting stitches you’re likely to come across in the knit-esphere, popping up in most patterns and appearing in your favorite knitwear from socks, hats, cushion covers and scarves. In patterns you might be more familiar with its abbreviation ‘st st’, short form for (you’ve guessed it) stockinette stitch.
Despite being absolutely everywhere, people often neglect to explain what the stockinette stitch actually is or mention it by its full name! If you’re a knitting newbie the mere mention of st st might have you scratching your head, so let us give you a quick rundown on what it means to stockinette stitch and how you can create it step-by-step.
Back to basics
If you’ve learnt your basic knit stitch you’ve probably already mastered the classic garter stitch, which sees knit stitch repeated for every row, creating a fabric that is both stretchy and textured.
Although less common, people often refer to repeated purl stitch on every row as garter stitch too. But we would advise knitting your garter stitch unless clearly instructed otherwise.
If classic garter stitch is ticked off your ‘to do’ list and you’ve begun to purl, stockinette stitch is the next knitting technique to master.
What is stockinette stitch?
Stockinette stitch is where you knit one entire row, and then purl an entire row, and then repeat. The result is a wonderful even flat texture made up of those gorgeous stacked ‘v’ shaped stitches on the ‘right’ (or ‘front’) side of the fabric. The ‘wrong’ or ‘back’ side of the fabric has yarny river like ridges which tend to curl.
Right side (or ‘front’ side)
Wrong side (the 'back' side)
How to stockinette stitch step-by-step
First row. Tie a slip knot and cast on the number of stitches you'd like to knit. Knit one row, by inserting the tip of the right needle into the stitches cast onto the left needle, knitwise.
Second row. When you come to the end of your knitted row, swap hands so the needle containing the knitted stitches is in your left hand. Now purl an entire row, by inserting the tip of the right hand needle purlwise into the stitches in your left hand needle.
Third row. After you have purled an entire row, it's time to knit again.
Repeat knit and purl alternate rows to build your stockinette stitch fabric, and watch your beautiful 'v' rows emerge in all their glory!
If you’re perfecting your stitches, we’d recommend using a chunky yarn so that you can easily see every stitch and keep track of your progress. It’s easier to spot blips when you’ve got a nice thick yarn!
Where did stockinette stitch originate?
Most knitting-muggles will recognize the stockinette stitch as a ‘classic’ knitting stitch. For us knitters, stockinette stitch gets its name from early knitting artefacts dating back to the thirteenth and fourteenth century, which saw this characteristically stretchy stitch used to create stockings and sock-heels.
How stockinette stitch can be used today
As a classic stitch, stockinette stitch is not only used for basic or beginner knitting projects. In fact the classic flat texture is a perfect basic stitch to experiment with colorwork and intarsia. Advanced knitting designs often combine the stockinette stitch with more complex stitches, from seed stitch to romantic lace, for playfulness and character.