Garter stitch for beginners: how to knit garter stitch

It may be the first, and simplest, stitch pattern you’ll learn, but you can do a lot with garter stitch! We'll show you how it's done, and more…

Garter stitch bow pattern

What is garter stitch?

Knitters describe the specific patterned effect created on the knitted fabric as a ‘stitch pattern’. If you knit every stitch on every row, back and forth, you’ll create what’s called a garter stitch pattern, or a piece of garter stitch fabric. You’ll see that the pattern creates rows of wavy bumps.

Garter stitch knitting
This is what garter stitch knitted fabric looks like – lots of bumps and v-shapes!

Garter stitch looks the same on both sides so it can be reversible. The wavy bumps are nicely spaced out, with rows of small ‘v’ shapes sitting in between each row of bumps.

Garter stitch fabric is very easy to create and is the first stitch pattern that every new knitter works. It’s sometimes accused of being boring, but garter stitch is actually very versatile. Also known as plain knitting, garter stitch can be used for borders and hems on garments, as well as for edgings on large pieces like throws and blankets. It’s also super-cute for baby knits.

Garter stitch (knitting abbreviation ‘g st’) creates a thick fabric with good drape – it tends to lie flat rather than curling up at the edges like stocking stitch. This means it’s really useful for scarves or scarf edges, and won’t roll up.

Garter stitch is also fab when knitting with textured yarns like fur, fleece or eyelash yarn. The pile is so dense that it’s hard to tell what stitch you’ve used, so you can get great results with just the quick knit stitch!

Once you’ve practised working the knit stitch to make garter stitch fabric, have a go at our simple garter stitch cowl pattern.

Main image: Garter Bow by Becky Skuse from Beginner’s Guide to Knitting 2019

How to knit garter stitch

To work garter stitch you need to knit every row, working back and forth on two needles. Simple! Here it is written out:

Cast on required number of stitches.

Row 1 (RS) Knit.

Row 2 (WS) Knit.

Repeat rows 1 & 2 until desired length is reached.

Any instructions you see that tell you to “work in garter stitch/g st” just mean to knit every row, as above.

How to knit garter stitch in the round

Working garter stitch in the round on circular or double-pointed needles is slightly different, because the right side of the work is always facing you. Here’s the pattern:

Cast on required number of stitches.

Row 1 (RS) Knit.

Row 2 (RS) Purl.

Repeat rows 1 & 2 until desired length is reached.

How to count garter stitch rows

Being able to count your rows is a very useful skill, as it lets you work out where you are in your pattern without having to use a row counter or write down what you’ve done so far. To be able to count rows in garter stitch, first you need to be able to identify the different parts of the fabric.

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Step 1

One stitch

Garter stitch single stitch

Each stitch forms a loop that goes around and through a stitch on the row below.

 

Step 2

Purl bumps

Garter stitch purl bump

The little lumpy bits in garter stitch are sometimes referred to as purl bumps, especially on US patterns.

Step 3

Two rows of garter stitch

Garter stitch ridges

This is what two rows of garter stitch look like. One row has the wavy bumps, the other row has small ‘v’ shapes.

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When you need to count rows in garter stitch, you can use the ridges with wavy bumps and remember that each one of these represents two rows of knitting.

Garter stitch blanket pattern

A garter stitch blanket is the perfect beginner pattern, and a great way to turn all those practice squares into something useful! Use the size of needles recommended on your yarn’s ball band and cast on enough stitches to create a 10cm square – the tension given on the ball band will tell you how many you need. If you’re using DK yarn, use 4mm needles and about 22 stitches to make a 10cm square. For a garter stitch square, knit every row until you have a square shape. In DK yarn this should be about 28 rows. When you have as many squares as you want, sew them together to create your blanket.

Garter stitch blanket square pattern for DK yarn

Cast on 22 sts.

Row 1 Knit.

Row 2 Knit.

Repeat rows 1 & 2 until you have worked 28 rows.

Cast off.

Make 16, 25 or 36 squares, or number needed to achieve the desired size, and sew together using mattress stitch or back stitch and matching yarn.

Why not knit up a square or two of each stitch pattern you practise making, using different colours if you want to, then sew them all together to make a gorgeous throw or blanket? We have lots of free moss stitch, rib stitch and lace knitting patterns for you to choose from! As you build up more squares, your cosy throw will become a great stitch pattern reference guide.

Learn more basic knitting techniques with our complete guide to knitting for beginners.

Learn how to knit

Take up a rewarding new hobby with our beginner’s guides to knitting. Here are some of the things you’ll need to know:

How to cast off knitting step 1