Stocking stitch (stockinette stitch) for beginners: all you need to know

This versatile fabric forms the basis of most knitting and is easy to make using knit and purl stitches. Follow our guide to learn how it's done…

Stockinette stitch (stocking stitch)

What is stocking stitch?

After garter stitch, the next stitch pattern for you to master is stocking stitch. This is the most commonly used pattern in knitting. In this guide we’ll explain:

Below is an example of what stocking stitch fabric looks like. On the wrong side of the fabric, it looks similar to garter stitch, but the wavy bumps are much closer together. On the right side of the fabric, all the stitches form ‘V’ shapes. Knowing whether you’re working a right side or wrong side row is vital to making sure you complete a pattern correctly.

Stockinette stitch (stocking stitch) knit and purl sides
The right side of stocking stitch (left) has knit Vs and the wrong side (right) has purl bumps.

Stocking stitch has the knitting abbreviation ‘st st’ and is sometimes called stockinette stitch, especially in the US. It’s simple to create and is the style everyone associates with knitwear. Stocking stitch makes a smooth, flexible fabric, perfect for toys or softly draping jumpers. Fabric knitted in stocking stitch is also perfect for baby knits because it washes well, it’s warm and it has no loops where tiny fingers and toes could get caught.

Stocking stitch (stockinette stitch) fabric
Stocking stitch (or stockinette stitch in the US) is a smooth fabric with a soft drape.

Why not practise making stocking stitch fabric using our instructions below, then have a go at one of our easy beginner knitting patterns?

How to knit stocking stitch

To work stocking stitch, you simply knit all the stitches of one row, then purl all the stitches of the next row, then knit a row, then purl a row, and so on, alternating rows of knit and purl. Here’s what the pattern looks like written out:

Cast on required number of stitches.

Row 1 (RS) Knit.

Row 2 (WS) Purl.

Repeat rows 1 & 2 until desired length is reached.

How to knit stocking stitch in the round

When you’re working in the round the right side of the fabric is always facing you, so to create stocking stitch you just knit every row. No purl stitches needed! Here’s the pattern for stocking stitch in the round:

Cast on required number of stitches.

Row 1 (RS) Knit.

Row 2 (RS) Knit.

Repeat rows 1 & 2 until desired length is reached.

What is reverse stocking stitch?

Sometimes patterns ask you to use reverse stocking stitch (abbreviated as ‘rev st st’). Put simply, this is where the side with the wavy bumps becomes the right side. This creates a totally different look that’s very popular.

Reverse stockinette and cable cushion
Reverse stocking stitch is used in this cable cushion by Sarah Winsper from Simply Knitting 183.

When you’re working reverse stocking stitch, you’ll start with a purl row, rather than a knit row, like this:

Cast on required number of stitches.

Row 1 (RS) Purl.

Row 2 (WS) Knit.

Repeat rows 1 & 2 until desired length is reached.

How to knit reverse stocking stitch in the round

To work reverse stocking stitch in the round you need to purl every row. Here’s the pattern:

Cast on required number of stitches.

Row 1 (RS) Purl.

Row 2 (RS) Purl.

Repeat rows 1 & 2 until desired length is reached.

Don’t like purling? Try working regular stocking stitch in the round (by knitting every row) and then turning your work inside out when you’ve finished!

How to count rows in stocking stitch

Advertisement

You Will Need

  • Knitting needles
  • Yarn

Step 1

Identifying knit and purl stitches

Stocking stitch knit and purl stitches

Not sure which stitch to start with when working regular stocking stitch? If the smooth side with the Vs is facing you (shown here on the left) then you’re looking at the right side and you need to work a knit row.

If the side with the wavy bumps is facing you (shown here on the right) then you’re looking at the wrong side and you’ll need to work a purl row.

Step 2

Counting knit and purl rows

Stocking stitch knit and purl rows

To count rows in stocking stitch, either count each row of Vs on the knit side (as shown left) or the top bumps of the ridges on the purl side (as shown right).

Advertisement

Why is my knitting curling?

Have you noticed that your stocking stitch fabric always wants to curl up? Don’t worry – you’re not doing anything wrong. It’s just the way stocking stitch is! Knit and purl stitches are slightly different sizes, and this means that any knitted fabric which has all the knit stitches on one side and all the purl stitches on the other (like stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch) will roll.

For this reason it’s best not to use stocking stitch for narrow knitting, such as scarves, because you’ll end up with a tube. It’s also not a good idea to use it at the edge of a garment, for example, unless a curled-up hem is the look you’re going for.

How to stop stockinette stitch curling

While the curl of stocking stitch can be an attractive design feature, it’s incredibly frustrating if your fabric starts to roll up when you don’t want it to. The easiest way to prevent stocking stitch from curling is to stop it from happening in the first place – by adding a border using a stitch pattern that lies flat.

Any pattern where the knit and purl stitches are fairly evenly distributed on each side of the fabric will work for this purpose. One of the most popular options is ribbing, which also has the advantage of being stretchy so it’s perfect for hems and cuffs. If you’re handy with a crochet hook or want a decorative border, you could add a crochet edge to prevent curling instead. Here are a few different stitches to try:

But what if you’ve already cast off your project? Unfortunately it’s a lot harder to fix curling fabric after the fact, but there are a few things that can help:

1. Blocking

Crochet_essentials_Blocking
Use your blocking kit to temporarily prevent stocking stitch from curling.

Blocking your knitting is incredibly effective for flattening lace and smoothing cables, but it will have a limited effect on stocking stitch, and what effect it does have will be temporary. The exception is projects made in acrylic yarn, which can be ‘killed’ by heating with an iron. This will flatten out that pesky stocking stitch roll, though it also changes the look and feel of the fabric, so do a swatch and proceed with caution!

2. Adding a border

Free scarf knitting pattern
This directional blocks scarf has a stocking stitch centre and garter stitch border.

Another option is to pick up stitches around the edge of your finished item and add a knitted or crocheted border using one of the stitches given above. Be aware that the border will need to be at least 2½cm wide, so may affect the finished look and fit of your piece. Decorative additions such as tassels and fringes can also help add weight and prevent curling.

3. Sewing a fabric lining

Stocking stitch straps with fabric lining
This bag from Simply Knitting issue 187 uses a fabric lining to keep its stocking stitch straps flat.

Backing your knit with a fabric lining is a good way to stop it from rolling up, and if you use a patterned fabric it can be really effective visually too. Knit up a swatch using leftover yarn and try out a few different options (cotton, fleece, felt and so on) to see what works best for your project.

4. Leaving it alone

If all else fails, there’s always our favourite fallback for so many knitting mistakes: leave it be and call it a design decision. No one will ever know…

Don’t miss our complete guide to knitting for beginners for everything you need to know to start knitting!

More knitting stitches

Learning to knit? We have guides to all the basic stitches you need to know, including…

Garter stitch bow pattern