Stockinette stitch is one of the most popular stitches in knitting. And probably the oldest one – the oldest knit artefact found by archaeologists (“Coptic sock”) is dated back to around 11th century CE and is knit in stockinette.
We all use this stitch from time to time, and we would probably use it more often if not for the annoying tendency of stockinette to curl at all edges. The sides usually curl from the knit side to the purl side, and the top and bottom edges in the other direction, as you can clearly see in the photo below (and from your own knitting experience).
So how do we tweak stockinette stitch to stop it from curling? I found a very interesting solution in my favourite reference book (“The Principles of Knitting” by June Hemmons Hiatt), that not only eliminates curling, but also adds a beautiful texture to stockinette.
The improved texture solves another issue stockinette stitch has – it makes it more forgiving to mistakes. Now if you accidentally twist a stitch, or if your gauge is not even, it won’t show on the finished project. How amazing is that? 🙂
See for yourself the difference between the two stockinettes in the photo below (both swatches are NOT blocked):
So how do we give the stockinette stitch an almost magical makeover?
You have to use two strands of yarn held together. This is the secret trick 🙂
If your pattern doesn’t call for double-stranded yarn, use thinner yarn in two strands, as explained in my article about double stranding (look for the “Make the Yarn Thicker” section). When you have two strands of yarn aligned, use them as one throughout the whole project.
For best results, use bigger needles. This new way of knitting stockinette stitch creates a slightly denser fabric, and by using a bigger size of the needles, you ensure that it’s not too dense. Besides, if the needles are small the fabric may curl slightly, and that’s something we want to avoid.
To make a swatch, cast on any number of stitches, then:
1. Separate two strands of the first stitch on the left needle. Don’t slip any of the strands from the needle, just split them to move one a bit further from the other to make it easier to insert the needle between the strands.
2. Insert the right needle into the first strand of the first stitch knitwise (as you normally do when you knit), wrap the tip of the right needle with two strands of yarn, and knit a stitch.
3. Separate two strands of the next stitch.
4. Insert the right needle into the first strand of this stitch and the remaining last strand of the previous stitch, and knit them together to make a new stitch.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have one stitch and the second strand of the previous stitch on your left needle. Knit them all (3 strands) together.
Work the purl rows in a similar manner, but purl stitches instead of knitting them. As is the case with the usual stockinette stitch, this variation also has knit and purl sides (see the photo below).
That’s it. A simple trick that creates amazing results.
Watch this video to see firsthand how exactly this stitch is created. The video also shows how to bind off stitches in pattern.
If you want to highlight the beautiful texture of this version of stockinette, choose a shiny yarn, like silk or bamboo. I used 100% bamboo yarn to knit the first swatch in the photo below. It looks nicer than the second swatch knit with pure wool.
But that’s not all. Because we are double stranding the yarn, we can easily choose two different colours to create a lovely colourful fabric, like the one shown in this photo:
The only downside of this way to work stockinette stitch is that because you are spending a fraction of a second to separate two strands of each stitch, it takes a bit longer to knit.
But who’s in a rush when it comes to knitting something extraordinary, right?
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.
Dealing with Unfinished Projects
Dictionary of Knitting Symbols and Abbreviations – E-Book
Eastern (Russian) Knitting Simplified
Knitting Collection #6
Simple Socks in Any Size with Any Yarn
Top-Down Hat in Any Size with Any Yarn