Essential Knitting Stitches for Beginners

knitting stitches on a pair of knitting needles
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Just like sewing and embroidery stitches, there are a range of different knitting stitches you can make with two needles and a ball of yarn. Some knitting stitches can be quite complex, but there are a number that are easy to do, even for beginners.

The best knitting stitches for beginners

We’ll start with some important notes on how to read patterns and then walk you through the essential knitting stitches all beginners should know.

How to read knitting patterns

There are some common terms and phrases in knitting patterns that can be confusing for beginners, but are easy to read when you know how:

  • Casting on – When a pattern says to cast on or work the pattern in a multiple of a certain number of stitches plus one, two, or more stitches, this means that you add these extra stitches once, and only once.
  • Multiples – If a pattern says “work on a multiple of 4  + 2 sts”, you should cast on in any multiple of four, and then add two stitches. For example, you could have 16 stitches plus two, so 18 stitches in total.
  • Add an edge – A pattern may also say to add an edge stitch on each side. In another example, you may have “work on a multiple of 2 + 1 sts, + 1 edge st on each side”. You could work this pattern on 12 plus one, being 13, plus two edge stitches, making 15 in total.

“Work each stitch in the manner it presents”

Another phrase you will often see in knitting patterns is “work each stitch in the manner it presents”. This means knitting an outside stitch above an outside stitch and a smooth stitch above a smooth stitch.

To achieve this, if you have an outside stitch facing you on the row below, you need to purl the stitch. Likewise, if you have a smooth stitch facing you, you should knit the stitch.

The advantage of this technique is that if you lose count of your rows, you will still know whether to start with a knit or purl stitch simply by looking at the stitches that are facing you.

Stocking stitch

Stocking stitch, also known as stockinette stitch, is an essential knitting stitch. It is frequently used in knitting patterns for its smooth texture.

It is made by knitting one row of knit, and one row of purl and can be worked with any number of stitches.

Follow this pattern for stocking stitch:

  1. Beginning with the first row and on the right side of your work, knit one row with all knit stitches.
  2. On the wrong side of the work: purl all stitches for the second row.
  3. Continue on with this pattern, knitting one row or knit, and one row of purl until your rows are complete.

You can create the same stitch on four needles or in the round by simply knitting all stitches.

Reverse stocking stitch

Reverse stocking stitch, as the name suggests, is the same as stocking stitch, but in reverse. In this case, you purl one row, and then knit one row.

The pattern for reverse stocking stitch is:

  1. Purl all stitches on the first row.
  2. Knit all stitches in the second row,
  3. Repeat this two-row pattern until you have knitted your desired number of rows.

If using four needles or in the round, you can knit reverse stocking stitch by purling all stitches. Because the wrong side of a stocking stitch knit is the same as reverse stocking stitch, you could also just use the wrong side of a stocking stitch fabric.

Garter stitch

Garter stitch is a common knitting stitch which is fully reversible. That is to say, the wrong side of the knit looks identical to the right side. Like stocking stitch, it can be worked with any number of stitches.

Garter stitch is the simplest stitch there is: it is made by either knitting all stitches, or purling all stitches.

To make garter stitch with knit stitches:

  1. Knit one row of knit.
  2. Make another row of knit.
  3. Continue on until you’ve reached the final row of your work!

Alternatively, you can create a garter stitch with purl stitches as follows:

  1. Knit one row of purl.
  2. Make another row of purl.
  3. Continue on until you’ve reached the final row of your work!

It is important to be careful when you count the rows as every second row will stand out, while the others seem to be “inside” the other rows. You have to count all the rows, not just the ones that stand out.

If knitting in the round on circular needles, knit all stitches in the first row, and then purl all stitches in the second row, and repeat this two-row pattern until all rows are complete.

Basket weave stitch

As the name suggests, this stitch creates a textured pattern that looks like a woven basket.

For symmetry, you will need to work basket weave stitch on a multiple of six stitches plus two stitches, and one edge stitch on each side.

For basket weave stitch:

  1. For the first row and seventh row: knit all stitches.
  2. For the second and eight rows: purl all stitches.
  3. For the third and fifth row: knit one for the edge, then knit two purl four, repeating this until the last three stitches. To finish, knit two, then knit one for the edge.
  4. For the fourth, sixth, tenth and twelfth rows: work each stitch in the manner it presents.
  5. For the ninth and eleventh rows: knit one for the edge, then purl three, knit two and purl one. Repeat this pattern until the last three stitches, then purl two and knit one for the edge.
  6. Repeat the 12-row pattern until you have completed the required number of rows.

Little granite stitch

Little granite stitch is a textured pattern that works great on scarves and blankets and has a vintage feel.

You will need to cast on in a multiple of four plus three stitches, plus one edge on each side for symmetry.

To knit little granite stitch:

  1. For the first row, knit one for the edge.
  2. Then purl one, knit three, repeating this until the last four stitches.
  3. To finish the row, purl three and knit one for the edge.
  4. For the second row, work each stitch in the manner it presents.
  5. For the third row, knit one for the edge, then purl one, knit one, purl two and repeat until the last four stitches. Then purl one, knit one, purl one, and knit one for the edge.
  6. For the fourth row, work each stitch in the manner it presents.
  7. Repeat the four-row pattern until you have knitted the desired number of rows.

Ribbing

Ribbing is a stitch technique where the sequences of knits and purls line up from row to row, creating patterns of columns. This creates not only an interesting effect, but a stretch knit that can be used for tighter hold.

Rib stitches can be used for edging a pattern, for practical reasons such as the cuffs on a sweater, or in the middle of a pattern to add texture.

Two of the most common and simplest rib stitches are the 1/1 rib and 2/2 rib, so named because they are repeating patterns of knit one, purl one and knit two, purl two respectively.

Although these stitches are easy to do, it is important to be careful when casting on, as each stitch requires a certain number of stitches.

1/1 rib

The 1/1 rib stitch produces a very stretchy knit that looks very similar to stockinette stitch. This rib stitch is also identical on both sides.

This stitch needs to be worked with an even number of stitches to maintain symmetry. The 1/1 rib should be worked on a multiples of two.

For example, you could cast on a row of 24 stitches (a multiple of two).

Then, follow this pattern:

  1. On the right side of the work knit one and purl one. Repeat knit one, purl one for the entire row.
  2. For the second row, which will be the wrong side of the work, knit one stitch for the edge and then knit one, purl one. In other words, work each stitch in the manner it presents.
  3. To continue with the 1/1 rib, repeat this two-row pattern for all remaining rows.

This stitch can also be made in the round on circular needles using the same pattern.

2/2 rib

A 2/2 rib is very similar to the 1/1 rib, being made with repeating sequences of knit and purl stitches. It also creates a stretch knit that is identical on both sides.

Like other rib stitches, you need to work the 2/2 rib with a specific number of stitches: a multiple of four. So you could cast on, for example, 24 stitches (a multiple of four).

Follow this pattern:

  1. For the first row, on the right side of the work, knit one, purl one.
  2. For the second row (the wrong side of the work), knit two, purl two. In other words, “work each stitch in the manner it presents”
  3. Repeat the same process as for all other rows.

This stitch can also be made in the round on circular needles using the same pattern.

Broken rib

The broken rib stitch is a more complicated stitch. However, it still follows the basic principle of rib stitches: it is a repeating pattern of two different types of stitches.

In this case, it is created with one row of stockinette stitch, and one row or garter stitch. The stockinette stitches are smooth, and garter stitches have a bumpy texture, creating a stretch knit with an interesting pattern.

Broken rib stitch can be used anywhere you would normally put a rib stitch, but with a twist. Unlike other rib stitches, this is not a reversible pattern: the wrong side of the work does not display the broken rib design.

You will need to cast on in multiples of two stitches plus one.

To work a broken rib stitch:

  1. For the first row (the right side of the work), knit all stitches
  2. On the second row and on the wrong side of the work: purl one, knit one, then purl one.
  3. Repeat this three stitch pattern for the rest of the second row.
  4. Continue with one row of garter stitch (knit all), then one row of stockinette stitch (purl one, knit one, purl one) to the final row.

The same pattern can be followed in the round on circular needles, but in this case, every second row should be the reverse, that is knit one, purl one, knit one.

Andalusian stitch

Andulusian stitch is another interesting pattern that is relatively easy to knit.

This pattern should be worked on a multiple of two, plus one stitch, plus one edge stitch on each side.

For Andulusian stitch:

  1. Knit all stitches for the first row.
  2. Purl all stitches for the second row.
  3. Knit all stitches for the third row.
  4. For the fourth row, knit one for the edge, then purl one, knit one, purl one, repeating to the last stitch, then knit one stitch for the edge.

Wrapping up

With a little knowledge and more than a little practice, you’ll be able to master the essential knitting stitches in no time.

With even a few stitches in your arsenal, you can create a huge range of projects, from sweaters and berets to rugs and lacework shawls.

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