Basic Knitted Fabrics

All knitted fabrics are made up of a combination of knit and purl stitches – now you’ve mastered these you can have some fun creating lots of different patterns.

Garter Stitch

The most common way to make the garter stitch is to knit every row. It makes a reversible fabric that stretches equally in all directions. It’s great for making things like blankets, accessories (check out my mobile phone case pattern!) and sweaters as the fabric lies flat and it doesn’t curl up at the edges.

Garter Stitch

You can also achieve the same effect by purling every row – see sample below. A quick way to find out how many rows you have made is to count up the number of horizontal ridges and times it by two!

Stocking / Stockinette Stitch

To make this fabric knit one row, then purl the next row. The front (right side) of the fabric is the smoother ‘knit’ side and looks like lots of upside down V’s. This is one of the most commonly used patterns and stretches more horizontally than vertically. It is often used for jumpers and sweaters. As you can see from the photos below the fabric tends to curl up at the edges which is why it is normally edged by another stitch pattern such as rib, moss or garter.

Above: right side / front (knit) of the fabric, below: wrong side / back  (purl) of the fabric. The purl side looks similar to garter stitch but the horizontal ridges are smaller and closer together. If you want to use the purl side of the fabric as the right side it is called ‘reverse stocking / stockinette stitch’.

Front of Stocking Stitch – close up (Knit side)

Back of Stocking Stitch  – close up (Purl side)

Moss Stitch

This is made by knitting one stitch and the purling the next on one row, and then on the return row, knitting the knit stitches and purling the purl.  Sounds complicated doesn’t it?…… if you have an odd number of stitches on your needle you will start and finish every row with a knit stitch!

This bobbly textured fabric looks the same on both sides, doesn’t curl at the edges and produces a firmer, denser fabric than garter stitch.

Single Rib

This is made by knitting one stitch, purling the next, then purling the knit and knitting the purl on the return. The pattern produced is a series of vertical ridges. The fabric has lots of horizontal stretch and is often used for edging and bands when you need a snug fit on things like cuffs and bottoms of jumpers.

Basket Stitch or Check Stitch

If you want to try out something a little more adventurous you could try out this chequered /  basket stitch and use your knit and purl stitches to make little boxes. As you will see from the photo my boxes aren’t particularly square as I kept to multiples of 5 (stitches and rows) to make it easier to count……

If you like things all neat and tidy and are after square boxes you will need to have more rows in your pattern repeat than the number of stitches: ie,

For patterns with cast on stitches in multiples of 8, make 10 rows e.g.

Row 1 – 5 : (Knit 4, Purl 4) repeat to end of row.

Row 6 – 10 : (Purl 4, Knit 4) repeat to end of row.

Or if you are after a wider check and you have cast on in a multiple of 10 then knit 12 rows per pattern repeat e.g.

Row 1 – 6: (Knit 5, Purl 5) repeat to end of row

Row 7 – 12: (Purl 5, Knit 5) repeat to end of the row.

Do you get the idea?

If there any particular stitches you want me to blog about, just let me know and I’ll do my best to write some instructions and make a sample!


4 thoughts on “Basic Knitted Fabrics

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