Welcome to the second post in our new stitches series, where we take a look at the knitting stitches we know and love.
This week we are looking at stocking stitch or stockinette stitch, depending on which side of the Atlantic you reside on. A very common stitch, and the fabric type we associate equally with hand knits and commercial knits.
Two distinct textures are created in stocking stitch, the smooth side – characterised by the ‘v’ shapes of the knit stitches, usually referred to as the ‘right side’ and the bumpy side, created by the purl stitches, often referred to as the ‘wrong side’. These sides can be reversed when a design uses reverse stocking stitch, however the stitches that create each side are always the same.
STOCKING STITCH IS CREATED BY ALTERNATING ROWS OF KNIT STITCHES, WHEN WORKING FLAT OR SIMPLY EVERY ROUND, WHEN WORKING YOUR KNITTED PIECE IN THE ROUND.
It creates a wearable fabric that shows off yarn colours and textures to the full and is often a blank canvas for textural details, pretty edges or crisp shaping. Stocking stitch is full of potential;it is also your friend! Endless miles of stocking stitch are the ideal knitting companion at knit nights and the movies….
Choosing yarn for stocking stitch is pretty easy; it really is the type of stitch that lets the yarn do the talking. There are a few things to consider though.
A smooth plied yarn will offer you beautiful, crisp stitch definition – perfect for showing off accent details on stocking stitch or creating elegant garments and accessories.
Heavily textured (for example boucle or very tweedy) yarns or yarns with a halo (especially mohair) will mask the stitch definition, great if you want the yarn to shine not ideal if you are looking for crisp smooth stocking stitch.
Linen and cotton usually produce beautiful crisp stitches but the fibre is very unforgiving of uneven tension. Be mindful of your tension as you knit, this type of fibre is less likely to even itself out when blocked.
Hand dyed yarns are fantastic in stocking stitch, the smooth knitted fabric offers a wonderful blank canvas for showing off the subtle colour changes in hand dyed yarn and works well with highly variegated yarns too. Always remember that it is crucial to alternate skeins when working with two or more skeins of hand dyed to ensure an even distribution of colour. This video shows how to carry the yarn as you alternate skeins.
SWATCHING IN STOCKING STITCH
Did you know that many knitters have a slightly looser purl stitch and therefore will have a slightly different gauge between stocking stitch knitted flat (a combination of knits and purls) and that knitted in the round (only knit stitches).
It is important to swatch in the correct format. Knitting a sweater in the round – swatch in the round. Knitting a cardigan flat with sleeves in the round – ideally you should swatch twice, first flat for the body and then in the round for the sleeves.
If you are working on a garment swatching is crucial to make sure you get the finished item of your dreams and not one that it a touch too big or small.
Blocking is really important for all knitted fabrics, it serves a slightly different purpose for each type of fabric but I highly recommend that you block everything.
Stocking stitch, in most cases, wants to be lightly blocked. This will even out your tension especially in wool based yarns, adding that final polish to your knits. It will also allow the yarn to bloom and settle. This could affect the finished size of your item, as many fibres can grow when blocked. For this reason I highly recommend treating your swatch as you would the final knitted piece.
TIPS TO KEEP YOUR NEEDLES CLICKING
Some people love miles of endless stocking stitch, others find themselves getting bored and the endless repetitive motion can unfortunately aggravate weak wrists. I always think a selection of knitting projects is the way to go.
If you have a large garment piece with seemingly endless stocking stitch weighing you down, why not add a second project to mix it up. A sock would be the perfect travelling project, choose something a little challenging to flex the ‘grey matter’ in between long stretches of stocking stitch.
SMALL, INSTANT GRATIFICATIONS PROJECTS ARE ALSO A WELCOME DISTRACTION FROM A LARGER PROJECT WITH LOTS OF STOCKING STITCH. TRY A QUICK HAT OR SOME MITTENS - YOUR EARS AND HANDS WILL CERTAINLY THANK YOU WHEN WINTER ARRIVES!
Keep track of your progress with a lockable stitch marker. Sometimes it can feel as if the body of your sweater just isn’t growing, breaking it into bite size chunks and carefully monitoring progress using a stitch marker helps to see how far you have come.
Tired of counting endless rounds. Use a strand of waste yarn to mark every ten rounds / rows. This way you have a visual reference without having to rely on a row counter or notes on scraps of paper. This is perfect for sleeves, as no one wants one sleeve longer than the other.
I love stocking stitch when it comes to creating wearable garments – here is a selection of some of my favourite pieces that showcase this humble stitch to the full.
Light and airy knits,especially combined with cooler summer fibres, are great summer projects.
Mabel & Ivy Coast is wonderful to knit, especially in warmer weather and creates a beautiful light fabric. SpliTTop by La Maison Rililie has lots of glorious stocking stitch, pretty details created by interested techniques and a tiny pop of contrast colour to play with. This is what summer knitting is all about. With the vast array of colours in Coast you are certain to find a few combinations you love.
SpliTTop knit in Coast, colours Redcurrant and Fairy
I always think that Wispy is one the defining patterns from Hannah Fettig’s collection; she has so many amazing designs out there but Featherweight and Wispy stick in my mind as defining pieces. It is a fantastic garment; the ideal summer cover-up.
Wispy knitted in Malabrigo Lace, colourway Bergamot
Designed for Malabrigo Lace – grab a few skeins and before you know it you will be wrapped in a light airy cloud of Merino.
Thoughts by Joji Locatelli would certainly be an investment in knitting time – this longer length cardigan would turn heads. Delicate details and flowing stocking stitch result in an elegant garment, worth every stitch.
This exquisite garment would be phenomenal worked in SweetGeorgia BFL Lace
A TOUCH OF WARMTH
Vitamin D by Heidi Kirrmaier is the perfect match for Rosy Green Cheeky Merino Joy, a versatile sport weight. The stocking stitch is broken up with a beautiful eyelet detail and the swingy shape would look lovely in this beautiful yarn
Vitamin D by Heidi Kirrmaier
PREPARING FOR COOLER WEATHER
This is my dream autumn cardigan – oodles of cosy stocking stitch, with Hannah Fettig’s signature details.
I think it would be incredible knitted in Erika Knight Vintage; a stunning yarn with a wonderful texture.
Finally simplicity at it’s best. Ysolda Teague’s Blank Canvas has everything I love in a sweater, clean lines, elegant shaping and plenty of beautiful stocking stitch just waiting to show off some gorgeous yarn.
Why not try knitting one in Debbie Bliss Rialto DK or some luxurious Shilasdair.
I would love to hear what you think about stocking stitch. Do you love or loathe miles of stocking stitch? Is this your garment fabric of choice? What is your favourite stocking stitch pattern?
About the Author
Clare Devine is a writer and designer. Originally from South Africa she has nomadic tendencies and is currently knitting her way around the UK. She is passionate about all things fibre related (especially if it’s grey), knitting, travel and sunshine in equal measures.
She regularly blogs at www.yarnandpointysticks.com. You can find her on Ravelry as Knitsforklipskaap, Twitter as @_ClareDevine and Instagram as @Clare.Devine.