Garter stitch is one of the easiest stitches to knit and is usually the stitch that beginner knitters learn first. It is formed by doing knit stitch into every stitch, on every row. Garter stitch forms a neat pattern of horizontal ridges, which are formed by the tops of the knitted stitches on every second row.
Garter Stitch in Knitting
What is Garter Stitch?
Garter stitch is an easy beginner stitch that is completely reversible. It is created by knitting every row and looks like interlocking waves. This means you use the same stitch technique for the back and front of the work. Because of this, both the back and front of the garter stitch look the same which is great for items such as scarves where you will see both sides. It has a lot of stretch both in its length and width and is one of the most common stitch patterns.
- Knitting needles sizes suitable for that yarn
- Yarn needle- to weave in ends and if required to stitch knitted pieces together.
Best Yarn for Garter Stitch
If you are just learning to knit, it is a good idea to use thick yarn and large needles. Use the recommended yarn for your needles. You will find guidance for this printed on the ball band which is wrapped around your yarn.
If you are using scraps of yarn to learn to knit, choose the thickest yarn you can find in the scraps and US size 8 (5mm, UK size 6) needles.
Best Needles for Garter Stitch
If you are buying new needles, bamboo needles are the best to learn on. They are light, inexpensive, and not too slippery, so you won’t drop too many stitches!
Garter Stitch Knitting Abbreviations
Knitting abbreviations are many and varied! There are so many because we need to shorten the long words and combinations of stitches for patterns. Otherwise, you would need a whole book to print a pattern! But, because we are just starting out here, these are the ones you need to know for now:
- LH - left hand
- RH - right hand
- k - knit stitch
- g st - garter stitch
- st - stitch
- sts - stitches
- sl - slip
How To Do Garter Stitch Pattern for Beginners
Step 1 - Cast on
Create a slip stitch and cast on with your required number of stitches. Hold the yarn in your right hand, and hold the needle with the cast-on stitches in your left hand. The tip of the left-hand needle should point to the right.
Step 2 - Insert Tip into Front of Stitch
- The first stitch should be close to the tip of the left needle. The yarn will be at the back of the knitting.
- Insert the tip of the right needle into the front of the first stitch from left to right. You will be forming a cross with the needles with the right neeedle behind the left. Note that the right needle only goes through the front of the stitch and not through the front and back as it would with casing on.
Step 3 - Wrap Yarn
- With your right hand, wrap the yarn counter clockwise in front of the needle and then pull it tight down between the needles.
Step 4 - Pull Back Needle
- Keeping a slight tension on this wrap of yarn, pull the right needle back.
- Bring the tip of the right needle through the loop on the left hand needle, with the yarn still wrapped around it. Pull the right needle through to the front. The right needle will now be in front of the left needle.
Step 5 - Slide the Stitch Off
- Slide the right needle to the right, until the old loop on the left needle drops off on to it.
- You will now have a new stitch on the right needle. The old stitch will fall below. Well done! You have completed one knit stitch!
Step 6 - Repeat for First Row
- Now repeat these steps until you have worked through all the stitches on the left needle. The left needle will be empty and the right needle will be full of lovely new stitches.
You may find that the stitches twist around a bit on the needle, but this doesn’t matter at all, just twist them back into a nice straight row! Once you have a few rows of knitting on your needles this will stop.
Step 7 - Second Row of Garter Stitch
- You must now turn your work so that the needle full of stitches is in your left hand, and the empty needle is in your right.
- Start again from the beginning of the instructions, and knit your way across this row. Keep going in this way until you have knit a square (or rectangle) of garter stitch as long as you would like.
Step 8 - More Rows
Keep knitting until you are feeling comfortable with the hand movements and no longer need to read the instructions each step of the way!
Here is a silly little rhyme I used when teaching children how to knit:
In through the bunny hole, Round the big tree,
Out through the bunny hole, Off hops she.
If you say the rhyme in your head as you complete each movement, it will help you remember which step comes next! If that is way too silly for you, you can just keep repeating: In, over, through, and out. But that just isn’t as cute!
How to Count Garter Stitch Rows
To count rows in garter stitch, count the ridges you have made and then multiply by two. Or simply count in twos while counting each ridge.
How to Knit Garter Stitch Stripes
Garter stitch stripes are easy to do and are extremely effective. Change to new colors of yarn at the beginning of the right side (the right side is the same as the first row - see photos below). This way you will get complete interlocking waves.
Knitting Garter Stitch for Borders
Garter stitch also makes very attractive borders to other knit fabrics. It gives a nice edging and because it lies nice and flat, it stops the edges from curling.
Troubleshooting Uneven Garter Stitch Edges
You will notice when you have knitted a square of garter stitch that the edges don’t look very neat. They are a bit uneven, even if you are an expert knitter! To prevent this, you will need to work a slip stitch at the beginning of each row.
Knitting Slip Stitch:
To slip stitch means to move a stitch from the left needle to the right needle without actually knitting it.
- So you will insert the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle. You must insert the needle downwards in front of the first stitch.
- Then just transfer it across to the right needle without creating a new stitch.
- Pull it firmly, then continue knitting along the row.
When you have knitted a few rows, the edge will look like this. The right sample has a slip stitch, the left does not.
Knitting Garter Stitch in The Round
When knitting in the round with circular needles, there is no right or wrong side. If you kept knitting each row with a garter stitch you would end up with a stockinette stitch. Instead you need to alternate your rows:
- Start by casting on your desired number of stitches and joining them in the round.
- Row 1 - Knit the first round (using the garter stitch instructions in this tutorial)
- Row 2 - Purl the second round.
- Repeat alterating knits and purls and it will look like a garter stitch.
Garter Stitch Patterns - Scarf Starter Project
Once you have mastered the hand movements for garter stitch on small experimental pieces, a good starter project to make with garter stitch is a scarf. (Starter Garter!) To make a scarf, you only need to know these garter knit stitches. Best of all your tension or knitting gauge is not important for this project and it makes a lovely warm scarf.
You will cast on as many stitches as you need for the width of your scarf, then just knit garter stitch every row until the scarf is long enough. You will then cast off. Here I have added some fringing to the ends.
Garter Stitch FAQs
What is the Difference Between Garter Stitch and Knit Stitch?
Knit stitch is referred to as a technique whereas garter stitch refers to a pattern created. The garter pattern is a row of interlocked bumps on both sides.
Does Garter Stitch Use More Yarn?
Garter Stitch uses more yarn than many other stitches such as stockinette stitch due to its density. It is a short stitch so more rows are needed to make up the fabric.
What is the Easiest Knitting Stitch?
You guessed it - Garter stitch! This is the first stitch to learn in knitting and the one that many other stitches are based on. It can be used to knit a multitude of items including scarves, blankets, and warm sweaters.
What is G-Stitch Knitting
Garter stitch can be abbreviated as G-stitch or g st in patterns. When you see this you knit every row to produce garter stitch.
What is the Garter Stitch Wrong Side and Right Side
The right side of the garter stitch is the side of your first completed row. It will look a little different at the bottom as the distinctive garter stitch pattern doesn't start until the next row. Other than this first row, the right and wrong sides of the garter stitch look the same.
Garter Stitch - In Conclusion
Garter stitch is easy to make and has the advantages of lying flat and not curling up, as many other stitches do. It also has a pleasant appearance and makes a dense fabric that is very warm. It is easy to make entire garments from garter stitch- you can start with washcloths, then move on to scarves, mitts or hand warmers, even baby blankets.
Once you get into the swing of things, you may find that knitting becomes totally addictive, and you will have your knitting with you at all times, just in case you have a spare moment!
Garter Stitch Knitting
- Knitting Needles
- Yarn in a Suitable Size for the Needles
- Cast on your desired number of stitches. If you are just doing a sample, cast on 12 stitches. Hold the needle with the stitches in your left hand and the empty needle in your left.
- Insert the tip of the right needle into the front of the first stitch from left to right.
- With your right hand, wrap the yarn counter clockwise around the front of the needle. Pull it tight between the needles.
- Pull the right needle back and bring the tip through the loop to the front. The right needle will now be in front of the left.
- Slide off the stitch so it is on the right side.
- Repeat until you have finished the row. All the stitches will now be on the right. Turn your work so that the stitches are back on the left side. Start the garter stitches across again. Keep going until your work is the desired length.
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