A Guide to Garter Stitch: All You Need to Know

Posted by on Mar 30, 2014 in Knitting | Comments


When you first started knitting, chances are the first stitch you learned was the garter stitch. Its ease and propensity to lay flat makes it ideal for beginners. What makes it so easy? You knit EVERY row! You don’t even have to learn to purl to knit the garter stitch (flat). There are many other characteristics of garter stitch that make it great for a variety of patterns. Consider this your guide to garter stitch.

Title Image: How to Knit the Garter Stitch

How to knit the garter stitch

No other stitch pattern is easier than knitting the garter stitch flat. You simply knit every stitch! Specific patterns may call for increases or decreases and you just work those however they’re called for. To knit garter stitch in the round, knit all the stitches in one round, then purl all the stitches in the next. Repeat this two-round pattern. All edges are straight and lay flat.

Garter stitch gauge

Garter Stitch Gauge
Measuring gauge in garter stitch is much like measuring it in other patterns. It is easier to do if you mark 2″ -4″ across a row. Pull the ridges apart to see the stitches more easily. When counting your row gauge, keep in mind that one garter ridge is equal to two rows. Usually, garter stitch will be shorter and wider than other stitches, when relaxed, with fantastic lengthwise elasticity. Some patterns may even call for a ribbing that is actually sideways garter stitch.

My gauge in my garter stitch swatch was 9 stitches and 8 rows = 2″. It was very nearly square! I think that if I had blocked my swatch before measuring, I could widen it to 8 stitches across the 2 inches. If you plan on blocking your project, it’s best to block your swatch when you measure gauge. Read more about gauge in our post on how to measure your gauge in knitting.

Changing colors

Two-Color Garter Stitch Swatch
In my two-color swatch, I wanted the change to look seamless on the right side, so I changed colors on a right side row. If you do this, there will be a line across the wrong side where you can see the loops of stitches connecting (above, right). Sometimes a pattern will call for that sort of color feature on the right side, so you would have to change colors with the wrong side facing.

Increasing/decreasing

Increasing and decreasing are pretty much the same in garter stitch. The advantage it has is the ridges tend to hide any bumps that may result from your increases (kfb, anyone?).

Sewing garter stitch edges together

Knittting the Garter Stitch
If you take a look at the garter stitch edge, you will notice that the end of each ridge is composed of two loops. These will guide you in creating a seam that is only very faintly visible.

A Close-up View of the Garter Stitch: Craftsy.com
You can either lay your pieces flat next to each other with right sides facing, or you can pick them up like I did. I have pointed out, above, which loops you will sew through. You want to choose the bottom or top loop of the ridge on one side and then the opposite loop on the opposite edge. Don’t switch!

Sewing the Seams: Garter Stitch Tutorial on Craftsy.com
If you had a long enough tail from your cast-on edge, you can use that to sew the pieces together. If this is the case, insert your needle from back to front through the first stitch on the opposite piece, then from back to front on the first stitch of the piece that had the yarn. If you are using a scrap piece of yarn that isn’t connected, bring it from back to front of one piece, then back to front of the other piece. Use about 2 feet of yarn at a time, leaving a long enough tail to weave in afterward.

The next steps are so simple, you’ll wonder why you don’t sew pieces of garter stitch together everyday. Remember those loops I talked about above? Well, take your needle and insert it through the top loop of one side, then through the bottom loop of the opposite piece. You are joining the ridges! Repeat the process, making sure to stick to working the top/bottom loop of one piece and then the opposite for the other piece.

Two Garter Stitch Swatches Sewn Together
You might still be able to see the seam, but you won’t be able to feel it and when the pieces are stretched (like in garments or hats), the seam nearly disappears. If I was more meticulous with my seaming tension, I could make the join invisible. I guess I need more practice!

Garter Stitch - Tutorial on Craftsy.com