Knitting Blog

Why Stockinette Stitch Curls + How to Stop It

Stockinette stitch may be one of the most basic knitting stitches, but it’s also one of the hardest stitches to control. It has a mind of its own, rolling in on those edges and making many beginner knitters wonder how to keep stockinette stitch from curling.

Orange Swatch of Stockinette Stitch

You can’t actually stop stockinette stitch from curling, but you can work around it when you’re planning your project.

Instead of stressing out over trying to figure out how to stop stockinette stitch from curling, find out why it curls plus check out our list of solutions.

Why stockinette stitch curls

No, your yarn isn’t out to get you. There’s a very simple reason for why stockinette stitch curls: it’s the difference in the size of the knit stitches and purl stitches.

Stockinette Stitch in Green Yarn

Take a look at a swatch of stockinette and you’ll see that the V-shaped knit stitches on the right side are wider than the bumpy, wavy purl stitches on the wrong side. That means that right side is wider than the wrong side.

There’s another issue at play here: the stitches on the wrong side of the stockinette stitch are longer than the stitches on the right side. So while the right side is pushing out to the sides horizontally, the wrong side of the stockinette is pushing vertically on the top and bottom edges.

So why is this curling limited to stockinette? Think about swatches of garter stitch and seed stitch. The stitches are the same on both sides, so they’re not battling each other for length or width.

If you’re still confused, check out this diagram of stockinette stitch I spotted on TECHknitting and it might just clear up the confusion.

How to keep stockinette stitch from curling

While you can’t stop stockinette stitch from curling, you can tame it to get the look you want. Here’s how…

1. Add a border

Scania Shawl detail

If you add a border around the stockinette stitch, you’ll control how the stitch behaves. Garter stitch and seed stitch are both solid choices, but there are also other more decorative options. The Scania Shawl kit uses cabling and a decorative fringe to keep its stockinette stitch body in order.

2. Let it curl and call it a style choice

Purple Knit Chemo Cap

And now for the easiest solution: do nothing at all to stop the stitch from curling. Rolled edges can actually add a nice touch to knitted items. Instead of battling the stockinette stitch curl, just let those edges roll.

Think about a rolled brim hat or even a sweater’s rolled hem. The Chemo Cap pictured above, for instance, looks totally natural with a rolled brim.

3. Line it with fabric

This is by far the most complicated of all the solutions, but it does work with certain types of projects. You can add a fabric backing to a blanket, for example, and even add a few extra hand-sewn stitches here and there to make the stockinette lie flat. Check out our Ideas for Knitting Projects: When Knitting Met Sewing for more examples and inspiration.

Do you have any tricks for stopping stockinette stitch from curling? Please share your tips in the comments!

casting on knitting

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2015 and was updated in March 2018.

49 Comments

Sue Bradshaw

My mother taught me to knit when I was 7 years old. Stocking stitch was one of the first patterns she taught me. Its really simple way to stop curling when doing stocking stitch.On the Knit row just slip the first stitch then knit to the end, on the purl row knit the first & last stitch. I have used this for over 55 years and I have found it the best way to stop curling I hope you find it useful.

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Krista

Thank you Sue! That’s perfect information! I do a small border all around, like a selvage edge, but I like your idea better. Thanks for the tip!

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Guinea Pig Mom

Krista, please give us step-by-step instructions for how you do your selvage-like edge. I’m sure I’ll use it. Thanks very much.

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Marianne Miller

Thank you Sue, I am 78 years old and have struggled with Stockinette curling my whole life. I feel liberated…….

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Diana

Seems to help!!!! Love the “passed down” tips and knowledge from Mothers and Grandmas. Thanks for sharing!!!!

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JoAnn

Thanks, Sue! When you slip the stitch at the beginning of the knit row, do you slip it knit-wise or purl-wise?

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Carol Knight-Moore

She specifies that you slip the first stitch on the KNIT row… then when you start the purl row you knit the first stitch…and the last stitch.

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Yvonne

Do you slip the first stitch knitwise or purlwise?Please answer knitwise or purlwise.

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Bonnie C

Probably purlwise. A similar slip is used at the beginning of a knit row in a different technique. That’s what I will try first.

Susan

Purlwise

Anita

I do the same. It makes for a neater edge

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Sharon

Thank you so much! I will try this!

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Anne

wow… if that works its very useful! Been searching the ‘net for years and so far blocking doesnt cure it, and the borders look ugly. Going to give this one a go

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Genevieve

I could see this working to keep the edge from curling, but not the bottom from curling up. So I don’t see it working if you are knitting in the round. Still very useful.

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Jan

I just tried your technique, Sue, and it is working perfectly!!! I am soooo happy! This curling is something I have struggled with for so long… I am doing a sweater of 100 stockinette rows , only 6 rows in but so far everything is laying flat… this has never happened before when I used the same pattern…. thank you so much for sharing this tidbit… so appreciated!?

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Siobhan. Phoenix

Sue Bradshaw, does your technique still curl a little and lays flatter when blocked? I’m trying it will wool and it seems to be laying flatter than other methods but it still curls some. Thanks for the tip!

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Pat Enterkin

I crochet a single crochet stitch around the edge of the whole project if a scarf or cowl. If the curling is really bad, I go around again and it will flatten the edges. I would think most of the curling would go away if you are stitching seams together in a garment. You can add 3-4 stitches to sides and do a seed stitch pattern that can prevent curling. I don’t think 2 stitches are enough to get a good flat edge, so make it 3 or 4 stitches. You could do the same thing for the top and bottoms of scarves and cowls and some garments.

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Margaret CICALESE

How clever. Thanks for sharing your tip, Sue.

MAC

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Nancy K Damico

Thanks for posting this tip, Susan and thank your Mom. I cannot wait to share it with my friends and students.

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Catherine Deagle

Thank you, thank you, Sue Bradshaw for your solution in preventing stocking stitch from curling. My mother used this method but I couldn’t remember how to do it.

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Louise Honeycutt

On most edges of stockinette kniting, I have used grossgrain ribbon hand sewn to the back side as a facing.

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Debbie

Sue…that sounds great…I’m going to try it but want to be clear on what you mean by ‘on the knit row slip the first stitch’…..what exactly is it to slip a stitch?
Thanks!!

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Charlotte

Debbie – To slip a stitch means to move a stitch from the left hand needle to the right hand needle without knitting or purling it 🙂

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Sandra

I’m afraid the selvedge edge suggested by Sue simply doesn’t work, as it does curl still – rather a lot They also look different on each side – the side that has the slip stitch works slightly better than the one without. The consensus on the internet is that nothing will help. Even borders will curl and blocking won’t help for long.

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JRM

Then I would avoid knitting the stockinette stitch completely. It seems to really frustrate you. Knitting is supposed to be fun and relaxing. There are literally dozens of patterns that you can knit, that will possibly be less frustrating for you.

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Bonnie C

The more tightly knitting is done, the more of a curling problem will occur. For tight knitters it is likely to be a problem no matter what.

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Emma

I’m 13 and I just couldn’t find out how to make my knitting stop curling and I run my own business. So thank you for telling me how to make my knitting stop curling

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Anne

you run your own business at 13? oooo

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Babette

I’m knitting a scarf using a pattern I got on an Internet knitting site.
The photo look perfectly flat. It consists of six rows — the 1st, 3rd and 5th are knit. The 2nd and 6th are purl with a slip stitch. The 4th is straight purl. You’re supposed to knit the first three stitches at each end.

I did exactly as instructed, but the scarf has curled incredibly, so that both ends have curled to the center. I am so disappointed! I’ll try to block it to see if it helps, but if anyone has a better idea please tell me. Many thanks.

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Chrissy

Will just knitting the article in the round, still st stitch, keep it from curling?? Does anyone know….

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Christina Howell

No it curls in the round and you cannot correct it by slipping the first stitch like you can when knitting a flat fabric.

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Kathleen

it will still curl – look back at the hat with the curled brim – that’s a result of of the stockinette curl. It’s the nature of the beast.

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Elizabeth

So if the difference between the size of knit and purl stitches is what makes stockinette roll, then why does the bottom of my knitting curl when I knit stockinette in the round?

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Sheryl

If your knitting curls up from the bottom, try knitting into the back of the stitches on the first row

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Marie

Thanks for that tip, Sheryl. My solution has been to cast on, then I purl a row before I start the pattern. Depending on my project, I do another purl row before binding off. Your solution seems simpler. I also try out this out when I do my gauge swatch just to make sure it looks ok with the yarn I’m using. Most of the time, there’s no curling. To prevent sides from curling, knit an extra stitch each end on every row. This gives you a selvedge to use for seams. Allow for the extra yardage in your yarn.

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Dorothy

That sounds very doable and should work, Sheryl. Thanks for the idea!
.

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Theresa Pawlowski

Sheryl, thank you, thank you. Am knitting in the round and just knit the second row following your thought of knitting that row in the back of each stitch. It works great. No more roll.

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Anne

Brilliant! that has given me the motivation to try it… 🙂

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Theresa Pawlowski

Sheryl, thank you, thank you! I just finished knitting my second row in the round. Knitted in the back of each knit stitch and walla! no more curl. This is great.

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Susan

I knit a wide, long scarf in the round for my daughter (one she could loop twice around her neck). It curdled terribly! I noticed that you said you tried knitting the second row (the row after your casting on) from the back & that it didn’t curl. Just wondering how your project turned out? I’m assuming you also knit from the back on the row before binding off? Any help u can give me would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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April

You can also knit a hem to start a sweater or sleeve if the yarn is not too thick. See this blog entry for two hems plus some other bottom edges… https://www.craftsy.com/knitting/article/knitting-edges-you-should-know/
As for the sides, on every row, I slip the first stitch purlwise and knit the last stitch. You need to add 2 stitches to your cast-on because the edge stitches turn sideways forming a lovely slip-stich edge along the side of a shawl or blanket. I still use a few garter or seed stitchs on the sides as a border to keep the edge from curling. I have not found the single stitch enough

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Sheila

I ignore the rolling edge while knitting and before I sew up a garment I pin it out on the ironing board with the right side down and then press using the instructions given on the yarn band. This gives a smooth finish to your finished item

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Lori

Would working with 2 different sized needles work?

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Darlene

That sounds like a good question…..anyone tried it?

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Bev

Sheryl said:
June 3rd, 2016
If your knitting curls up from the bottom, try knitting into the back of the stitches on the first row

Could someone explain this to me please? if the pattern begins in stockinette, which row(s) would I work into the back of the stitches? Just one row? More than one? Then again at the end of the pattern to keep the bottom from curling, which row do I knit in the back? The last row of the pattern or?? I’m confused about her saying to do this in the first row. Thank you so much for the tips!

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creekgirl

I have the same question, Bev. How do I “work in the back of the stitches”?

btw…..where additional stiffness wouldn’t be an issue, would sewing the knitted edge to grosgrain ribbon, flipping it and stitching the ribbon in on the underside minimize the curl? I’ve never tried this…..just wondering. Thanks!

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Diana Cohn

I have just commenced a ballet cardigan in stocking stitch for a young family member and have tried all the tips above without success. The band is knitted separately and sewn on when the garment is finished. I am now thinking about knitting some of the band and tacking it on while I work on the body of the cardigan to try and hold it down. I tried pinning some wide, strong ribbon along the bottom, but that didn’t work. Good luck with all your projects.

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Orietta

Hi. Knitting machine: I put every second needle in not working (D position) for two rows, then all needles back down for one row. After I put every OTHER second needle in D position for 2 rows, then back down all one row for all and so on. Also I found that when I cast each needle, I wrap the yarn around the needle on the top, rather than from under it. It gives me a neater start. Sorry if I don’t use the right terms and I don’t know how to put a photo of the sample. Orietta

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Francine Levy

Wouldn’t putting a fringe on a scarf stop it from curling?

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