Simple, versatile stockinette is basically the bread-and-butter of knitting. But no matter how skillfully and evenly you knit it, your finished fabric will always get a little funky around the edges — curling in on itself, to be specific.
The good news is, it’s not your fault! That tendency to curl is an unavoidable part of how stockinette fabric comes together. You could say it’s part of its charm. And there are ways you can work around the curling to make sure your project comes out exactly the way you want it.
Why Stockinette Stitch Curls
It’s all about the difference in size between knit stitches and purl stitches.
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. Multiply that tiny difference times many, many stitches, and you end up with fabric where the right side is actually wider than the wrong side. What’s more, the purl stitches on the wrong side of stockinette are longer than the knit stitches on 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. No wonder it can’t lay flat.
So why is this curling limited to stockinette? Think about swatches of garter stitch and seed stitch. In those cases, the stitches are the same on both sides, so they’re not battling each other for length or width.
What to Do About It
While you can’t stop stockinette stitch from curling, you can tame it to get the look you want. Here’s how…
1. Let It Curl and Call It a Style Choice
This solution’s our favorite because it’s so easy. Instead of battling the stockinette stitch curl, just let those edges roll for a nice touch of texture at the brim of a hat or the hem of a sweater.
2. Add a Border
Dressing up the edges of a stockinette project not only looks great, but it also puts an end to that pesky rolling. Simple garter stitch and seed stitch do the job, but many patterns get fancier. The shawl above uses cabling and a decorative fringe to keep its stockinette stitch body nice and flat.
3. Line It With Fabric
Adding a fabric backing isn’t always the answer, but it works great with certain projects like a blanket or even a knitted skirt or dress.