Before I get into the texture of the week for this week, I’d like to revisit the texture from last week – the garter stitch. In last week’s post I mentioned some of the advantages of the garter stitch and forgot to mention one of the most important ones. The garter stitch creates a flat fabric. This is an important feature when designing and invaluable when making articles such as scarves. In fact, I have a picture of a scarf that I have made horizontally instead of vertically entirely in garter stitch. By doing it this way I was able to create stripes very easily. When viewed it looks like I changed colors many times across one row in order to create the vertical stripes, which would require considerable skill and time. Don’t worry though, it’s our secret. Add to that the fact that it lays flat because it is in garter stitch and you have a great scarf, looking extremely complex, yet done with the simplest stitch.
If you look closely you’ll notice that the model on the right is wearing the scarf on the “wrong’ side. When you click on the image and see the larger version, you’ll see the lines in the rows before and after each color where the changes occur. Normally this is avoided, but in this case it actually looks very interesting and adds another dimension to the scarf. Deb, the model on the left has simply wrapped it around her shoulder to add sophistication and color to her already stunning look. Notice again that the color changes are limited to the lines that the colors are in and the colors appear more vivid. This is because they are concentrated in the lines where they appear and have the appearance of being brighter. Either way, it is a great effect achieved with the simplest of stitches.
The texture we’re going to look at this week is stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch. They are, in fact, the same texture, just the opposite sides of each other. Stocking stitch is created by knitting the stitches on one side and then purling those same stitches on the other side. Commonly in patterns, you are told to knit what you see – KWYS. Anytime you do this you create stocking stitch fabric. SS is probably the most common fabric in knitting and creates a smooth side with the appearance of “v”s, and a bumpy side with the appearance of half moons or smiles on the other. This is the first advantage of stocking stitch. If you are making a sweater for instance, you can change the look and feel of it simply by piecing it together “inside out”. That is, seaming it so that the bumpy side is on the outside of the garment and the smooth side on the inside. This can also be done when making hats and provides a more comfortable “inside” as it is smoother on the skin.
The picture on the left is the “smooth” side of stocking stitch (notice the “v”), and the right the “rough” (see the smiles). Usually, when the rough side is showing it is referred to as “reverse stocking stitch”.
The main thing that you need to be careful of when knitting in stocking stitch s that it will roll up on the edges. If your garment is cleverly designed this can be a feature, as in a rolled neck or hem sweater. Most often though this feature is unwanted and needs to be accounted for. This is usually done by starting first with a flat stitch pattern (often a rib), and then going into stocking stitch.
Stocking stitch is also commonly used for gauge measurements with yarn. Most often on the ball band, you will see a grid that tells you how many rows and columns you will get over a 10cm (4 inch) square area when using a specific needle size. On a ball band this is in stocking stitch and most often the same in patterns. When it is in a different stitch it will state what that stitch pattern is.
When knitting in the round, you can create stocking stitch by knitting all your stitches. You would think this would give you garter stitch but it doesn’t as since you are working in the round, you always have the same side (usually the right) showing. As a matter of fact, this is how stocking stitch got its name. It was originally used to make stockings, as it was done in the round and all the stitches were knit (the purl stitch hadn’t been developed yet). Again, ironically, it wasn’t until after the development of the purl stitch that garter stitch came into use! Stocking stitch also allows you to add color to your work without seeing lines of the color change in the row above or below the change. This allows Fair Isle and Intarsia knitting in stocking stitch quite easily. This becomes easier still when done in the round, but we’ll cover that another day. This opens up a whole world of possibilities when doing color work in stocking stitch. The best part is that you can create a graph of your pattern where each square represents one stitch and simply “paint” your pattern. You can even take pictures and place them in your grid to knit later. Lines showing the decreasing and increasing allow you to create a pattern without words! If you’ve been on this blog before, you’ll be familiar with this technique from the posts on color work. If you want to learn more about it, check out the book Essential Guide to Color Techniques, by Margaret Radcliffe. It has been featured on here before!