Basic Stitches

There are two types of stitches commonly used by knitters.  Knit Stitch and Purl Stitch.  A simple way to explain them is when you are “knitting” a stitch you keep the project between you and the yarn, keeping the string of yarn the farthest from you, where as when you “purl” a stitch, you keep the yarn between you and the project, keeping the project farthest from you.

Now if you purl constantly or knit constantly you will get the same results when you are finished a project, so you may be asking “Why does it matter?”.  Well! When you combine these two stitches together, it creates different knit effects and patterns.  These two basic stitches are needed for doing decorative patterns or ribbing on your projects.

I knit a small swatch of 5 different types of stitches for everyone to see the difference.  You can also see what effects the different patterns have on yarn when you put them next to each other.

Garter Stitch

When you only do knit stitches or  only purl stitches knitting back and forth, you get what is referred to as a “Garter Stitch”.   This looks like zig zag type loops going diagonally across your project.


The loops have made little squiggles across the yarn.  What has actually happened is every time you knit, your previous loop goes in whatever direction you have knit (front or back) and makes these squiggles as you have now pulled a new loop through the old loop.

Stockinette Stitch

When you use a knit stitch going one direction, and purl going the other direction when knitting back and forth, you get a stockinette stitch.  These stitches look like the typical knit pattern you see on sweaters or gloves made by machine.  You will also get a stockinette stitch when doing only a purl or knit stitch if you are knitting in the round (using double pointed needles or circular needles)


The loops consistently going in the same direction cause your project to look like this, as you don’t see the yarn interlocking.  It makes nice little arrow heads or v’s on your work.


Getting Creative

You can also combine these stitches when knitting back and forth to get your various decorative patterns such as using seed stitch, or various ribbing.  Ribbing in the straight stretchy lines you typically get on the ends of sweaters, around collars and on sleeves near the wrist.

little swatch


Double Rib Stitch pattern

Double Rib Stitch Pattern

Single Rib Stitch Pattern

Single Rib Stitch Pattern


Seed Stitch Pattern




Double Rib is made with “Knit 2, Purl 2” or “Purl 2, Knit 2” across the work and creates those wide lines.  You can then knit straight across on the opposite side.  You can if you want, do this pattern on both sides, but remember that if you start with knit2, then you have to start the opposite side with purl 2, to get your v’s/arrow heads

Single Rib is made similarly but with “Knit 1, Purl 1” or “Purl 1, Knit 1” across the work.  You’ll notice in the picture that the work has gotten slightly tighter in the middle and looks similar to a corset.  This will occur with this stitch.  This simple effect makes it nice for cuffs on sleeves, or brims on hats as it adds a slight elastic effect to the work, rather than ADDING elastic.  Just light double rib, you can simple knit across on the opposite/wrong side, but you can continue your pattern on that side too, and again, remember, if you started with knit on the right side, then you want to start with purl on the wrong side (aka, right is going forward, wrong is coming back)

Seed Stitch is made by doing “Knit 1, Purl 1” straight across on one side of your work, then doing the opposite on the other side, so you would Purl 1, Knit 1.  Its slightly more tedious in thought until you get used to it, due to the fact that you have to remember which stitch you ended on, but when you learn to recognize these stitches by sight, you can easily go, “Thats a knit stitch, I know what to do”

TIP: for Seed stitch, whatever stitch you END on, be it purl or knit, thats the same stitch you start with.  So if you do “Knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1” your work going back will be “purl 1, knit 1, purl 1, knit 1”

Comment below with any questions!!

Happy Crafting!

About Kelly

Kelly is an avid knitter with over 10 years experience with the craft. She works with the mental health community as the Director of Psychiatric Rehabilitation day program and uses crafts to help aid in recovery. She is also a Penn State alumni.

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