Maybe you’ve taken a beginner knitting class and are ready to move on to something more advanced. Or, maybe you’re still at the beginner stage but looking ahead to what you’ll be able to do with your knitting needles one day. Beyond the basic knit and purl stitches, there are so many other beautiful and intricate-looking stitches. Some are pretty tricky to master, whereas others only look that way and aren’t as difficult as the results might suggest. 

Here, we introduce 26 of the most common knitting stitches, from entry-level to intermediate and advanced. (Note that although crocheting and knitting are related crafts, we’re only covering types of knitting stitches in this article). 

Pull out your yarn and get stitching!

Basic Types of Knitting Stitches

The following stitches are the most basic, and every knitter should master them before moving on to more advanced stitches. That’s easier than it might sound, though, because they all come down to two fundamental stitches: knit and purl. 

1. Knit Stitch

knitted washcloths
Washcloths knitted with the basic knit stitch.

Of all the knitting stitch types, this is the foundation. Knit stitch is also sometimes called plain stitch. It’s where all beginners should begin, and even more advanced knitters will be using it much of the time. It’s much easier to learn to knit by following a visual tutorial than through written instructions. So, if you need to learn the basic knit stitch before reading any further, take a beginner knitting class!

2. Purl Stitch

Purl stitch is basically the same as knit stitch, but backwards. Instead of the needle going into the back of the stitch on the knitting needle and then upward, it goes in downward. On its own, purl stitch ends up looking just like knit stitch. It’s when it’s combined with knit stitch that interesting things start to take shape.

Begin Your Journey in Knitting

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3. Stockinette Stitch

stockinette stitch
Source: Instagram
A perfect example of stockinette stitch.

Stockinette stitch alternates one row of knit stitches with one row of purl stitches. It’s that simple! Pieces knitted with stockinette stitch will look different on the front and back. The result has more stretch than a piece knitted only with the knit stitch (which is called garter stitch).

4. Garter Stitch

garter stitch
Student work by Sara Densmore for Knitting I: Learn the Basics with a Simple Scarf.

Garter stitch is when multiple rows of stitches are created only with the knit stitch. The front and back look the same. It’s not stretchy and doesn’t curl.

5. Reverse Stockinette Stitch

reverse stockinette stitch
Source: Instagram
A garment made from reverse stockinette stitch.

Reverse stockinette stitch looks like garter stitch on the right side, but because it consists of a row of knit stitches followed by a row of purl stitches, it looks different on the back. It’s exactly as it sounds: the reverse of stockinette stitch. 

Why do patterns sometimes call for reverse stockinette stitch then, and not just stockinette stitch? The idea is to have the appearance of garter stitch on the top. If the pattern called for stockinette stitch, the little v-shapes on the right side of stockinette stitch would be on top. Got it?

More Advanced Knitting Stitch Types

Once you’ve mastered knit stitch and purl and want to progress beyond straight scarves, the following stitches will be useful.

6. Rib Stitch

rib stitch
Source: Instagram
The bottom of this hat is formed with stretchy rib stitch.

Although it looks more advanced than the previous stitch types, rib stitch actually just consists of a mixture of knit rows and purl rows. The exact number of rows of each depends on the pattern. Rib stitch creates a very stretchy piece of fabric, so it’s used for parts of a garment that need a lot of stretch, such as cuffs, necklines, or socks.

7. Single Rib Stitch

rib stitch
Source: Instagram
Single rib knit stitch is a finer version of rib stitch.

Whereas rib stitch alternates a few rows of knit and purl stitches to create the ribbing, single rib stitch alternates single knit stitches and single purl stitches on the same row, creating very thin ribs.

8. Basketweave Stitch

basketweave knit
Source: Instagram
A basketweave knit blanket in progress.

Basketweave knitting imitates the look of a woven basket. It consists of alternating squares or rectangles of knit and purl stitch. It looks somewhat like cable stitch (more on that soon) but is simpler to pull off.

9. Diagonal Basketweave 

diagonal basketweave
Source: Instagram
Diagonal basketweave stitch in action.

Diagonal basketweave stitch is similar to basketweave stitch but, well, it’s on the diagonal. Knitting patterns requiring basketweave stitch will tell you how many knit and how many purl stitches to knit at each point to get the desired outcome.

10. Tiles Stitch

white knit
Source: Instagram
Tiles stitch is a great texture for knitting blankets.

Tiles stitch is also similar to basketweave stitch in that it alternates squares of knit and purl stitch to create a textured fabric. It differs because the squares aren’t right up next to each other, so the finished look is more like tiles than a woven basket.

11. Purl Ridge Stitch

purl stitch
Source: Instagram
A purl ridge stitch cowl.

Another good intermediate-friendly stitch, the purl ridge stitch alternates bands of stockinette stitch with rows of purl stitches. 

12. Cartridge Belt Rib Stitch

cartridge belt stitch
Source: Instagram
Cartridge belt rib stitch is a “false rib”. 

Also called false rib stitch, cartridge belt rib stitch looks like rib stitch but doesn’t actually require any purl stitches. It’s reversible, so it looks the same on both sides, and it acts the same way as rib stitches. It does require dropping stitches, so it’s not as simple as the regular rib stitch.

13. Herringbone Stitch

herringbone stitch
Source: Instagram
Herringbone stitch is beautifully textured.

Herringbone stitch looks kind of like rows of herring bones (if you squint hard!). It ends up looking like a woven piece of fabric, but it’s actually made by dropping stitches and knitting together other stitches at the right times. 

14. Herringbone Lace Rib Stitch

herringbone stitch
Source: Instagram
A herringbone lace rib stitch scarf.

Combining features of the herringbone stitch and rib stitch but not as complex as the lace stitch (see more below), the herringbone lace rib stitch looks like a more delicate version of the common rib stitch.

15. Seed Stitch

seed stitch
Source: Instagram
Seed stitch is very textured but quite simple.

Seed stitch is a textured stitch that alternates single knit stitches and single purl stitches both horizontally and vertically. It lies flat, like garter stitch, so it’s great for scarves as you won’t have to press, pin, or steam the finished piece to stop it from curling.

16. Moss Stitch

moss stitch
Source: Instagram
Moss stitch is delicate and knobby.

Sometimes called Irish moss stitch, moss stitch is similar to seed stitch. However, instead of alternating the pattern every row, you alternate it every two rows, which ends up giving a different effect.

17. Linen Stitch

linen stitch
Source: Instagram
Linen stitch is a dense and heavily textured stitch.

Linen stitch looks woven and involves slipping and wrapping stitches. It creates a dense fabric that’s good for household items like dishcloths, but because it’s durable it’s also great for some hard wearing clothing, like jackets.

18. Bamboo Stitch

bamboo stitch
Source: Instagram
Bamboo stitch garment; coffee is optional.

Another stitch that looks woven, the bamboo stitch has stronger vertical/horizontal through-lines than the linen stitch. Less experienced knitters will be happy to know that it isn’t as difficult as it looks.

19. Netted Stitch 

netted stitch
Source: Instagram
Netted stitch is another stitch that creates a woven-like texture.

Netted stitch is created by knitting one stitch and then wrapping the thread around the needle and knitting two stitches together; the process is then repeated along the length of stitches.

20. Chinese Wave Stitch

chinese wave stitch
Source: Instagram
A headband made using the Chinese wave stitch.

Chinese wave stitch uses the knit/garter stitch and dropped stitches. Because you don’t need to use the purl stitch, the finished fabric doesn’t curl. 

21. Raspberry Stitch

rasberry stitch
Source: Instagram
The sleeves of this sweater use raspberry stitch.

Also called trinity stitch or blackberry stitch, raspberry stitch is named because the end result is “bunches” of stitches that look like raspberries (or blackberries, if you prefer). It’s heavily textured, and the bunches of raspberries can be smaller or larger, depending on the effect you’re after.

22. Diamond Honeycomb Stitch

diamond honeycomb stitch
Source: Instagram
This diamond honeycomb stitch hat makes great use of color.

Diamond honeycomb stitch is formed by combining knit, purl, and dropped stitches. It looks like a layer of stockinette stitch trapped behind a web of diamond-shaped honeycomb. It’s a fun stitch when paired with a creative use of color, too.

23. Intarsia Knitting

menora sweater
Source: Instagram
An example of a sweater knitted using the intarsia stitch technique.

Intarsia knitting is a way of working with different colored yarns. This could be just two different colors, or as many as ten (or more!). Unlike Fair Isle stitch knitting (see below), intarsia stitch knitting doesn’t strand the back of the knitted piece with the colors you’re not currently working with. The back of a Fair Isle piece of knitting is crossed with lots of strands of different colors, which can end up being quite bulky. This is avoided with intarsia knitting, as the strands of yarn in different colors are twisted together when you change colors.

24. Fair Isle Knitting

Knitting a Fair Isle garment while wearing a Fair Isle sweater.

Fair Isle knitting is a type of traditional knitting originating in Fair Isle, part of the Shetland Islands of Scotland. It’s also sometimes called stranded knitting, although not all stranded knitting is Fair Isle knitting per se. Strands of two different or more colors are used in Fair Isle knitting to create multi-colored garments. The back of a Fair Isle stitched piece is covered in strands of yarn.

25. Cable Stitch

This cowl showcases several different types of cable stitch.

Cable stitch (actually, stitches, because it comes in different forms) creates twisted, textured cable patterns by crossing and overlapping sections of knitting. Knitting some kinds of cables requires the use of special cable knitting needles which are curved or hooked rather than straight. Cable knitted garments are often made on machines these days, but the satisfaction you’ll get from making your own cable knit sweater is second to none.

26. Lace Stitch

lace stitch
Source: Instagram
A lace stitch sweater.

Lace stitch creates fabric that looks like lace, holes and all. It’s challenging to make deliberate, “stable” holes in knitting without everything unravelling. Some people even think this is the most difficult type of stitch.

Practice Advanced Knitting Today

sock knit
Once you’ve learned advanced stitches, you can knit practically anything. Including socks.

As you can see, there are so many great options when hand-knitting clothing or homewares. It might all look a bit overwhelming, but remember that all knitters begin with the basics and work their way up to advanced techniques over time. You’ll be making herringbone lace rib Fair Isle sweaters in no time (OK, not exactly, but you get the idea.) Have fun!

Practice Advanced Stitches

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Written by:

Elen Turner