Saturday, October 24, 2015

Not a Knot: Our friend, the Garter Stitch

As we say hello to scarf season, it's a great moment to go inside, take out our needles, and unpack the garter stitch.

Many knitters begin their fiber art journeys with the the garter stitch technique. It is arguably easy to make and understand. The repeating series of knit stitches can be used to create scarves, and many knitters talk about the meditative nature of the repetition. However, a closer look reveals a more complex side of the friendly stitch. 

An illustration of the garter stitch pattern. 

 When knitting, the working yarn comes around the needle and through a pre-existing stitch. A resulting loop is created, which the knitter then slips from the left needle to the right needle. The garter stitch provides an approachable conceptualization of what it means for a stitch to be a loop; the stitch is not a knot. 

Stitches are commonly talked about as knots, but as one can see in the picture above, the garter stitch pattern in created from a series of loops. In this sense, one can think of a hat as a spiral of stitches, not as a set of circles. Through my experience with knitting, I have discovered a deeper level of understanding when I slow down to actually look at the behavior of the wool.  

The working yarn come through the previous loop to make a new loop.

Garter stitches are sometimes viewed as elementary, or simplistic, but it is good for knitters to remember that the underlying structure of any stitch is far from simple. I suggest that the next time you find yourself knitting with a repetitive pattern, take a moment to focus your attention on the architecture and movement of the loops. You may be surprised by what you learn.

The garter stitch pattern is used to make a scarf out of chunky wools. 

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