Stitch Anatomy – Knitting: substituting stitches in patterns

Some time ago a nice lady asked me a very interesting question: since I really don’t like the look of Garter Stitch, can I substitute it with Stockinette Stitch?

The answer is, yes BUT.

Let’s see the differences between these two stitches and why they are not completely interchangeable. I’ve knitted two small samples to see the differences.


I’ve used the same yarn (Madelinetosh Vintage), the same needles (KnitPro Marblz double pointed needles size 4.5 mm / US 7), the same chair (Ikea something) and I’ve made them the same day, that is today…

As you can see, there is a HUGE difference, even for such a small sample. I’ve cast on the same amount of stitches and knitted the same amount of rows for both of them. The swatch is 15 st x 18 rows (I didn’t block them)


The Stockinette Stitch sample measure 8 x 8 cm (about 3 x 3 inches), it’s a perfect square. The Garter Stitch sample measures 8,5 x 6 cm (about 3 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches). Quite a difference, don’t you think?


How then can it be possible to knit a Stockinette section inside a Garter border and get a straight piece and not a odd shaped one?
Thanks to the Garter stitch: its great elasticity let it adapt easily beside almost any other kind of stitch. Beside the Stockinette Stitch section, it will stretch in height and thus let every stitch reach the same size.

Back to the initial question, then:

  • if a pattern calls for Garter Stitch, it’s possible to knit in Stockinette Stitch, but the different height of the two stitches must be taken into account (unless the shape or the length is not a problem, like in a blanket, for example). Remember also that Stockinette has the tendency to roll and you can’t really do anything about that (even blocking won’t fix the problem); the best thing to do is add a little border in Garter Stitch (for example), as it will keep the piece straight and avoid the curling.
  • if a pattern calls for Stockinette Stitch, it’s possible to knit in Garter Stitch, but, again, remember the differences in size. You will need a lot more rows to get to the same height, as the Stockinette Stitch is taller and slightly thinner. This also means you will end up using much more yarn than the amount stated in the pattern.


My advise is: make a swatch and measure, do some basic calculations and adapt. This is really necessary if you are making a fitted garment, unless you don’t mind to end up with a long dress or a short top instead of a sweater!

Please, write me and let me know if you have any doubt or question about any aspect of knitting or crochet. I won’t say your name, don’t worry, you won’t be ashamed in public as a newby! It’ll be our secret! 😛

Have fun!!!

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