I never used to like garter stitch [1] very much, and hadn't really knit things with a lot of garter stitch. Sure, a scarf here or there in the beginning, and I think I used it for the hem of an early sweater that didn't turn out particularly well. There are so many clever patterns that use a lot of garter stitch, and I'd never really felt it. While I don't know that I'm rushing to knit or design patterns out of a lot of garter stitch, I've definitely discovered that I've softened on it over my hiatus.

My earlier discontent with garter stitch was the combination of:

  • garter stitch is quite dense, because the fabric pulls in so much vertically, so it takes a lot of yarn and a lot of time, and results in a warmer fabric that I often don't like'
  • the vertical pull in of the fabric can get pulled out by blocking or by the weight of the fabric which can be rather uneven.
  • normal tension irregularity is super apparent.
  • I've never much liked the way that knitting things with rows require you to flip the knitting and I don't like the way that this can break up the rhythm of the knitting.
  • the strong horizontal line of the garter ridges always feels awkward to work with.
  • I always struggled to get a selvage edge that I really liked that wasn't totally sloppy.

These, however, are tractable problems I realized, and I've always used a few garter stitches for selvage on the edge of sock heel flaps. The things that I've realized:

  • garter stitch often works best with very fine yarn, which helps ameliorate the additional bulk, and at least for me, helps provide for more even tension.
  • the look of garter stitch sideways is quite compelling, for me, and in most cases it won't stretch out in the same way.
  • a little bit goes a long way, particularly when embedded in another piece of knitting.
  • I've settled down and find that knitting, rather than slipping, the first stitch and giving the yarn a slight tug when knitting the second stitch leads to a pretty clean edge.
  • designing with garter stitch is quite compelling, because the ratio of stitches to rows is basically 2:1, because of the way the ridges pull in, you can sort of approach it as "square," picking up one stitch for every garter ridge lays very flat, so the math is never very complicated.

I'm working on a hat where I knit a ~2 inch wide garter stitch strip to fit around my head and then picked up to knit the crown of the hat along one of the sides of the strip, and along the other to knit a lining. I could have used a provisional cast on, of course, but the strip allowed me to be more confident about sizing, and it ends up being pretty sharp.

I'm not sure I'm going to plan to knit things out of primarily garter stitch, but I've definitely softened rather a lot.

[1]The fabric that results from knitting all stitches on both the front and back of the fabric. The fabric is dense, and it grows slowly, because the "ridges" account for two rows of knitting and it pulls in rather a lot.