The first question that I asked my avid knitter wife and knitting teacher after I had finished a pattern that used a stockinette stitch was whether the edges were supposed to curl up the way they did. I thought I had done something wrong. Though the stitching looked great, I wasn’t too happy with the curling on the sides of my work. Turns out, there are lots of ways to fix that curling; an easy way is to add a Stockinette Border.
Before we get to the Stockinette Border, it is important for beginner knitters like me to know what a stockinette stitch looks like and why it has a curl. When you knit a swatch of stockinette stitch and bind it off, you will see that the edges curl up once you let go of your work. This is normal. There is nothing wrong with the knitting. Stockinette curls because of the asymmetric structure of the knit and purl stitches. And it is not always a bad thing; sometimes the curl can be a design element of a work!
If you don’t want the edges of your stockinette stitches to curl, the easiest and most effective way to stop the curling is to add a border. The border will need to be wide enough to counteract the natural pull of the stockinette curling. Since some yarns curl more than others, you will need to use a little trial and error to figure out how many rows it will take to eliminate the curling. In the work that I was doing, I found that four rows of stitches got the job done nicely and looked great.
In my trial and error learning, I played around with a few things just for fun. I tried different yarns, needle sizes, and different amounts of tension to see if these things impact the amount of curling in my stockinette stitching. Guess what, they did! Generally, I found that if I knitted loosely on larger needles, the curling was noticeably less that when I knitted tightly with smaller needles. Again, one more reason to practice and work on tension control and consistency.
This adventure fixing the stockinette stitch curl was quite enjoyable. It wasn’t hard to fix the curl and I can see that for many projects the curl can actually be a design feature of the work such as a rolled neck area of a sweater, rolled hems or cuffs, or the tops of socks, etc.
By the way, if you are wondering what I had knitted, it is a golf ball washcloth that I made using Merino Velvet Worsted yarn. Some time back, my very first project was to make a small washcloth that I could use to clean my golf balls while playing golf. I wanted something small, just for golf ball cleaning, that I could easily grab from the outer pocket of my golf bag instead of using my larger golf towel that gets very dirty from cleaning clubs after each shot.
Now, my playing buddies are not only bugging me to make them golf ball washcloths, but are making color requests as well! The adventures continue…