Notes on Working Garter Stitch in the Round

I did a little research recently on working garter stitch in the round while I was considering the design of this super simple cowl.

I started to work my project in the traditional way, working alternating knit and purl rounds and ran into that annoying jog at the end/beginning of the round at the transition point between knit and purl.  This started me on my quest to see if there was a way to do garter in the round without the jog and in this post I'll share some of what I found.

First off, I was able to find three ways of working garter stitch in the round.  Here's the roundup: 

The Traditional Approach: Working alternating knit/purl rounds. It's the way we all first learn to do it.

 No-Purl Method #1 - Wrap & Turn: In this method you wrap the first stitch of the next round, much like short-rowing and just flip your tube of knitting inside-out on the needles.  KnitFreedom has a great video tutorial on this technique that I've included above. Don't make the same mistake I did and feel you have to pick up your wrap like you would if you were short-rowing. It just doesn't look as good as leaving the wrap alone.

No Purl Method #2 - Two Strand: This method requires two strands of yarn. Start your work by casting on, joining in the round and knitting the first round.  At the start of round 2, you will flip the work on your right hand needle so that the purl bumps of the round just completed are facing you. Then you will attach the second strand of yarn and start knitting, leaving the first strand of yarn to remain hanging on the side you left it.  Once you knit the second round, flip the work again so that the stitches on the right hand needle (round you just completed) are now facing you with the purl bumps showing, and use the first strand of yarn to knit the round.  In this way, you alternate, knitting each round with the strand of yarn that was unused the previous round, leaving the strands of yarn to hang on the sides you left them and making sure to pull snuggly when picking up each new strand when beginning the round.  Here is the best video I found that illustrates this technique.

One of the first things I discovered was that depending on your yarn-to-needle gauge ratio, your results with each technique will vary in providing the most seamless result.  Take a look at each of the techniques in the photo at the top of this post, and compare the results in a lacier garter vs. a chunkier, denser garter.  In the photo above, the seam is placed precisely in the middle of the image.  For a lacier garter, the traditional knit/purl route is actually the most seamless.  When the work gets chunkier, the two-strand approach yields the most seamless result.

But looks aren't the only consideration when choosing which technique you might want to follow.  Each technique presents pros, cons and varying degrees of fiddly.  Like anything else in this hobby, one of these garter stitch methods may be more fun for you, and another might be pure torture. Here's my thinking on the pros and cons of each technique:

Traditional Knit / Purl
-  Doesn't really show a jog with lacy stitches
-  Great if you like to purl
    -  Shows a definite jog with chunky stitches
    -  Not great if you don't like to purl.  Especially if you are considering a shawl with 1000s of stitches in a round.

      No Purl #1 - Wrap & TurnPros

      -  No purling required - just knit.
      -  Only one strand of yarn required


        -  Shows a jog with lacy and chunky stitches, at least in my experiments.  (Maybe I'm still not getting the subtleties of this technique?)
        -  A bit fiddly, you need to really work on your tension at the wrap point and I was never able to really get results that pleased me.

          No Purl #2 - Two Strand


          -  No purling required - just knit.
          -  Doesn't really show a jog with chunkier knitting projects


            -  Shows a jog with lacy stitches
            -  You need 2 strands of yarn.  This can get very fiddly, especially if you are working both strands from each end of a center pull ball.

            The results above are for plain garter stitch:  A 4th way to eliminate the jog with garter stitch in the round is to deviate slightly from a plain garter stitch pattern. Had I had chosen my EOR stitch carefully and modified the plain garter stitch pattern slightly, I could eliminate the jogs entirely when working the traditional method and possibly the other 2 methods as well.   The free No-Stress Ripple Stitch Cowl pattern I designed has segments of garter-based ripple stitch and there is no jogging in those rounds.

            The photo above shows the simple cowl pattern I designed that started this whole investigation in the first place. For the featured yarn, which is chunky, I suggest the Two Strand Approach because it does the best job at minimizing the jog.  And as an added bonus, you don't have to purl.