No purl garter stitch in the round – is that even possible?

If you’ve been around for a while, you may know that I don’t like purling.

You may also know that I always knit on circular needles and that I prefer knitting in the round.

Another thing I like is the garter stitch. It’s squishy, has a rustic look to it, and breaks of stockinette in a beautiful way.

But garter stitch in the round means every other row is purling, which I don’t like. Soo…

I spent some time searching, reading, and trying a couple of things out and I’m now ready to share the results with you!

Why I avoid purl stitches

Purling takes more time for me than the knit rows, I feel like I’m losing my flow and speed on the purl rows and therefore I avoid to knit whole rows of them. This is one of the reasons I prefer to knit in the round as much as possible, in the round, there is no purling involved in the stockinette stitch. 

Stitch patterns that involve both and, knit stitches, like ribbing or seed stitch, are beautiful and fun to knit. And they have great qualities like the ability to keep your stockinette stitch edges from curling.

Knitting garter stitch in the round – the common way

When you’re knitting in the round, whether you choose to knit on double-pointed needles or circular needles, it can be a bit confusing with the stitch patterns since there is no ”knitting back” you have to think about it in a slightly different way.

Garter stitch really is the easiest, most basic knitting stitch out there. When you knitting it flat it’s just knit stitches in every row. And if you want to you could totally knit your piece in flat garter and then seam it afterward. 

But if you want to knit a project in the round and use garter?

Knitting every row will give you stockinette stitch because every row is facing you when you are knitting in the round. So you will have to purl every other row. 

There are two problems with knitting garter stitch in the round:

  1. Purls. I don’t like them, and I’m sure some of you aren’t too fond of them either … more on that in a bit.
  2. Jogs. Knitting in the round forms a spiral of stitches rather than defined rows. This causes a jog at the end/start-point of your rounds when working in garter stitch, just as working stripes in the round can do.

    If you don’t like how this line of jogs look you could remove it by moving the beginning of the row one stitch for every row. Knit to the beginning of next row, slip the first stitch purlwise with the yarn in back, purl the rest of the row, including the stitch you lifted earlier.

    Lift the first stitch of the next row with yarn in back and knit the rest of the stitches. In this way, you’re constantly putting the start of the row one stitch forward and breaking the line of jogs. This can be a bit confusing if you working on a project that has shaping that relies on the start of the rows.

Two ways to knit garter stitch in the round

After some researching, I have found out that there is a couple of ways to do the garter stitch in the round without having to do the purling part! 

I felt the need to examine these garter stitch-tricks a little closer, so I knitted a tube in thick wool yarn and my size US7 / 4,5mm tips.

The first part of my tube is knitted in the wrap and turn-method, the middle in regular garter stitch and for the last third, I tried the two strand-method. 

And, after my test knitting, I have come to these conclusions …

1. Wrapping and turning

This is like knitting short rows, you knit one round, make a wrap and turn, and then you flip your work inside out and work the knit stitch all the way back to the end/beginning of the next round. But as I learned along the way, do not pick up and knit the wrap as you would for short rows, that actually makes the jog more visible. Just leaving it looks better, so in my opinion, there is no need to fiddle with that. 

This is just as working back and forth, but the wrap holds the tube together for you.

I actually liked this method! It took me a couple of rows to get the hang of the turning part, but then it just worked itself more or less. And I actually feel like this method was much faster for me than purling every other round. 

I don’t really mind the jog created with this method, but it’s there and I think it’s a little more visible than the jog created when working the garter stitch with knit and purls.

Pros: There is no purling, wohooo!

Cons: There is still a jog and, it can be a bit fiddly to keep turning the knitting inside out.

How to do the wrap and turn in circular garter stitch

  • Pick your preferred method and cast on your stitches with one strand of yarn.
  • Join in the round and then knit the first round of stitches. 
  • Slip the first stitch of the next round knitwise, bring the yarn from the back under the left needle. The yarn should be locked between the first and the second stitch once the first stitch is placed back on the left needle. Once you turn your work in next step, the yarn will create a wrap around that stitch you lifted and put back. Don’t pick up and knit this wrap, it just becomes more visible if you do that.
  • Turn your work inside out, and keep working the round in knit stitch. What happens when you turn the work inside out is the same thing as turning when you work flat – it allows you to work the other side. 
  • Just keep on knitting like this, wrapping and turning each time you reach the end/start point of your rounds.

2. Knitting with two strands of yarn 

The person that first came up with this way of knitting garter in the round is a genius! It’s super easy to do! 

In this method, you will use two strands of yarn and work in both directions, alternating on every row. It’s really clever and can be used on any project worked in the round. 

When I first tried it I thought it would be hard, because of the two strands of yarn, but it’s a breeze!

As mentioned before, knitting in the round creates a spiral of stitches rather than actual rows, and when we turn in the spiral there will be a bump that doesn’t look like the garter bumps. 

But, when knitting with two strands, where the first strand always will go in one direction and the other strand always will go in the opposite direction it’s said that this problem shouldn’t occur. As you can see in the photo this didn’t apply to my sample tube. Something clearly went wrong here. 

It was a bit confusing to keep track of which ball is going in which direction. I put an attachable stitch marker at one side of my work and put the accordingly yarn ball in a yarn bowl to separate it from the other ball. 

The yarn bowl, by the way, is a very useful yet simple tool. I use it to keep my yarn from rolling all over the place. (Read in under the sofa where the dust bunnies live…) or for separating yarn balls when I’m working with more than one at a time. Want one for yourself? Knit picks have a great assortment to choose from!

Pros:

  • No purls!
  • Super easy to learn!

Cons:

  • It is a confusing to keep track of which yarn ball should go in which direction.
  • The jog that shouldn’t even be there are more visible and a bit messy, compared to the other methods. I actually frogged and did this part a few times but I didn’t manage to get rid of the jog. This could totally be some kind of misunderstanding from my side. 

How to knit the circular garter stitch with two strands

  • Pick your preferred method and cast on your stitches with one strand of yarn.
  • Join in the round and then knit the first row of stitches, still with your first strand of yarn. 
  • Turn your work over (so that your purl bumps of the first rows is turning against you) and attach the next strand of yarn, leave the first strand handing, and knit your second row.
  • Then you just keep knitting in the same way, alternating yarns and turning your work over at the end of your round. Keep in mind to pull the strand you are picking up to keep your stitches neat in the ”seam”..

Your next read:
––> Review: HiyaHiya interchangeable – after using them for seven years!
––> What’s the deal with circular needles?
––> How to knit with a circular needle that’s too long?

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