Texture in knitting - why and how

I had barely figured out the knit and purl stitch when I ended up paging through a stitch dictionary on my grandmother's basement couch. It was Christmas break, I'd swapped my gift cards for fresh yarn and needles, and I was captivated. "I can knit and purl," I thought to myself. "I can do all of this!"


I couldn't. My fabric was rich with yarnovers since I didn't yet know I needed to bring the yarn forward and back between purls and knits. That learning stage only lasted a few weeks, though, and I've been smitten ever since.

Why incorporate texture?

I'm easily bored by repetition. For me, adding texture to my knits makes knitting more fun, more engaging, and more dynamic.


Tip - prefer the fit of a seamed sweater but aren't exactly "passionate" about purling? Go for a textured knit, so the wrong side is fun too!


And yet, I like to put down a project and pick it back up and find my place relatively easily. Because all-over textures are easily memorized, I don't have to refer to my pattern any more than I would if I worked in stockinette, but my hands are much less bored.


Tip - if you get lost in your shaping instructions, it's much faster to count repeats of a stitch pattern than it is to count rows - it's easier to find your place when you resume knitting if you're working a texture!


A gray green and gray purple yarn ball sit on top of textured swatches of different colors and paterns.
These swatches use easily memorized all-over textures.

Texture adds structure: the tension created in stitch patterns gives garments more structure. If you don't like stockinette cardigans because they flop open or sag down from the shoulder, you might prefer one worked in cables.


Texture adds warmth: One of my daughter's favorite sweaters is her Early Sowing sweater. Designed with spring and fall in mind, it has dense cables on the body for extra warmth (just like a built-in vest).


Texture hides stains: Especially for hardwearing knits, the ones for kids or outdoor wear, I choose deep texture. For example, the shadows created by a cable pattern camouflage and break up the borders of stains, making them less visible. Maximize this effect by using a gently tonal yarn.


Get involved with textures

My favorite way to incorporate texture easily is to set-it-and-forget-it. Either work columns of repeating textures (such as an easily memorized cable that doesn't travel) or knit whole parts (fronts/back/sleeves) from an all-over pattern.


Extend the life of your pattern: Maybe you knit your first basic sweater in stockinette, and you love it... mostly. "If I knit this again, I'd do things just a tiny bit different." So you cast on a size larger and plan to knit the cropped version - but why stop there? Get more mileage from patterns you love by mixing up the stitch pattern.


Create your own scarf or wrap: Check out my favorite stitch dictionary, Potter Craft's 400 Knitting Stitches: A Complete Dictionary of Essential Stitch Patterns, and create your own sampler. Or pick up a copy of Sequence Knitting: Simple Methods for Creating Complex Reversible Fabrics from Cecelia Campochiaro and create something one of a kind.


Get inspired by the world around: Whether it's shifting dunes, columnar basalt, or a drift of cherry blossoms, there is so much inspiration for texture in the world around us. Need a kickstart? Check out some ideas here!

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