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The Moss Stitch: What Is It and How Do I Knit It?

One tweak in technique makes it perfect for blankets, scarves, and more.

moss stitch in knitting
Photography by: Amanda Mustard Illustrations

Have you mastered the seed stitch? Then it's time to try a modified version, called the moss stitch. In knitting, the moss stitch is sometimes called the American moss stitch. That's because seed stitch and British moss stitch are used interchangeably, and often result in confusion in how you read a knitting pattern. How do you tell the difference between them? Instead of alternating the pattern every row for the seed stitch, you work two rows of the same sequence of knits and purls before you alternate them for the moss stitch. This small adjustment produces elongated rows of raised bumps that results in a dense, durable fabric that's completely reversible. And because moss stitch doesn't curl at the edges (like in stockinette), it can be worked on its own into a full project: a baby blanket, a set of window curtains, or a simple scarf. It's also practical for a washcloth because the texture makes for a good scrubbing surface.

 

To knit the moss stitch, hold the yarn in your right hand and the knitting needle with cast-on stitches in your left hand (the pointed tip of the needle should be pointing to the right). Make sure that the first stitch is no more than one inch from the tip of the needle. Knitting moss stitch flat (with straight or double-pointed needles) means that you work two rows of the same sequence of knits and purls before you alternate them. Because the moss stitch pattern is reversible, it's easily adaptable to circular knitting needles and knitting in the round.

 

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How to Knit Moss Stitch

To begin, make a slip knot on the shaft of one needle. Place this needle in your left hand. Hold the other needle in your right hand to control the yarn. Cast on a foundation row of stitches in any number required by your pattern. With yarn in back (this is typically abbreviated in a knitting pattern as wyib), insert the right needle into the next stitch and under the left needle. Visually, this forms an "X" with the needles. Wrap the yarn around the right needle, counterclockwise. Draw the yarn through the stitch on the left needle to the front of the work to create a loop on the right needle. Drop the original stitch off the left needle. You will have made one new knit stitch on the right needle. Draw the yarn between the needles to the front of the work. With the yarn in front, insert the right needle purlwise into the next stitch. Visually, this forms an "X" with the right needle in front. Wrap the yarn around the right needle, counterclockwise. Draw the yarn through the stitch on the left needle to the back of the work to create a loop on the right needle. Drop the original stitch off the left needle. You will have made one new purl stitch on the right needle. Draw the yarn between the needles to the back of the work. Repeat these steps up to the last stitch in the row. 

 

With yarn in back, insert the right needle into the next stitch and under the left needle. Wrap the yarn around the right needle, counterclockwise. Draw the yarn through the stitch on the left needle to the front of the work to create a loop on the right needle. Drop the original stitch off the left needle. This finishes the row. A pattern for moss stitch will read like so, "For rows 1 and 2: knit 1, purl 1. For rows 3 and 4: purl 1, knit 1."

 

For your first project, why not consider a knit scarf? This is ideal for practicing the moss stitch for a few reasons: one, a reversible scarf is made up of both knit and purl stitches; two, the foundational texture allows for cabled patterns and other stitch work; and three, the smooth fabric and uncurling edges result in beautiful drape.

 

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