Knitting The Herringbone Stitch
Updated: Apr 15
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Life always picks up speed for me in the spring and I enjoy having something on my needles that is mostly mindless, still offers a bit of interest by changing up the stitch pattern every now and again, and brings in some beauty (I love spring but this time of year, the snow melts and all around me are the dead bodies of last summer's plants - and lets face it, they are not pretty). The Freia Shawl is offers me this balance of mindless stitching and interest in the pattern before me while upping the pretty factor of my surroundings.
Important Things to Remember When Working Herringbone Stitch
Photo Tutorial of Herringbone Stitch
Video Tutorial of Herringbone Stitch
Learn the basics of herringbone stitch while making a simple but beautiful shawl. Get your copy of the Freia Shawl Pattern now!
I have a love/hate relationship with herringbone stitch. I LOVE the fabric it creates, and I can really get into the rhythm of working it. But it sure does seem to take me a long time to do (I think I stop regularly to admire the fabric I'm creating!) and it is a tad awkward to have such small yarn on such large needles. But that fabric is so worth all the awkward.
I have been wearing my Freia Shawl quite a bit recently and playing about with the herringbone stitch in another design and I want to share some of my observations and a quick tutorial for anyone who would like to try it out.
Before we dive into the mechanics of the herringbone stitch, lets first go over a few Important Things to Remember:
Herringbone in the round is a bit different than herringbone in worked flat but the basic concept is the same. This tutorial is focused on the herringbone stitch when working flat.
Herringbone is TIGHT. For example, knit in fingering weight yarn, Freia Shawl suggests a US 6/ 4mm needle to be used for the stockinette portion. The herringbone section requires a US 10.5/ 6.5mm needle! It seems so crazy to be working with big honkin' needles and fingering weight yarn! It's true. But because of extreme slant to the stitches, you will find that the stockinette still puckers where the two fabrics meet unless aggressively blocked.
It can be tricky if we make a mistake, there are few options but to go back and fix it if we are more than just one row above. And tinking herringbone is a pain in the bum-tooshy. While I will not be demonstrating tinking herringbone or fixing it in this tutorial, rest assured both are possible and you can count on a future blog post about them.
Because of #3 we just read about, adding a life line every few rows isn't a bad idea. Just be sure you use a yarn that will not felt or leave dye on your project such as undyed cotton or even kitchen twine.
There is a fantastic flip side of the tricky to fix bit in number 3: due to the nature of the stitch, you will never drop a stitch and have it run away from you deep into all your hard work. If you drop a herringbone stitch it just hangs out there, abandoned and waiting for you to return to it and make it right. Or, perhaps as I have been known to do, let it be. Maybe it didn't want to get worked in with its neighbor and who am I to force them to play together nicely? That is a pretty way of saying sometimes I just leave it and make a stitch later where it wont show (shhhh-don't tell anyone).
The craft of knitting does not have a very diverse vocabulary and we will talk about causing a stitch to lean to the right in the same sentence with the right side of the fabric. I can get turned around because one is an adverb or a direction ( "the stitch leans to the right") and one is a noun ("right side of the fabric"). Being aware of this potential point of confusion can help sort things out when needed.
Okay then! Are you ready? First I'll share the basic idea of what we do to create the herringbone stitch and then I'll show you some pictures and we will break down each step.
To get those right and left leaning stitches, we work two stitches together (imagine knitting two together in your mind) but then we only drop the front stitch off the needle (can you see it in your imagination?). The different directions that the stitches lean are dependent on how they are worked together.
Lets reflect on what we know of working a right leaning decrease with a k2tog (knit 2 together) or p2tog (purl two together) and put i