(Note: this is a sequel. Click here to read our first knitting list)
Though knitting is only made up of two stitches (knit and purl) the combination of those creates a variety of patterns and textures. There are two such textures that are considered the building blocks of most knitwear, and one is stockinette stitch.
First, a clarification: stockinette is not a stitch as such, like knit and purl are, but a pattern created by repeating knit and purl stitches in a particular way. Stockinette stitch is what we think of as “regular” knitting: it is made by alternating knit and purl rows so that one side of the fabric shows interlocking loops (knitting) and the other side shows rows of short horizontal loops (purling).
The word stockinette first shows up in written prose in the late 1700s as an alternation of the phrase stocking net. Net is an earlier word for knit, and stocking net was just that: a type of knitting that was very elastic and used for items that needed to stretch and retain their shape—like stockings. Our earliest uses of the word, going back to the 1700s, don’t refer to the stitch itself, but to the fabric produced by stockinette stitch:
During this little colloquy, Mr. Kittington, in stockinet pantaloons and pumps—time half-past eight in the morning—stood fiddle in hand naturally looking particularly awkward.
— The New Monthly Magazine, 1837
Nowadays when knitters talk about stockinette stitch, they are referring not just to the pattern, but to the combination of stitches used to create that pattern: knit one row, purl the next. Stockinette wasn’t applied to the knitting stitch until the middle of the 20th century.