The Waistcoat Stitch Secrets

March 19, 2024

The waistcoat stitch is a brilliant two-faced thing. But be aware of the waistcoat stitch trap!

The knit stitch aka waistcoat stitch

To unlock the waistcoat stitch's full potential, it helps to know its secrets and understand the nuances of the waistcoat stitch.

Most crocheters call the waistcoat stitch dense and sturdy while a few of us love it for its drapiness and flexibility.

And why is that? Because there are at least TWO versions of the waistcoat stitch! They differ slightly in appearance and significantly more in structure and flexibility.

You should know about both versions, so you can choose which one to use for a project.

How to Work the Waistcoat Stitch(es)

The Basics

The stitch is created by inserting the hook between the legs of the next stitch.

And then there is a trap: There is a vertical bar at the back of the stitch*. It matters whether the hook is inserted before or after this vertical bar. Zoom in at the topmost image to see it.

*Note. Actually, there are two bars at the back. The main culprit is a very straight up-and-down (vertical) bar, while the other is slanted and sits on the side of the stitch. The slanted strand is positioned so far to the side that I doubt anyone considers using it today when working a 'normal' waistcoat stitch. If we count it, we have 3 versions of the stitch. I will disregard this 3rd version for now.

What is the difference?

There are differences between the two versions.

Leaning and Dense

The dense version of the stitch captures more yarn, resulting in a structure where the strands are more entangled and closely packed together within each stitch. This tight interlocking of strands reduces flexibility.

As the denser stitch version grabs the back bar, it is pulled slightly to the side, causing the waistcoat stitches to lean. 

The leaning and dense waistcoat stitch

On the wrong side of the work, the stitches create a neatly structured yet slightly skewed pattern, with the stitches shifting. Being an organized chaos or a coordinated mess.

Straight and with Drape

The less dense version of the waistcoat stitch doesn't grasp the back bar. This allows the strands within each stitch to move more freely, resulting in greater flexibility in the work. Additionally, capturing less yarn means the fabric becomes slightly lighter, creating a thinner texture. With a looser structure, the fabric also gains more drape.

The less-dense waistcoat stitch version hardly leans at all. 

The straight and softer waistcoat stitch

On the wrong side, the stitches also line up beautifully inside each other.

Which Waistcoat Stitch Version to use?

If a pattern does not specify a certain stitch version, it's likely that the designer is only familiar with the 'German' waistcoat stitch version and designed the pattern accordingly.

Then you can choose what to use:
  • Opting for a small hook and the dense 'German' version of the stitch results in a tight, dense, and thick fabric. Cotton yarn emphasizes this. Great for sturdy things like a hat or maybe amigurumi. You also get a nice spiral look, that can be very decorative.
  • Choosing a large hook and using soft, flexible yarn to work the drapey version of the stitch results in a fabric that looks and works more like stitch-stretchy knitted stockinette. Smooth and soft. This fabric is ideal for wearables, blankets, and even softer types of amigurumi, although using a smaller hook may be preferable to keep the filling in place.
I suggest you choose what works better for a specific project and for the result you want to achieve.

Enjoy your next waistcoat stitch project :)

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