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Easiest Colorwork Ever: Learn to Knit the Lice Stitch!

Eager to try colorwork, but not sure where to start? We highly recommend the lice stitch!

Lice Stitch Swatch

This easy stitch adds a pop of color to your work without needing to maneuver multiple strands of yarn — you’ll only work with one yarn at a time. The pattern uses a simple slip stitch technique to work a row in two colors.

How to knit the lice stitch

You can dive right into the lice stitch on the project you’re working on, or if you’d like to practice, work up a small garter stitch swatch. You’ll work the next row in a contrasting color.

On the right side

Lice Stitch: Knit 1

With your contrast color, knit one with your contrast color.

Slip Purlwise with the yarn in back

Slip the next stitch purl-wise with the yarn in back.

Repeat these two steps — knit one, slip one with the yarn in back — until the end of the row. Make sure to end with a knit stitch.

You should have alternating contrast-color stitches and slipped main-color stitches all the way across the work.

On the wrong side

Turn your work and, still with your contrast color, knit one.

Slip stitch with the yarn in front

Slip the next stitch purl-wise with the yarn in front.

Float in Stranded Knitting

Each time you slip a stitch, a little strand of the contrasting yarn runs past the slipped stitch — it’s called a float. By holding the yarn in front while working the back side, we make sure that the floats are on the same side. 

Continue these steps — knit one, slip one with the yarn in front — all the way across. When in doubt, slip the main-color stitches and knit the contrast-color stitches. Finish with a knit stitch.

Lice Stitch Wrong Side

The back of your work may look a little messy, like in the photo above. Don’t worry, the right side will look right!

On the next row

Knit all the way across with the main color.

Lice Stitch Swatch

Capture that color!

Drachenfels Shawl

Give the lice stitch a try in the oh-so popular Drachefels Shawl kit. Rows of lice stitch are set off with solid stripes, creating a striking shawl you’ll want to wear again and again.

Get the Kit


Lorene Frischknecht

Thanks so much for these very helpful instructions. I can’t wait to try it!


The stitch looks beautiful in the shawl. I’m thinking it would be pretty to add a few rows to dish cloths at each end. Thank you for this stitch.
By the way did you mean to say ‘rice stitch’?

Terese Pratt

I’m not sure I understand. Counting on the lice stitch rows, would you have twice the number of stitches since you have slipped all the main color stitches, and added contrasting stitches every other one? That should be explained to have a better tutorial. The photos are very clear but need a little more word detail.


Hi Terese,
Great question! You actually don’t make any increases in the lice stitch rows. You only slip every other main color stitch, so you should end up with the same number of stitches in the next row. Hope that helps!


What a horrible name for an enhancing stitch. Yuk!

Josette Sparks

This looks beautiful and I can’t wait to try it. Thanks so much for all the new updates


Does this work the same in stockinette or is it primarily for garter stitch?


What would it take to knit this technique in the round? Would you simply hold the yarn in back during each step, therefore keeping the float on the wrong side the whole time? Or is there something else you’d need to do to have it come out correctly. Thanks for the great tutorial!

Jacqueline edily

I need to know how to knit lice stitch in the round! Thank you


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