Knitting patterns often tell us to pick up stitches but never tell us how. If you pick up a stitch in the right place, at the right interval, your knitting will look polished and professionally finished, but a poor pick up can cause uneven additions that don’t fit well with the main body of knitting.
Stitches are picked up along an edge of knitting when you want to knit a supplemental piece to the body. This is done for neckbands, cardigan front bands, edges of a rectangular shawl, and armholes as examples.
Our goal when picking up stitches is to have each piece of fabric lie flat. The main body should not become distorted by the addition. And the addition should not be wavy or stretched. They both should lie flat and look as one piece of fabric. What to look for as you’re inserting your needle and picking up a stitch:
There are 3 edges that you can pick up stitches. Horizontal, Vertical and Diagonal.
On horizontal edges, avoid inserting your needle in between stitches, resulting in the dreaded 11’s. This pulls stitches together and creates a line of 11’s across the edge of your fabric.
The correct way to pick up stitches on a horizontal edge, is to insert your needle into the center of the stitch, or the center of the V. For the first stitch, this column of first stitches will always be wobbly looking. Insert needle into the center, just below the bind off edge. If you mistakenly go into the row below, you’ll end up with a thick seam which can be visible on narrowly trimmed necklines and unnecessarily thick. So you want to go through the stitch that lies just under the BO edge.
You can see in the picture below how the stitches from the main section of knitting run continuously and uninterrupted into the new section.
On vertical edges, like with cardigan bands or edges of a rectangular shawl, you are moving up the piece vertically, instead from side to side horizontally. With vertical edges, insert the needle tip between the first stitch (selvedge stitch) and second stitch, picking up the whole selvedge stitch (both strands). This places the first column of stitches to the wrong side of the pick ups as if it were a seam. The second column of stitches now becomes the first column of stitches that you see.
To start, turn your work to the side with the vertical edge lying horizontally at the top. Insert needle into the first hole above the CO edge and pull through a loop, between the first and second stitch. Go into the next hole, under both legs of the stitch. Each stitch has two legs and you’re picking up both. If you go through just the outer leg you’ll end up with an extra column of half stitches which you don’t want. If you go trough just the inner edge your selvedge won’t be as stable and can pull out of shape. Unless the pattern specifically tells you to do this, for various reasons, go under the whole stitch.
For diagonal edges, you’ll insert the needle in one of the two methods we’ve already gone over. The method you choose depends on how your diagonal edge was created. If it was made by using decreases to create the curve, pick up stitches as for vertical edges. Decreases are when a pattern tells you for example to work to 3 sts before the neck opening, k2tog, k1. Or to k1, ssk, knit to end. No stitches are bound off. You’re just decreasing one stitch at a time.
With diagonal edges that were bound off to create the curve, you’ll pick up stitches as for horizontal. This would be when pattern tells you to BO 3 sts at the beg of the next 2 rows, BO 2 sts at the beg of the next 2 rows, BO 1 st at the beg of the next 2 rows. This creates a diagonal line that resembles stair steps.
When moving from one step up to the next, avoid the hole or space between the two. Take your needle into the center of the next stitch and up a row. It seems like a big jump. If you go into the hole you’ll just make it bigger. Go to the next stitch and follow it up and insert needle into the top, just under the BO edge. You’ll see it forms an even diagonal and the stair steps have disappeared. It looks like an even slant with each new stitch continuing from the old stitch.
Now that we know how and where to insert the needle, we need to figure out how many stitches to pick up and how often. If we pick up too many stitches, our addition will flare out; too few and the band draws in.
For a horizontal edge, pick up one stitch for every bound off stitch. This allows you to stack another row of stitches on top of what you’ve already knit your column of stitches will run continuously across the line of pick ups.
Figuring how many stitches to pick up along a vertical edge is a little trickier. This is because in most stitch patterns, the number of stitches per inch is less than the number of rows per inch. We figure out exactly how many stitches by calculating pickup ratio using the ROW gauge of the body and the STITCH gauge of the edging.
I’m going to show you three different ways to figure the ratio. Pick your favorite. Some work better than others depending on your gauge numbers so it's good to know different ways to calculate.
Option 1 (Totals): Count your rows. Figure out how many stitches to pick up. A pattern usually tells you this but I recommend doing it yourself since this is your knitting. The only way you’ll get the same results as the pattern is if you’re knitting with the exact stitch gauge, exact row gauge and to the exact length as the pattern. To figure it out yourself, multiply the stitch gauge of the addition by the distance.
Rows - stitches = difference. Example: we count 105 rows in a 15" band. Our stitch gauge is 6 sts to 1" so 15"x6 sts = 90 sts. 105 rows - 90 stitches= 15 extra rows. We need to skip 15 rows during our pick ups. To find the exact ratio, divide larger # (105) by # of rows to skip (15) and we find out that we need to skip every 7th row 15 times. Pick up one stitch for one row 6 times, skip the 7th row, then pick up one stitch for one row another 6 times, skip the next row, and so on.
Option 2 (Gauge over 4"):
Option 3 (Gauge over 1"):
In all three options, whether you’re working with your total number of rows and total number of stitches, or working with gauge over 1” or gauge over 4”, you’re doing the same thing. You’re figuring out how to space the lower number of stitches for your addition across a larger number of rows on your main body of knitting. It’s up to you which method you choose, but the end result is the same.
Diagonal pick ups are calculated the same was as Vertical pick ups. Curved edges, like necklines, are usually a combination of all three. A neckline is usually formed by binding off the center stitches, then decreasing or binding off 1 stitch at a time to create a gradual slant, then working straight for an inch or so.
When picking up stitches, a ridge will form on the opposite side. If you want your ridge to appear on the wrong side, pick up stitches with the right side facing. If you are picking up stitches around a neck that will be visible (fold-over collar that exposes the area around the neck), you’ll want to pick up stitches with the wrong side facing so the ridge appears on right side of fabric and is hidden when collar is folded over.
Thank you for visiting DonnaEstinDesigns.com and have fun picking up stitches on your next project.
Buss, Katharina. Big Book of Knitting. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 2001.
Hemmons Hiatt, June. The Principles of Knitting. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Newton, Deborah. Finishing School, Master Class for Knitters. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2011.
Paden, Shirley. Knitwear Design Workshop. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, LLC, 2009.
I love this time of year! Designers are showcasing their Pre-Fall and Fall 2021 designs on the runways worldwide and we're getting a full fledged look at the knitwear design elements and trends that will be making their way from runway to knitting needles. Cross-over trends from woven garment to knitwear are easy to spot if you watch enough shows so look for these on my Pinterest board too.
I've put together a Pinterest board for 2021 Sweater Trends! Follow this board and please check back often - I'm adding new photos constantly as the runway shows are released.
Drum Roll Please - Here are the latest trends in knitwear fashion that you can expect to see weave their way into knitting patterns in the next year or so:
Hoods & Snoods
Hooded pullovers, cardigans, hood/scarf combinations known in the knitting world as snoods. Expect to see more of these ranging from thin and form-fitting, to oversized and chunky. Ribbed, plain, colorwork; you'll see it all this fall. Wouldn't this be a fun all-in-one alternative from knitting a hat and scarf?
This trend is running strong and there's no limit in the color palettes or placements of colors. Pastels, brights, and darks are showing up in basic blocks and skinny panels - all of it works. Colorblocking with other patterns is also making a showing (think ribbing and cables).
We love stripes! The recurring theme of stripes, skinny or wide, seems to go hand-in-hand with colorblocking. Colorblock sweaters will dedicate a surprise section of skinny stripes to make it unique. Look for amazing color combinations in the striped sweaters and accessories to give you ideas for your next project.
Extra Long and Extra Bulky Sleeves
From balloon sleeves, to chunky cabled sleeves, you'll see more and patterns where the sleeve grabs all of the attention. Extra long flared sleeves, tapered, or super wide sleeves all compete for drama this year.
1x1 Ribbing, all over ribbing, brioche ribbing, and any type of knitting that gives that sleek, contemporary look of lines is all over the runways this year. Combing ribbing with colorblocks are so trendy too! (Watch out that the knitting patterns are written correctly to prevent the bi-colored purl bumps that occur when changing colors in ribbing.)
What do you like? What would you knit? What would you skip? What are you excited about? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
When a pattern says to "BO in pattern" what exactly does it mean? Many knitters are interpreting "bind off in pattern" to mean that you work the stitches as they appear. This creates an odd looking last row especially in patterns like Seed stitch.
If a pattern tells you to "bind off in pattern", it's telling you to essentially work the bind off row in the same manner as you would work the next row in the pattern. If you're working the below chart and you've just finished Round 2, and the pattern tells you to BO all sts in pattern, you'll actually work Round 1 again during the bind off. If you forget for a moment that you're binding off, just work the next round or row in sequence, that you would normally work if you weren't binding off. The only difference is that after you work one stitch, you're lifting the first stitch over the second and off the needle so that one stitch is bound off.
The Alternating Cable Cast On alternates between casting on a knit stitch then a purl stitch. This is a great one when you're working the one-row buttonhole in Seed stitch which allows the Seed pattern to be maintained above the buttonhole. A video and step-by-step written directions are provided for your convenience. I hope you enjoy trying this one. It's no more difficult than the standard Cable Cast On and it blends in with knit/purl patterns so well.
Yf: bring yarn forward
Step 1. Yf, slip 1 st p-wise, yb. *Slip next st and pass 1st st over it. Rep from * three more times. 4 sts have been bound off. Return last st to left needle. Turn.
Step 2. Yf, insert right needle between 1st and 2nd sts on left needle from back to front, wrap yarn around needle as if to purl, and pull through the loop, then set it on the left needle.
Step 3. Yb, insert needle from front to back between 1st and 2nd sts on left needle, wrap yarn around needle as if to knit and pull through loop, then set it on the left needle. Rep Steps 2-3 once then rep Step 2 once more. (5 sts cast on).
Step 4. Turn, slip first st on left needle to right needle & pass last cast on st over it and off needle. Tug yarn and continue working chart as est.
Knitting is FABULOUS, but at times can cause pain if you're addicted to knitting like me.
For years, I have suffered from pain as a result of knitting too much. I have used ice, heat, sports massages, visited physical therapists, chiropractors and technicians specializing in Active Release Technique (myofascial release). (Please understand that I am NOT a medical professional - but I am sharing what has worked for me.)
In the end, it turns out my pain was not tendonitis, or related to my tendons or ligaments at all. It was muscle overuse. Physical therapists who specialize in myofascial release were able to break up the adhesions and provide instant relief. In the past, I was told to take a break from knitting for a few weeks, which really, I couldn't do. I was so relieved to find therapists specializing in myofascial release who provided a better way to help my body without stopping what I love. During the pandemic however, the option of visiting a therapist was not always available so they provided some stretching exercises that can be done at home.
I've found that taking a break from knitting every hour, and stretching really helps keep my body pain free. There are stretches for your neck, shoulder and back too, but the most important I've found are three vital stretches for the hands and forearms. These are the muscles that do all the work in knitting, especially in your dominate hand.
1. Rest your fingertips of your dominant hand on the palm of your other hand and with your palm, pull the fingers back as far as you can. Once you feel resistance, hold this stretch about 30 seconds. Rest and repeat.
2. Grab ahold of your thumb and pull it back towards the top of your wrist. Hold for about 30 seconds. Rest and repeat.
3. The most important (for me at least) is to stretch the outside of the forearm. This is a little harder to do, but if you create a fist, then with your other hand, pull the fist inwards to the inside of your forearm and hold. The first time I do this, the first doesn't move much. The second time I find that I can get a deeper stretch and you'll notice right away how good it feels. Hold for about 30 seconds. Rest and repeat. This stretch runs from your hand through your elbow which is oftentimes where my pain originates.
Shake out your hands, improve your posture, and resume knitting. Sometimes you don't have 10 minutes to exercise and walk around, so these three, quick exercises can get you back to knitting faster while stretching out the muscles that are doing the most work.
There can be many reasons why we experience pain when knitting, so it's always best to visit a therapist who is knowledgeable in sports medicine. (Yes, I'm the only knitter at my wellness center which caters to runners, and ball players but they treat my injuries much the same as any other athlete.)
Click on the below You Tube link for a short video showing you how to do these.
...when my knitting pattern doesn't have size labels?
If you're finding more and more knitting patterns omitting the traditional size labels you're not alone. From magazines to independent designers, patterns are dropping the S, M, L, labels and substituting them with sizes 1, 2, 3 or just the finished measurements 34, 38, 42".
If you're one of those knitters who "always wears a size ______ in sweaters" and just wants to knit that size, it's getting tougher to do just that.
When a pattern includes a size label, the designer has done all of the work for you. He or she has looked at the standard measurements, added the appropriate amount of ease based on the yarn weight, stitch pattern and intended look of the garment. If you want to knit a size Large sweater, it may be 40" finished chest circumference or it may be 50" depending on these factors, but if you wear a size large and you knit a size large, then you know the sweater will fit as intended.
When labels are removed, you as the knitter need to do some work. You need to know your own actual body measurements. You need to know how much ease to factor in. And you need to take into consideration the yarn weight, stitch pattern and intended look.
This is where one size does not always work. If you're a 34" bust and you like 2" positive ease, you can go about knitting sweaters marked 36". But a heavily cabled sweater in worsted weight wool which is intended to be worn with 6" of positive ease, will feel much the same as stockinette sweater in fingering weight wool with only 1" of positive ease. If you knit a fingering weight stockinette sweater in size 36" it may feel a little loose and look baggy in places. If you knit that Aran weight cabled pullover in a 36" you'll look like a stuffed sausage and it will feel very fitted.
If you find yourself without labels to guide you, consider the following:
Does the pattern tell you the amount of recommended ease?
Is the stitch pattern flat (like stockinette or lace), medium texture or heavily textured like brioche rib or cables?
Is the pattern for a summer tee or tank or outdoor winter cardigan?
What is the weight of the yarn?
Use this as a guide, but understand that ease and fit are very personal:
First look at ease:
(A) Body Hugging or Very Close Fit: -2 thru -4"
(B) Close Fitting: 0
(C) Normal or Classic Fit: +2 thru +4"
(D) Loose Fitting: +4 thru +6"
(E) Oversized: +6"
Now factor in the yarn and stitch pattern:
Top Row: Letters correspond to the desired fit.
2nd Row: Yarn weight 0-2= Lace, Fingering, Sport; 3-4 DK, Worsted, Aran; 5-7 Chunky, Bulky, Jumbo
3rd Row: Type of stitch pattern. Lace falls into the St st range. Brioche rib falls into the Cables range.
Bottom Row: Approximate Ease.
Each of these columns can vary. For example, oversized can be +10" of positive ease. There is no right or wrong answer. This serves a starting place when trying to figure out what finished measurement you should make. This also depends on the type of garment. A tank top or tee works well when it is fitted against the body. A baggy loose tank top with deep armhole isn't going to look or feel good on unless you wear it overtop of another garment.
I hope this helps you to select the best size when knitting your next project, or at least gives you some criteria to consider beyond actual body measurement and ease.
See a little more about how the Blackwater Mosaic Pullover is constructed, and some of the features. Worked in Miss Babs Yummy 3-ply merino.
Mosaic knitting was invented by Barbara Walker in the 1960's and here we are, 60 years later, still obsessing over the effect of this mesmerizing style of knitting. It is a subset of slip stitch knitting but has its own characteristics, or rules you may say, in order to define and separate it from the broader category of slip stitch.
Let's go over some of these differences:
First, mosaic is always worked with two colors, which are normally high-contrast colors. The broader umbrella of slip stitch knitting may involve one, two or three or more colors.
In mosaic knitting, only one color will be worked at a time, over two rows. All color changes are done at the beginning of rows or rounds but never involve working with more than one color across a row or round.
All stitches on are slipped purlwise unlike slip stitch knitting which may slip stitches knitwise or purlwise.
Mosaic stitches are slipped on right side rows with the yarn always held to the back and slipped on wrong side rows with the yarn always held to the front. This keeps the horizontal strand to the back of the work. In slip stich knitting, this is not necessarily the case.
Mosaic patterns are geometric and can be complex or simple, with longer multiples and repeats of a pattern. Slip stitch knitting uses smaller, simpler motifs that repeat frequently.
One row on a mosaic chart represents two rows of knitting.
Now that you know the parameters, let's put them into practice and see how it's worked:
One color is worked across two rows, usually in Stockinette or Garter stitch, then a contrasting color is slipped purlwise over the same two rows. It is then reversed with the contrasting color worked over two rows and the original color slipped over the same two rows.
Each horizontal row on a mosaic chart represents two rows of knitting and each row is usually numbered with an even number on the left and an odd row number on the right. You read first from right to left for the right side (odd numbered) rows, then from left to right for the wrong side (even numbered) rows.
The first and last squares of each row tell you which stitches to work.
When you begin a row, one color is dropped and the other is picked up from underneath.
The wrong side rows look exactly the same as the right side rows and most knitters do not refer to the chart when working the wrong side rows, they just read the knitting on the needles. This means less time paying attention to a chart. If you're working on a right side row for example, and you are working all of the dark stitches and slipping all of the light stitches, then when you turn your work, you will work back across the wrong side row doing the same thing, working the dark stitches and slipping the light stitches. This allows one color to travel to the end of a row and back.
Mosaic charts will come with their own set of notes. In the chart below, the notes that explain how to work the chart are listed here:
On RS rows that begin with a dark square, you'll knit dark stitches and slip light stitches purlwise with yarn in back.
On RS rows that begin with a light square, you'll knit light stitches and slip dark stitches purlwise with yarn in back.
On WS rows, slip all slipped stitches purlwise with yarn in front; knit all dark stitches, purl all light stitches.
On Row 1 for example, you'll begin at the right. The first square is dark, so you'll pick up the dark yarn and work with only that color. This is how Row 1 will be worked:
K11, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k10. On RS rows, stitches are always slipped purlwise with yarn in back.
Row 2 is worked by: K10, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k2, sl 1, k1, sl 1, k11. You're knitting the stitches that you knit and slipping the stitches you slipped on Row 1.
This produces the mosaic patterning seen in the Blackwater Mosaic Pullover. It's definitely not as hard as it may seem. It moves along quite quickly since you're slipping so many stitches. Once you remember that the color shown in the first stitch of each row is the color that you'll use for the next 2 rows, it's a fun way to knit.
Another plus is that tension is usually not as a big of an issue as it can be with stranded work. If you'll notice in the chart above, you only slip one stitch at a time. You may knit 10 stitches straight, but are only slipping one stitch. Just remember when you knit your next stitch following a slipped stitch, not to pull it tight. Let it rest across the slipped stitch with a bit of room.
Since you are slipping stitches over two rows (for example slipping all light stitches across the right side row, then slipping those same light stitches on the wrong side row) the fabric will become compressed. There will be more rows per inch than in plain stockinette. To prevent a distorted image, you'll often find a combination of Stockinette and Garter used in mosaic knitting. This produces a nice looking, deeply textured fabric that lies flat.
I really encourage you to not overthink mosaic too much. Just pick up your needles and yarn, and jump right in. Read the notes that accompany a chart. And just start. You'll find that it all makes sense after you work a couple of rows. What I love about mosaic charts is that they look just like my knitting, so if I'm not sure of which row I should be working next, I just look at what I've knit so far and compare it to the chart.
Knowing the differences will help you identify which patterns are truly mosaic. I hope you try mosaic knitting or if you're a fan already, that this helps to shed some light onto how mosaic knitting is defined.
Gonzalez, Leslie. “Slip Stitch Knitting Redux.” Cast On Aug – Oct 2014.
Gonzalez, Leslie. “Don’t Confuse Mosaic Knitting with Color Slip Stitch Knitting – They Are Different.” <http://whitehorsedesigns.blogspot.com/ 2014/09/dont-confuse-mosaic-knitting-with-color.html>.
Vogue Magazine Editors. Vogue Knitting. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2002.
Walker, Barbara. Charted Knitting Designs. New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972.
Walker, Barbara. A Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Pittsville, WI: Schoolhouse Press, 2012.
When you're working brioche in blocks of color, like in Eastport Pullover, you'll need to connect your yarns in the back of your work intarsia style when working blocks that are side by side. There are SO MANY types of brioche stitches out there. The Eastport Pullover uses a basic brioche rib based on an even number of stitches with each color block containing the same number stitches. The same row is worked on both right and wrong side rows.
or continue reading for a silent experience:
If you're working two different blocks of color from the very beginning, begin by casting on with the first color. Push those stitches to the side then cast on in the next color. The two colors will not be connected at this point.
Turn and work the first set-up row in brioche, across all of the stitches in the first color. Holding the working yarn secure in your left hand, use your right fingers to pick up the next color of yarn from underneath. Work to the end of the row in the second color.
Next row (right side) and all right side rows. Work in brioche stitch across all stitches of the first color. (First meaning the first color that you start working with in any given row.) When you reach the join, take your yarn to the back of the work drop the first color, pick up the next color from underneath, bring the next colored yarn forward again and continue working in brioche to the end of the row in the next color.
Next row (wrong side) and all wrong side rows. Work in brioche stitch across all stitches of the first color. Bring your yarn forward so it lies in the front of your work (which is the wrong side), drop it, pick up the next color from underneath, then work the next set of stitches in the new color.
By dropping the first color and picking up the second color from underneath, you'll avoid any holes or gaps, and the yarns will connect the two sections. They will form an even and neat pattern up the wrong side of the fabric. Keep your tension uniform. You don't want saggy loops at the join. Strive to maintain the same tension when you work the last stitch of one color and the first stitch of the next color as you've used in the rest of the garment. To err on the tighter side is better than working these too loosely.
Always keep your color changes to the wrong side of the fabric. On right side rows, take the yarn to the back, drop the old and pick up the new, then bring the yarn back to the front again to continue working in brioche with the new color. On wrong side rows, drop the old yarn and pick up the new one in the front of your work to keep the colored seam on the wrong side of the fabric.
One more tip on the brioche rib stitch used in Eastport Pullover, when you're starting your very first stitch and it's a yf type of a stitch, place your needle tip under the yarn, then start to work. You can't really pull the yarn forward since it is where it is. The only thing that moves when starting a row is the needle, so just slip your needle tip under the yarn, then start knitting.
I hope you enjoy adding blocks of color to your brioche knitting. It's a dramatic and fun way to work brioche and it's a great option when you're not ready to work brioche in 2 colors simultaneously.
Hello! I'm Donna. I enjoy designing knitwear that is artistic, intricate and comfortable. I specialize in sweaters with a contemporary silhouette.