Have you ever worked a neckline in Garter or Seed stitch and it flops over like a collar instead of lying flat? This blog post will tell you why this happens and how to prevent it next time.
There are two reasons this could occur. The most common reason is that the tension of the picked up stitches is tighter than the body. This will be especially noticeable if you are working on a garment with lace, openwork or lots of drape. When you pick up stitches, the act of drawing yarn through the bound off stitches leaves a loop on the needle which is the first “round” of your neckband. When this is done firmly, you are reducing the amount of space between the loop, or your future neckband, and the garment. This pulls the two together. Since we pick up stitches from the right side, you are pulling the neckband against the outside of the garment.
To a degree this happens in ribbing as well, but as you work the ribbing for an inch or so, the ribbing draws together and lies flat. Although if you look closely you might see a slight bulge at the base of your ribbing where the pick-up drew in the stitches too tightly. Where it is most noticeable is in Garter Stitch, Seed Stitch or with a simple pickup then bind off neckband.
To prevent this from happening, first try picking up the stitches loosely. Let your needle glide in and out of the pick-ups and resist the urge to snug up the yarn after each stitch is draw through. Keep it loose. This first round may look slightly enlarged, but you can compensate for that by purling the first round in Garter stitch. Think about the two sections of fabric. You want to be able to take the neckband in your fingers and move it forward and backwards at the join. This allows the neckband to lie flat. After picking up your stitches, on the next round work at your normal tension. If you want to work tighter that's fine. The rest of the neckband can be worked snugly and it won't interfere with the pick up round.
Once your neckband is finished, wet block it and press it into place with your fingers. You should not need to pin Garter stitch in place, but if you are pinning it, insert the pins in between stitches, and be careful not to split a stitch of either the neckband or of the garment.
If this didn’t completely work, try picking up only half of a stitch. This is most useful when using thick or rigid yarns like cotton. Instead of going through the entire bound off stitch, only go through the half of the stitch that faces the right side of the garment. When you reach shoulder seams, be careful to only pick up half of one stitch. This is an area where it’s easy to push your needle through both pieces that are seamed and you end up drawing your loop through a thick piece of fabric. If you’ve placed the center front and back stitches on a holder instead of binding them off, knit them as usual, but knit them a little looser than you normally would. As you are picking up the stitches, remember to keep it loose all the way around. A full disclosure note…when picking up only half of the stitch, and picking it up loosely, you will see the other half of the stitch at the base of the pick ups. This may blend it with an openwork garment, but with other stitch patterns it may be distracting. Pick up a few stitches this way and step back and take a look. If you don’t like the look of it, pick up the whole stitch as you normally would, but just do it loosely.
The second reason is that you’ve picked up too many stitches for the neckline. This causes the neckband to create a wavy effect, which sometimes flops over. If your gauge is off even slightly, this could be the cause. To double check the number of stitches to be picked up, place the garment flat on a table with the neckline opened, lie a tape measure on its side and run it around the neckline to get your circumference. Take this measurement and multiply it by your stitch gauge per inch of Garter stitch or whatever stitch you're using for the neckband. This will tell you how many stitches to pick up.
The good news is that if your neckband is going to flop over, it will do so right away. After your first round or two, you’ll notice it. Continuing to knit won’t fix the problem. You can aggressively block the neckband, pin it in place, and minimize the issue, but it’s much better at this point to just rip back and re-pick up the stitches. Plus you’ll have piece of mind that the neckband is behaving as it should and you won’t worry as you wear it that it will start to turn outwards.
Hello! I'm Donna Estin, knitwear designer, certified master knitter and instructor. I enjoy designing artistic knitwear that is comfortable. I specialize in sweaters with a contemporary silhouette.