Daily Archives: April 9, 2011

Things are picking up (yuk yuk)

Inevitably, when I teach a knitting class, a few miscellaneous things crop up that fit into that category of Things Everyone Does But They Are Not Shiny Enough To Normally Get Huge Technical Explanations About them All The Time category. Those things that, once you know how to do them, you often take them for granted as a normal step. Sort of like how, once a person explained to you that “stockinette stitch” is actually code for “knit all stitches on the Right Side of the work and purl all stitches on the Wrong Side of the work, when working flat, or if you’re working in the round then that means that you knit all stitches on every round,” you stopped asking what stockinette was and now you just do that without having to need it explained to you.

Picking up stitches along an edge is something that fits into this category. So, I thought I’d take the liberty of making a photo post about that, in the event that there are some of you out there who are figuring this out. Most often you’ll encounter this task in one of two place: picking up stitches for a neckline/collar/buttonband for a sweater, or along the edge of a heel flap of a sock in order to create the gussets (when working from the cuff-down). Here I’m going to show you how I pick up stitches in both such situations, using my Dusseldorf Aran (pink Berocco Ultra Alpaca) for the neckline example, and the heel of my sock design for Tanis Fiber Arts’ Year in Colour yarn club March installment (more posting about that to come, from both Tanis and myself, I am sure!), in her club colour for March.

Much of the process is the same, in either case, but there are a few small differences. Let’s take a look at it step by step.


For a neckline or buttonband or collar, you generally have to pick up stitches along a vertical section of the body (or cardigan fronts, as the case may be), and for the collar or lower part of the neck you also often have stitches held aside on waste yarn as the central section; These last few are just slipped back onto the needle and knitted as required, but it’s the picking up along the vertical edge that is the required step here.


The way I do this is to simply insert the needle through the middle of the stitch (above), and then pick up the yarn with the tip of the needle (below).


This is, as you can see, taking advantage of the continental-style method of knitting, wherein the yarn is held in your left hand, and stitches are ‘picked’, as opposed to in the English-style or right-handed method which involves ‘throwing’ the stitches. I am generally a right-handed knitter, but I am also generally of the opinion that everyone should know how to do both (even if they only mostly use the one method), because you just never know when the other method is going to come in hand. Picking up stitches and working stranded colour-work are the two times I’m glad I know how to knit continental.


If you’re picking up stitches along a vertical edge like this, you also generally don’t want to pick up a stitch in every single stitch on that edge. This is because you are working a new stitch into what was formerly the end of your row on the vertical-running piece, and your picked-up edge is going to be going horizontally. Since (most of the time), your row gauge is usually looser than your stitch gauge (check it, I’ll wait), if you were to pick up a new stitch in every row, you would end up with one floppy collar. The way around this is to pick up stitches in the same general ratio as the row-gauge-to-stitch gauge ratio. This generally works out to picking up about 3 sts for every 4 along the edge, and that’s the ratio I use. It was good enough for Elizabeth Zimmerman and gall dangit it’s good enough for me.


Another option, which I’ll demonstrate below also, is to pick up the stitches using a crochet hook, then slip them onto the needle afterwards. This is a comfortable alternative if you’re not into picking stitches continental-wise.

This next set of photos details the picking-up process on the heel flap of a sock. I like heel flap construction, and it works well for me since I tend to work socks from the cuff-down. So, this involves working a heel flap and then picking up stitches on the edge of the heel flap to make the gussets and re-start the round for the foot. For a heel flap, the main difference in this process is that you are working with a specific sort of edge construction. If you’ve done a traditional heel flap where the first stitch of each row is slipped, as you are working the flap, then you will end up with an edge that has a nice little row of elongated slipped stitches waiting and ready for you.


So, we have the same steps as above, this time inserting the needle through the base of the slipped stitches on the heel flap – but not the actual slipped stitches themselves. (It took me a couple of years of sock knitting to learn that part).


Then, you pick the yarn from your left hand (below)…


…and slip the new stitch through.


And that’s that. Keep doing it for every slipped stitch, and maybe one or two extra at the join of the instep, if you’re worried about gappy holes. As I mentioned above, though, one  alternative to working these picked-up stitches with the yarn held continental, is to use a crochet hook. (You could do this for a neckline/buttonband pickup as well).


Insert the crochet hook through the edge in the same way as above…


…and then pull the new stitch through. Eventually, this will leave you with several stitches collecting on your crochet hook. Just transfer them every so often to your working needle.


In both cases – picking up at a neckline or on a sock edge – this process is likely to leave that first picked up row with relatively loose stitches, like you can see below.


So, what you do to fix this is to work these stitches through the back loop on the next round – in other words, as ktbl, or twisted knit stitches. This tightens the gap left by those loose stitches on the pick up round. Here we can see the step of inserting the needle through the back of the knit stitch on the needle:


And then wrapping the stitch as normal:


And then your first row becomes a nice neat little strip of twisted stitches. From then on you can work the stitches as normal knits, when you encounter them, or however the pattern tells you to.


So there you have it folks, just another piece of my knitting brain from me to you.
I hope you have an excellent Saturday!


Filed under demo, tutorial