Picking up stitches

Last month when I was teaching several classes I had many knitters ask me about picking up stitches. This is very relevant for the style of knitting I do, frequently I will pick up stitches from the edge of the knitting rather than seam. I find that once you perfect picking up stitches it can be an easier way to join knitting than seaming – and very importantly it can easily be redone several times until you get the stitch distribution you want.
If you want to watch me picking up stitches while I talk you can take a look here.

To start with you need to decide where you’re going to pick the stitches up from. You can take the ‘loop’ right at the edge or my preference is to go a full stitch in and knit ‘through’ the knitting. I find this gives the cleanest line when you pick up stitches; you are moving back from the looser edge stitch to a more stable column of stitches. This does however give you a more noticeable ‘seam’ on the inside so keep this in mind for your knitting.
Once you have decided where you’re going to pick your stitches up from the next step is to decide how many you will pick up. If it is a cast on or bound off edge this is easy, pick up one stitch for each stitch in your knitting – a 1:1 ratio. However what happens if you’re working along the edge of your knitting? You are picking up stitches along rows and 1 stitch is NOT equal to one row. The exact ratio will in fact depend on your own gauge. If you are working stockinette along stockinette edge then you may be picking up around 3 stitches for every 4 rows (a gauge of 18 stitches and 24 rows gives you this ratio 18/24 = 3/4 so 3 stitches every 4 rows).
So how do you know if you’ve got the ratio right? If you begin knitting a few rows and it is splaying out then you know you have too many stitches and you’ll have to rip back and either pick up again or alternatively decrease in the first row. If your knitting is pulling inwards as you work then you have too few stitches and you’ll have to go and increase or pick up more stitches.
If you’re working with a pattern that specifies an exact number of stitches to be picked up then you can divide the knitting into sections with safety pins and make sure you pick up the correct number of stitches within each section as evenly as possible.
Alternatively you can do as Ann Kingstone does, she picks up one stitch for every row and then decreases to the number of stitches she wants in the next row.

5 thoughts on “Picking up stitches

  1. hi carol, i wanted to write and tell you how much i have enjoyed your craftsy class, the cabled cardigan, i have been impressed with the depth of the detail, from the design to the little hints, all of the benefits of the craftsy “platform” including the opportunity to go back and review as needed…my biggest problems happened when i thought i could just knit along without my chart…as soon as i did, disaster ensued! so far i love the fit…i am almost finished with the knitting, but who knew how many hours would be consumed, albeit happy ones…i am close to the end, and hopefully my yarn choice, 100% beaverslide merino, not very tightly plied will not be a pilly nightmare, after all that work…thank-you for your thoughtful and beautiful design…karen baker, cape cod, mass

  2. Thank you so much for that, delighted to hear that you enjoyed the class so much! Perhaps you might add it also to the review section for the class on craftsy?

  3. Thank you for your tips on picking up stitches. Even though I have been knitting for years I am always learning something new. I like the tip about using smaller needles for picking up the stitches to avoid gaps. I sometimes get gaps when I am knitting short row shaped sleeve caps.

  4. Thank you very much for this wonderful video tutorial. I am knitting my first cardigan, a top-down, and I had help with picking up stitches with the first sleeve, but it has been a while. I have been anxious about doing the second one on my own and then the button band….I think it is the reason why the project has been “snoozing”! Your detailed explanation and clear instructions are going to help me get over this knitter’s block! Happy Easter.

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