Hot Tip: Mind your edge stitches

Hot Tip: Mind your edge stitches

I’m pretty sure the first person to ever clue me in on this one was my pal Meg Strong. A lot of times there will be an edge of your knitting that’s exposed — say, the long sides of a scarf or the edge of a button band (when knit integrally or vertically). Or, as pictured above, the armhole edges of the superbulky sleeveless turtleneck I’m working on, which are especially prominent at this scale. If you work the edge stitches normally — for instance, in stockinette — you wind up with a bump on the edge of your knitting at each row. Sometimes it looks fine, like if it’s garter stitch ridges at the edges of the work anyway. But often it’s nicer to have that edge look smoother and more finished. Current patterns will often specify how to work edge stitches when they’re meant to be picked up or seamed together (e.g., stockinette selvage or twisted stitch selvage, or whatever the case may be), but it’s less often noted what to do when the edge will not be disappearing into a seam. For the cleanest finish on a visible selvage, all you need to do is slip the first stitch on each row with the yarn held in front, work to the opposite edge of the fabric as written, and then knit the last stitch. So on the right side, the first stitch gets slipped wyif. When you come back to that slipped stitch at the left edge of the wrong side, you knit it. Same thing on the wrong side: slip the first stitch wyif, work to the other end, knit the last stitch.

Try it on a swatch  — knit a few rows in plain stockinette and then a few rows with the edge stitches slipped — and you’ll see what a difference such a simple thing can make.

[UPDATE: The sweater pictured has since been released as a free tutorial-pattern called Sloper]


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32 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Mind your edge stitches

      • Slip always just means slip — i.e., purlwise — unless otherwise indicated. When you slip a stitch knitwise, you’re twisting it in the process. So if that change in orientation is called for, it will be specified.

  1. You are so tuned into the collective consciousness! I was just trying to remember how to do this yesterday: THANK YOU!

  2. I’m working on an arm hole right now with a sleeve soon to be inserted. A friend told me that the edge with the bumps is more stable than the “chain” stitch edge. (I think the chain stitch edge is like the slip stitch edge?) Is it correct that this is a less stable edge?

    • I believe in stockinette selvage for seamed edges, for sure. There are lots of alternatives that claim to be even strong (i.e. twisted-stitch selvage) but I prefer seaming with plain stockinette stitches.

      • If you are sewing a sleeve into the armhole, the edge will not be a visible one so there is no need to make an aesthetic edge. If you do a slip stitch edge you might not have enough stitches to sew the sleeve into. Sorry for my crude explanation.

  3. You can also switch up and do this with the last stitch instead, again with yarn in front and slipping as if to purl.

  4. You know, I just learned about this on the weekend. Uncanny!

    Related in a way, but can anyone tell me why sometimes when doing stockinette stitch, it looks like one side of of the “V” is super twisted? I know it has to do with the ply of the yarn, but is there a way to fix that, or is it just part of the fabric? I’m a very new beginner and I’m noticing how nice your stockinette looks.

    • It has to do with the direction the plies are twisted together. I’m not an expert so can’t remember if it’s S-ply or Z-ply that does that (or how you would recognize it in the yarn and avoid it), but it makes me insane!!

  5. Thanks, Karen and kelseyleftwich for those hot tips. Karen, I like how that turns the edge inward, and I also like the exposed shoulder seam. As a person who is always too warm, okay HOT, a turtleneck sleeveless sweater seems, um, odd to me but then I’m always too hot for the room, even after “the change.”

  6. Ooh, you’re almost finished! That was a quick knit! what kind of silhouette are you going for with this piece?

  7. Your stitches look so perfect! Did you already block the sweater, or just knit it like that!?!?

    I’ve done the slipped stitch thing on a scarf, but I’m working on a triangle shaped shawl right now (you know the M1, M1Km1, M1 shape) — and I was just thinking the edge looks UGLY. The pattern called for YOs (even more ugly to me!) — and I was going to block the shawl aggressively and then crochet chain a neat border on the edge. Which might just draw even more attention to it. Sigh. I probably should have just tried slipping a stitch on either end. Although might look weird with the M1s one stitch in?

  8. I have never really liked the way that slip stitches look on an exposed edge. The inconsistency of the longer stitch next to the regular one, just doesn’t suit my fancy. But maybe it is the way I knit, because yours looks good, Karen. I also usually prefer regular stockinette for seaming. It especially suits the finer, sometimes inelastic Habu and Shibui type yarns, which, IMO, benefit from a neater, sturdier seam. But right now, I am doing a slip stitch edge that Julie Hoover recommends and I see that with a chunkier worsted, this edge will dramatically reduce the bulk of the seam. Glad to know this since I am planning a couple of worsted sweaters for the winter.

  9. Thanks for the reminder! I knew about the slip 1st stitch, knit last, but totally did NOT pick up on the ‘hold yarn in front!’ Makes a huge difference! Time to unravel the skinny scarf and do it right!

  10. Hi! I’m a fairly new knitter that has come across this before but has always had a question about it. Is the first slip and the last knit stitch factored into the pattern? Let’s say, for example, that if I wanted to knit the seed stitch with a neat edge like this, would I slip and then purl 1, or would I slip and then knit 1, purl 1? And thanks Karen for this wonderful blog! You were the first real inspiration I stumbled across while trying to teach myself the basics online just a few months ago, and have since opened the door wide open for me to see the wonderful world of fiber!

  11. Well, I just finished a horrible sweater, that would have been less horrible if I were up to date on my Fringe Assoc reading. I love that bulky sweater you are making. You are the most glamorous woman in TN!

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