Hot Tip: Bridge the gap

Hot Tip: Bridge the gap

There’s one tiny side-effect of knitting things seamlessly that have appendages — as in, a mitten with a thumb or a top-down sweater with two sleeves. There’s a moment where you set aside those thumb/sleeve stitches on waste yarn, carry on with the hand/body, and then come back to do the appendage. You put those live stitches back onto needles, pick up a few stitches around the top of the thumb or the underarm of the sleeve (pictured above) to complete the circle, and then knit the rest of the appendage. The side effect being that you will inevitably have a little hole at either end of the picked-up stitches. This isn’t a flaw of your knitting or of the pattern — it’s just a fact of life. Patterns will often tell you to simply take the yarn tail from where you reattached yarn at that point, and weave them closed. But there is also a simple way to minimize them, which is to pick up an extra stitch in that spot — in the gap between the live stitches and the picked-up ones — and then knit it together with the adjacent stitch on the next round, so you haven’t thrown off your stitch count.

There’s still a chance you might need to do a little refining with your yarn tail at the end, but the holes will be noticeably minimized.

For the sleeves of the sweater pictured, I have 40 stitches on waste yarn and need to pick up another 10 along the edge of the underarm, starting at the center of the underarm stitches. So I’m picking up 5, then knitting the 40, then picking up another 5. However, to help bridge the gap, I’ll actually pick up 6.
Top photo: You can see the live sleeve stitches that have been hanging out on waste yarn, placed back onto a needle, and to the right is the cast-on edge of the underarm.
Middle photo: I’ve picked up my designated 5 stitches along the underarm edge, but you can see there’s a good 3/4″ between the underarm stitches and the sleeve stitches — that’s your future hole.
Bottom photo: I’ve plunged my needle behind both legs of the stitch right at the corner, halfway between the underarm and sleeve stitches, and picked up one extra stitch, which I’ll knit together with the adjacent sleeve stitch on the next round.

p.s. Like I love to say: A top-down sweater is a giant fingerless mitt with two thumbs instead of one — same process, just more of it. If you can knit a mitt, you can knit a sweater.


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15 thoughts on “Hot Tip: Bridge the gap

  1. When it comes to closing up and reinforcing the underarm gap (because it’s a stress point that can wear out in a seamless top-down sweater), I like to pick up the running strands at either end of the gap and then work them as M1L and M1R so that the “increases” are leaning away from the underarm. I write this into my pattern instructions so that less experienced knitters aren’t puzzled about what to do.
    When it comes to closing up the gap on mitten thumbs, I have a separate solution. See this tutorial: Briefly, the procedure involves the making of M1s, but in this case they lean toward each other and are decreased right away in the next round. Same thing works for heel gaps in socks.

        • I should clarify re my sock gap comment. I pick up the running strand between the heel flap and the instep and knit into the front of it, then knit across the instep stitches before doing the same at the other side of the heel flap but at that point knitting into the back of the picked up strand. Essentially, at all these different gaps, one is picking up a stitch (usually, but not always, a running strand) and twisting it to tighten everything. I try to make the twisted stitch (the M1) lean in whatever direction makes the most sense in the context. Often I eliminate the extra stitches in the next round by decreasing in the same direction as the M1R. It’s very tidy.

  2. I see room to pick up three stitches in that top picture, and I would deal with them a little differently: as I pick up and knit, I would pick up two and immediately knit them together, pick up and knit 1, and then pick up 2 and knit them together once again, doing it so that the two decrease lean towrs each other. That extra 1 stitch can be eliminated a couple of rows down, or by decreasing under the arm the next go-round. Its similar to picking up and knitting a neckband: pick up the number of stitches it takes to have a nice smooth and hole free join, and adjust the number of stitcheson tvhe next round.

  3. Yup! You told me if you can knit a mitt you can knit a sweater and here I am a billion sweaters later. LOL And I totally pick up that extra stitch and knit them together, it makes it cleaner and helps with that little jog you can get right there.

  4. Ok you must be psychic because just yesterday afternoon I started the first sleeve and thought that there must be a better way!

  5. For top down sweaters, I notice at underarms that the the first body stitch after the sleeve stitches you are holding gets stretched out, this makes the gap more obvious– so I use a crochet hook to pull the extra yarn out of that loose stitch and redistribute the slack yarn to the surrounding stitches. I still have to use the yarn tail to fully close the gap but once I do that it looks great!
    I have another trick for eliminating gaps when working the heel flaps of socks, it works for toe up or top down. On the first two heel flap rows, I work a wrap and turn at the end of the row– this loops the working yarn around the instep stitches on either side of the heel flap. On my pick up row I just pick up the wraps, the wrap anchors the heel stitches to the instep stitches and prevents the gap. No need to pick up extra stitches! This works SO well for socks but so far I haven’t figured out a way to apply it to other “appendages”.

  6. I regularly pick up more than one extra stitch. I just look at the gap and estimate how many stitches in my gauge it would take to really fill that space without them stretching out. I pick up that many (knitting into any part of the existing stitches that doesn’t stretch out too much), and then decrease them back out in the next couple of rounds. Much smoother! I like the idea of treating some of them as increases too.

  7. Perfect timing. I’m embarking on a sweater for a two year old and always struggle with that part!

  8. I also do this – it works great! Karen, I love this yarn…can you please tell me what it is? I love the texture and the color…it’s just beautiful! And lastly, when are you going to take all your online tutorials and write a book? If I lived closer, I would volunteer to start the process for you…it would be a best seller overnight! I know…there sadly aren’t enough hours in the day! I get it…honestly!

    • Heavenly yarn, when photographed up close. I’m sure it reads as “plain white sweater” from far away but it is so squishy and tactile with color nuances up close. Mind if I sniff the screen?

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