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A to Z: Beyond the Basics

Picking Up Stitches


When you add any type of border, such as a neckband, to finished pieces, you generally pick up stitches along the edge. It is important that you do so evenly to make a smooth join between the edge and the border.

The neatest way to pick up stitches is to do it from the right side of the work. It is also important to actually make knit stitches on a knitting needle with a separate strand of yarn rather than picking up a strand from the edge of the piece itself, which will stretch and distort the edge.

Begin picking up by attaching the yarn to the edge of the piece, or simply start picking up, pulling on the short end to make sure the stitches do not unravel.

You can use a knitting needle (straight or circular) or a crochet hook to pick up stitches. Be sure that it is one or two sizes smaller than the needles used for the main body. The smaller size is easier to insert into the fabric and will not stretch the picked-up stitches. After picking up, change to the needle size used for the edging.

If the instructions do not tell you how many stitches to pick up, measure the total area and multiply that figure by the stitch gauge of the edging to be added. To determine the gauge of the edging, pick up and add the edging to your gauge swatch or make a separate piece using the pattern stitch for the edging. If you have already used the edging in the main body of the sweater, measure your gauge from that.

Along a shaped edge, such as a neck, make sure you pick up inside the edge so as not to create any holes. If you are making a band in a different color from the main piece, pick up stitches with the main color, then change the color on the first row. If you change the size of the sweater from the instructions, make sure you adjust the number of stitches to be picked up accordingly.

When you pick up stitches on a long piece, such as the entire outside edge of a cardigan, there may be too many stitches to fit on a straight, single-pointed needle. Divide the edge in half, working first along the right front to the center back neck and then from the center back neck along the left front. Then seam your edging at the back neck. Alternately, all of your stitches may fit on a long circular needle.

When picking up for a neckband on a pullover with a single-pointed needle, sew one shoulder seam. Pick up the stitches required, work the edging, then sew the second shoulder seam and the side of the neckband. If using circular or double-pointed needles, sew both shoulder seams, pick up the required stitches, join, and work the edging in rounds.

marking edge for picking up stitches

Stitches must be picked up evenly so that the band will not flare or pull in. Place pins, markers or yarn, as shown, every 2"/5cm and pick up the same number of stitches between each pair of markers. If you know the number of stitches to be picked up, divide this by the number of sections to determine how many stitches to pick up in each one. If you don’t have a final count, use the marked sections to ensure even spacing around the neck.

picking up stitches


horizontal edge
picking up along horiz edge picking up along horiz edge picking up along horiz edge
Stitches picked up along a bound-off edge 1. Insert the knitting needle into the center of the first stitch in the row below the bound-off edge. Wrap the yarn knitwise around the needle. 2. Draw the yarn through. You have picked up one stitch. Continue to pick up one stitch in each stitch along the bound-off edge.


vertical edge
picking up along vertical edge picking up along vertical edge picking up along vertical edge
Stitches picked up along a side edge 1. Insert the knitting needle into the corner stitch of the first row, one stitch in from the side edge. Wrap the yarn around the needle knitwise. 2. Draw the yarn through. You have picked up one stitch. Continue to pick up stitches along the edge. Occasionally skip one row to keep the edge from flaring.


shaped edge
picking up along curved edge picking up along curved edge  
Stitches picked up along a curved edge Pick up stitches neatly just inside the shaped edge, following the curve and hiding the jagged selvage.  
picking up along diagonal edge picking up along diagonal edge  
Stitches picked up along a diagonal edge Pick up stitches one stitch in from the shaped edge, keeping them in a straight line.  


neck edge
picking up along neck edge picking up along neck edge picking up along neck edge

The stitches for this neckband are picked up around the V-neck using straight needles. Leave the right shoulder seam unsewn and begin picking up stitches at the right back neck. Work the neckband back and forth.

The stitches for this neckband are picked up around the V-neck using a circular needle. Sew both shoulders and begin picking up stitches at the right back neck. Place a marker and join the piece. The stitches for this neckband are picked up around the V-neck using double-pointed needles. Sew both shoulders and begin picking up stitches at the right back neck. Use one needle for the back and one needle for each front. Place a marker and join the piece.