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Tutorial: Picking Up Stitches

Learning to "pick up and knit" can prove frustrating for many beginner knitters, mostly because the phrase itself lends to the confusion. Pick up AND knit? Or just pick up? Not to worry; we'll simplify things here so you can move right into picking up stitches for your button bands, collars, heel flaps and more!

First, the phrase simply means to pick up stitches as if to knit. That was easy, wasn't it?

Picking Up Stitches From a Bind-Off or Cast-On Edge

For every bound-off or cast-on stitch, you'll pick up one stitch.

Step 1: With the right side facing, take a look at your bind-off/cast-on stitches; you'll notice that it looks like a sideways V. Into that complete V is where you will insert your needle.

Step 2: I call this part "knitting with one needle." Insert the tip of your right-hand needle through the bind-off/cast-on stitch all the way through to the other side.

Step 3: Wrap your yarn around, just as you normally would when knitting.

Step 4: Using your needle, pull that wrapped yarn back through where you came from, to the front. You've picked up one stitch. Repeat Steps 1 through 4 until you have picked up the specified number of stitches. When finished, you'll turn your work so that the wrong side is facing to begin working the pattern.

Click here for larger image. Click here for larger image.
Cast-On Edge Steps 1-4 Views from front and back.

Picking Up Stitches From a Side or Selvage Edge

Now, this one gets a wee bit trickier, but I'll share my tips.

Tip No. 1: When knitting, work your selvage edges in garter stitch. That is, knit the first and last stitch of every row. This not only makes seaming easier, but provides nifty, easy-to-see holes for picking up. Some say that the garter stitch selvage makes a bulkier seam, but it isn't anything I've noticed or had problems with.

Tip No. 2: You will typically pick up three stitches for every four rows. Each "hole" counts as one row. That ratio can change a bit when working with lace-weight or bulky yarn, but it serves the purpose for most other yarn weights. Now, back to those holes I mentioned ...

Click here for larger image.
Selvage Edge Holes

Those are the holes we'll be inserting our needle into, and when you pick up a stitch through it, it counts as one stitch. So, you'll work three holes in a row, skip one hole, then work three more in a row, etc., to maintain the 3:4 ratio.

Step 1: With the right side of your work facing, find your first hole.

Step 2: Knitting with one needle, insert the tip of your right-hand needle through the selvage hole all the way through to the other side.

Step 3: Wrap your yarn around, just as you normally would when knitting.

Step 4: Using your needle, pull that wrapped yarn back through the hole to the front. You've picked up one stitch.

Repeat Steps 1 through 4 until you have picked up the specified number of stitches. When finished, you'll turn your work so that the wrong side is facing to begin working the pattern.

Click here for larger image. Click here for larger image.
Selvage Steps 1-4 Views from the front and back.

If picking up stitches seems a little tricky with the knitting needle, you can use a crochet hook instead. Kim Dolce has a picture tutorial of this (as well as other techniques) in her sweater article on page 37 of the winter issue of Creative Knitting. Now you can pick up the stitches for the adorable kid hoodie, "Leah Loves Her Hoodie" by Amy Marshall!

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