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Beginners Guide to Picking Up Stitches

by Laura Bain

Picking up stitches is a technique used to add on new pieces of knit fabric to a project without a seam (and fantastic technique for those of us who prefer seamless knits). There are lots of applications for picking up stitches, from sweater cuffs to mitered blankets!

There are almost as many techniques used to pick up stitches as there are applications of those techniques; this blog post will focus on (what I consider to be) the most visually attractive and functional way to pick up stitches. This is slightly different from "pick up and knit." Once you master this technique you will likely find that, even if you experiment with other techniques, you usually revert back to this tried and true method. The method of picking up stitches by adding on a new ball of yarn can be done with stockinette and garter knit fabric. It can also be used to pick up stitches vertically or horizontally without much variation.

Here are a few free patterns from redheart.com which require you to pick up stitches.

Oversized Shawl
Knit in Soft
Oversized Shawl Free Knitting Pattern LW3844
Shaded Mitered Hat
Knit in Treasure
Shaded Mitered Hat Free Knitting Pattern LW4273
Year-Round Baby Cardigan
Knit in Baby Hugs Light
Year-Round Baby Cardigan Free Knitting Pattern LW5177

Knowing how to pick up stitches can broaden your knitting repertoire. Patterns usually direct knitters to pick up stitches when the direction of the knitting changes. It can also be used when embellishing any number of projects (like blankets and shawls). Common places to pick up stitches are button bands, cuffs and collars of sweaters.

For any of these methods of picking up knitting, you may go across the entire side of the work, or only across part of it. Try both when you're practicing. When you're working a pattern, the pattern will let you know how many stitches to pick up and if you are using the full side or only part of it.

Picking up Stitches on Stockinette Stitch (vertical edge)

Begin your practice swatch by casting on the desired number of stitches with any weight yarn and a comfortable size needle for that yarn. In my example I’ve chosen Red Heart Soft Baby Steps in Elephant and size 9 needles. You will also need a crochet hook; I used a size 9 hook.

For my swatch, I've cast on 30 stitches and worked stockinette stitch (knit one purl, purl the next row) for 22 rows. My picked up stitches will be worked using Red Heart Soft Baby Steps in Lavender. Most projects will ask you to pick up stitches using the same color yarn as the main body of the piece, but using a different colored yarn in these instructions makes it easier to see.

I usually pick up stitches by working in the 2nd column of knitting (as highlighted in the photo below).

column

When picking up stitches you will begin picking up stitches from the top right corner, just as you would if your stitches were already on the needle. Simply insert the hook into the center of the first stitch.

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Grab your new yarn with the hook and pull a loop through the stitch and onto the right side of your work.

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Note: You can easily knit the loop that you've drawn up (directly from the crochet hook, if you so desire) in order to "pick up and knit."

Place the loop onto the knitting needle.

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Hint: I often put a number of stitches/loops onto the crochet hook before slipping them off the back of the hook and onto my knitting needle. This will only work if your hook is about the same diameter from top to bottom (it will not work with hooks that have a large grip).

Repeat these steps across the column of knitting.

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Note: Your pattern will tell you how many stitches to pick up. The number of stitches may or may not be the same as the total number of rows in the piece. If the number of stitches is different than the number of rows, you will need to calculate how many stitches to pick up OR you can pick up all stitches along the column and in the next row increase (make one as needed across the row) or decrease (by knitting 2 together as needed) your stitch count to the number required by your pattern.

Here is what the back of your work will look like:

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And here is the front after a few more rows:

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Picking up Stitches on Stockinette Stitch (horizontal/cast on edge)

Picking up stitches at the end of your work (at the cast on edge) is very similar to working on the vertical edge. The only difference is where you insert the hook.

You will again work from what will be the top right stitch. Insert your hook into the V of your knit stitches. Grab your new yarn with the hook and pull a loop through the stitch and onto the right side of your work.

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Repeat as necessary.

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Hint: Stitches can easily twist, depending on how you put your loop onto the needle. If you know how to fix twisted stitches by knitting (or purling) into the back of the stitch as you work it, you may. If you don't know how to do that, you can carefully remove each twisted stitch from the needle and replace it in the non-twisted direction before working it.

Picking up Stitches on Garter Stitch (vertical/selvage edge)

Begin your practice swatch by casting on the desired number of stitches with any weight yarn and a comfortable size needle for that yarn. In my example I’ve chosen Red Heart Soft Baby Steps in Lavender and size 9 needles. I used a size 9 crochet hook.  For my swatch, I've cast on 20 stitches and worked garter stitch (knit all rows) for 20 rows.  My picked up stitches will be worked using Red Heart Soft Baby Steps in Elephant.

You will be working in between the bars of the garter stitches.

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Grab your new yarn with the hook and pull a loop through the stitch and onto the right side of your work.

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Move onto the next spot between the bars.

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Note: You may notice that on stockinette stitch, you get the same number of stitches as rows, but with garter stitch you will pick up only half as many stitches as rows (in this example, you will pick up 10 stitches, whereas your swatch is made of 20 rows).  This is due to the nature of the selvage edge of garter stitch.

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Picking up Stitches on Garter Stitch (horizontal/cast on edge)

Picking up stitches at the end of your work (at the cast on edge) is very similar to working on the vertical edge, the only difference is where you insert the hook.

You will again work from what will be the top right stitch.  Insert your hook into the V of your knit stitches.

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Grab your new yarn with the hook and pull a loop through the stitch and onto the right side of your work.

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Now that you have mastered pick up stitches on both stockinette and garter stitch, here are some additional patterns using this technique so you can practice this new skill!

Cozy Slipper Socks LW5337

Cozy Slipper Socks Free Knitting Pattern LW5337

Rockin Ruffles Baby Tunic LW5171

Rocking Ruffles Baby Tunic Free Knitting Pattern LW5171

Sleek Stiped Wristers LW5222

Sleek Striped Wristers Free Knitting Pattern LW5222

Too Cool Boy's Cardigan LW5189

Beginners Guide to Picking Up Stitches