Techniques in Depth: Knitters on the Edge (Slipping Stitches)

October 29, 2018

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  • To slip or not to slip? That is the question! Bless your heart for this keeper, as most patterns assume you know….

    • My pattern states to sl 1 at the beginning of the rows. But, I will be sewing this finished seam to another seam and it is going to look terrible.

  • I tend to slip stitches to make it easier to pick up stitches for a button band but now you’re making me reconsider. Although I’ve never had issues before.

  • I slip stitch the first stitch in your hand towels… makes a pretty edge. I actually slip stitch all edges. Can’t think of when I don’t. I’ll have to look though and see how my seams join.

  • This was useful and well written, as always. My mom always slips the first stitch of every row, but I don’t as I have found over the years that it leaves the edges too loose – even when I was a tight knitter this was problematic [I’m a loose knitter now]. However, what if:

    1. The designer is just following her/his mother/grandmother and prescribes the slip first stitch out of habit?
    2. You are making a hap where you have a central garter stitch centre, then need to add on a knitted edging. Do you slip your stitches or not?

    • You seriously NEVER slip stitches in Shetland knitting (except for stocking heels).
      A slipped-stitch edge is less elastic than a garter one, and a garter-based shawl lives and dies on elasticity.

      Try taking two lengths of scrap yarn, one for each side, and flipping the end over your working yarn before you turn the row. Keep it up and you will have the scrap yarn running through the end loops, making them easy to pick up. Trick learned in Lerwick in 1981!

  • I’m working on a Hancock cardigan now, which has a huge garter stitch collar (11 inches as per pattern, if I recall correctly, but I am going to knit until I run out of yarn, maybe 8 or 9 inches). It’s 300+ stitches. After the first few inches, I realized that I should have slipped the stitch at the beginning of each row to get a nice edge. I had done this in a previous cardigan with a garter band as stated in the instructions and the edge was so pretty and neat. I definitely was not going to rip out a few inches of 300+ stitches on my Hancock to fix the edge, but I’ll add the suggestion to my Rav project notes. In general, I don’t slip stitches unless instructed to by the pattern.

  • When I discovered Russian gratting, I also discovered that slipped stitch edges work very well to make lovely flat, non irritating seams. I’d have to make a video to show how I do it, but I can just say I love seaming now, I hated seaming before.

  • A really good series of explanations. Also, you can get a chained edge to garter stitch for each row by knitting to the back of the stitch, rotating it into position to avoid the knot. And you still have one stitch per row for picking up or seaming.

  • While I don’t have a strong opinion on this subject (except maybe “don’t throw things at me”), I wanted to take this opportunity to come out of my usual lurking status and tell you how much I appreciate your clear and even-handed explanations, and your lovely images that are always so illustrative of the concept you are trying to explain. It is always such a pleasure to read your words.

  • Jittery-pokery….a new knitting term! Excellent article and will save as I did with Kate’s missive on picking up stitches.

  • Thank you for this very informative article. I agree with not always slipping the first edge stitch on a project, especially when it has to be sewn up. I would like to say though that when I’m working on a garter stitch project which has no real directions (such as in a scarf) I prefer not to slip the first stitch. I happen to like the natural edge of garter stitch for a scarf. What I do, is knit the second stitch from the edge tightly. It makes for an even edge. I pull the yarn as tight as I can ( without breaking it) because that way I can put this project down, pick it up three months later and not have to remember how tightly I pulled that second stitch. I’m currently working on the February sweater on two needles by Elizabeth Zimmerman and am treating the garter stitch edge of the little sweater this way. I just love the organic look of a garter stitch edge!

  • Loved your article! I usually don’t slip the first stitch, except I always do on my heel flaps, makes picking up the stitches so easy. Some shawls say to slip the first stitch, so do’t. I just follow your rule, if the pattern calls for it, do it. That said my seaming is less than to be desired,. I think I just need a really good course on seaming.

  • Thank you! Illustrations and explanations are so clear.

  • This is one of those topics that most knitters will have a strong opinion on but I like that you can explain the rationale; with pictures!! And I went straight to Amazon & put your book on my wish list. I need this “Knitter’s Dictionary” !!

  • Speed dial is now the ONLY thing.

  • I’m such a shiksa! I learned that story ages ago, but it was with a ham!

    • Too Funny! I heard it with cutting the drumsticks off the turkey.

      • For me it’s celery. My Tupperware celery keeper is about an inch too short for almost every bunch of celery I have ever bought. Lop off a generous amount (I never lop off enough and have to go again) to get it to fit. To use or not to use the lopped off pieces?

        • Lopped pieces go in a ziplock in the freezer with the trimmings of onions, the tops of carrots, the tiny cloves of garlic too irritating to peel, the slowly wilting parsley…When bag is full: stock.

  • Thanks for this! I’m a non-slipper, except on sock heels. And I’ve always wondered about that WYIB/WYIF, which made me less likely to be a slipper!

    PS: Love the jiggery-pokery reference. Cheers!

  • I like the “finished” look of a slipped stitch but always do it at the end of the row. Not really sure how I got started that way but it works for me. However after this article, I now know why it has been harder for me to sew pieces together and get that “firm” and strong seam I cannot get knitting this way. Thanks for the insight!

  • I have not been able to train myself to slip that first stitch when I am knitting something like a scarf, where that more finished edge would look nice. So I end up with a mixed slipped/knit first stitch, which really looks funky. Just on autopilot too much when I knit – which is one reason I love to knit. I find it very meditative. Except when I discover I meditatively made an error 6 rows back, and I have to rip it all out. Then my muttered ( or yelled) curses are far from meditative! My husband no longer asks if I just injured myself badly when I yell.

  • This explains SO MUCH. Thank you!

  • I’m testing SLAI2P…..garter stitch…..continental method…..and finding as I turn the row and am set up all ready to work…..WYIB…..SL the first st…..but…..the yarn should go in between the sl st and the next one to be worked…….Even English throwing catches me unaware at times……I catch this by observing the selvaging done on the sides………oops, there’s a McHenry in the woodpile!!

    Who’s with me here?

    It changes the stitch ,of course; 180 degrees. I’ll look down the side eventually and see that difference in the selvage look created by YIB after slipping or in between the sl st and the next one to be worked.

    AND: I”” like””’ working this sl st by taking the yarn right versus left, faster and smoother in both methods, IMHO.

    So, my test now is to work five rows slipped correctly but KIB the last st. How does that look? I don’t like it. Anyone else tempted to KIB on that last stitch?

    What say ye? LOL!!

  • Decades ago dear Vogue Knitting did an article on selvedges for knits. They had oodles of methods and styles, some quite robust. I lapped it up. For my own purposes, selvedges are a wonder for ease of assembly, and for scarves and shawls. For the latter, if worked in garter st, the old slip as if to purl with yarn in front for the first st, and knitting the last st of the row, is perfect. On that rare occasion I am doing flat knitting, a stitch worked as a knit on each side, making a garter edge, is best as that method does not deform the adjacent st. The little bumps making matching-up a snap.
    Knitters have done without the refinement of selvedges for an awfully long time. Despite my fondness for them, “optional” appears to be a fact in the matter – unless of course selvedges are designed into the pattern. Happens pretty often.
    Selvedges certainly aid the knitter who has not yet got control of their edges, have to say. So, Happy Knitting, however you do it!

  • My husband wants to know what happened to the ends cut off the pot roast.

  • Disagree (1) 😀

    I’m a diehard sweater knitter. I prefer to slip the last stitch wyif and knit the first stitch of each row. Keeps the fabric from curling too much (sometimes it just won’t block flat!) and makes it far easier to seam a seam that lays entirely flat. Using every bar on the edge to mattress stitch can cause some puckering issues or too much firmness for garments that want for softer drape, so the bars of slipped selvedge stitches are perfect for seaming, in my opinion.

    This is a great article! Very informative!

  • I have a question. So I’m working a pattern that on the wrong side, calls for slipping the first stitch as if to purl, yarn in front, and on the right side, slip with yarn in back( doesn’t specify knitwise or purlwise). Do I slip purlwise in both cases? And would you mind explaining slipping the first stitch purlwise with yarn in back? (If that’s even possible?) I can only find instructions for that midrow. Thanks!

  • I hope this is the right place to ask this question. I’m knitting a baby blanket with a slip stitch edge and I forgot and have a few rows when I just knit the edge. I don’t know how to fix it with ripping back many rows of cables. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you in advance.

    • This has happened to me and I found it pretty easy to fix without ripping the whole thing back. I just took the edge stitch off the needles and unraveled it down to the placed where I forgot to slip, and then I alternated slips (on the RS) and knits (on the WS) of that stitch all the way back up.

  • Believe it or not, I’m actually do a slip stitch on both edges of a cowl I’m hammering away at and it’s PERFECT. It’s the only time I’ve done it though (a pattern for a scarf? Really?) so I think I deserve a pass, this once 😉

  • I want to sew-as-you go, so I want the little Vs at BOTH sides of my work. And I am working purl for the next stitch on the right side, purl on the wrong. PLEASE help. This is driving me nuts. Thank you.

  • I am an Occasional Slipper. It all depends on how it looks, and whether or not I’ve had enough coffee. I do like the nicer edge though, and the looseness hasn’t proven to be a problem…yet.

  • Whenever I need help with a complex issue my searches inevitably lead to your website for an in depth answer. Huge thanks for all these issues you’ve addressed about slipping the first stitch. I am most grateful. If you ever teach an advanced knitting or design class in Australia, I would love to attend.
    Happy Knitting, Geraldine

  • Hello! My pattern calls for “Slip one knitwise wyif” on the first stitch of every row. Any information on how to do this? Thank you!

  • I am working on a sweater pattern that knits 2 panels (front & back) and then the arms are picked up stitches and worked in the round. For every row on the pattern, it says to slip the stitch. After reading this article and a few others, I’m wondering if I should skip the slipped stitch at the beginning of every row and just continue the pattern without the slipped stitch? What would you advise? The pattern is alternating a 2 rows of 1×1 ribbing with 2 rows of garter.

  • Trying to slip stitch after casting on. Slip the stitch and when I go to knit the next stitch everything comes apart. What am I doing wrong, thanks.

  • Hello!

    I hope you’re doing well, and still responding to your comments.

    I’m making a slouchy beanie with a 1×1 rib pattern, and the instructions call for slipping the first stitch of each row. However, it doesn’t mention which direction to slip the stitch. I’ve never used this method, so I assumed you slip the fist stitch knit wise. After reading your article, it seems as though I should be slipping it purl wise.

    The actually pattern is…
    Row 1: K1, P1
    Row 2: Slip Stitch, *(P1, K1)
    Repeat row 2 until desired length reached.

    I was just wondering if slipping the first stitch will end up being ok, or if I should start over before I get too far along?

    Thanks so much for your awesome website!

  • Brilliant job thanks