Let’s face it—this year, we’ve all been a bit “on edge,” so to distract ourselves, let’s REALLY explore our edge stitch. (See what I did there?)
Vera asked me a simple question, and in true Patty fashion, I’m gonna answer things she didn’t even ask first! Buckle up, and let’s dive over the edge! (Ok, I’ll stop now.)
Is it possible to drop down on the first stitch of a selvedge edge to change a knitted or purled first stitch of the row to a slip stitch? I am working on a pattern that has a 7-stitch rib as a selvedge for both sides. I didn’t think about slipping the first stitch of the row when I started, but wish that I had so I’d like to fix that if possible. And, if it is, I wonder if it is feasible to fix the selvedge on all kinds of stitch patterns such as garter stitch and seed stitch.
Before we get into fixing or changing the selvedge edge, we need to talk about what a selvedge stitch is there for.
In a seamed knit piece, the selvedge stitch is the one that gets seamed away. This is factored in by the designer so your seamed garment will look seamless. For instance, say it’s a hat with a knit two, purl two rib knit flat. The designer would have the rib start with a k2 and end with a k2 so when you seam it together one knit stitch from each side gets seamed away leaving a perfect k2, p2 rib.
That’s why when a knitter first learns how to knit in the round and looks at a hat that was designed flat and says, “Nuts to you, I’ll knit that in the round,” but does NOT change the cast on number and just follows the pattern as written, she gets a lovely p2, k2, p2, k2, p2, k4 rib.
What? I didn’t say it was me. Stop laughing, I never said it was me. (It was me.)
But in an unseamed piece, like a shawl or a scarf, the stitches on the edge are seen. It is these exposed edges that often have a special treatment, like a slipped stitch edge. When you slip the first stitch of every row, you’re moving the stitch from one needle to the other without pulling the new yarn through it. This causes an elongated stitch at the edge that covers two rows.
BUT if your piece is going to be seamed, then a slip stitch edge will not be lovely.
For many knitters (me included) a slipped stitch edge makes our mattress stitch look less than wonderful.
First, the slack of the elongated stitch also affects the way the second stitch looks, a bit large and sloppy.
Second, since the edge stitch travels over two rows, the running bars do not come out of each row, but rather two running bars occupy the same space. This means over 10 rows, you will basically have 5 spots to put your seaming yarn.
Keeping the edge stitch in stockinette make a much neater edge. Here, even going under two bars at a time, the seaming is much neater.
And here they are, a seamed slip stitch edge and a seamed stockinette stitch edge.
Slipped Stitch Selvedge edge (Left) and Stockinette selvedge edge (RIGHT)
Best rule of thumb is, if it’s a finished edge, make it pretty, but if you’re going to do something to that edge, like seam or pick up stitches, don’t add a slip stitch edge—stick to the pattern.
So now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, back to your questions.
First, can you drop down to create a slipped stitch edge. Well, not without a lot of slack.
Let’s look at that edge stitch and how it works. We know when we drop an edge stitch and we see those giant loops of yarn, that it can cause us to scream and toss our project to the floor in horror as if it was something out of The Exorcist.
Here below we have a plain old ugly, but sturdy, stockinette edge. That last stitch always looks kind of weird (that’s the technical term) because it’s the only time in knitting that our yarn exits a stitch, and then, when we turn our work around, it doubles back and goes right back in the same loop that it just formed.
On the right you see that I’ve dropped the edge stitch down 6 rows and I have three big loops. That’s because the bottom of the loop is the stitch from one row, and the top of the loop is from the row above it.
It’s helpful first to understand how we pick up that big loop in stockinette before we discuss the slipped stitch selvage. Since the bottom of the loop is one row and the top of the loop is the row above it, you’ll be laddering up both ends of the loop, top and bottom.
First, hanging on to that big scary loop so it doesn’t go anywhere, insert your crochet hook into the dropped stitch with hook facing up:
Keep hanging on to that loop while you ladder up the bottom of it for one row, and the top of it for the next row:
Lather, rinse, repeat for every giant loop. Here’s a little silent video for your enjoyment
So, I think you may be ahead of me here. When you have a stockinette edge stitch, that giant loop is formed from the amount of yarn you used to work the last stitch of the row and the first stitch of the next row. But when you work only the last stitch of the row and then you slip that first stitch without pulling yarn through it, you will have a much smaller loop.
Here I’ve dropped down that stockinette edge again, but this time I ladder up that giant loop like it was one stitch. Ah, so far so good you think, looks like a slipped stitch selvage:
But when I ladder up a few more, you can see that edge would be much too big and floopy (again, that’s the technical term).
So, if you had gone only a few rows, and if the piece was wide enough to redistribute the slack across the whole piece, then you might be able to drop down a few rows and change to slipped stitch edge. But if you drop down too many rows, you get a big sloppy edge.
The Winner’s Edge
BUT, wait, there’s more (RIP Ron Popeil). Vera, you also asked if you could drop a stitch and rebuild an edge in garter or seed. To that I say: hecks to the yeah!!
Since seed stitch is knit-the-purls and purl-the-knits, and since the garter stitch presents as alternating rows of knits and purls, the instructions are the same. The secret here is to look at the base of the last completed stitch to see if it was a knit or a purl so you know what you need to ladder up next.
Here, the last complete stitch is a knit (see the smooth V), so I know the first stitch I have to ladder up is a purl.
Remember, when we purl, our yarn is in front, so this means I have to put the bottom of the loop in front of the stitch.
Insert your crochet hook in front of the giant end loop, and from back to front through the dropped stitch, and with hook facing down. Then grab that loop with your crochet hook and pull it through to ladder up your purl, and you’ll find that your hook is now facing up, ready to ladder up a knit.
You can go seamlessly from picking up a purl to a knit this way, but now you’d have to remove the hook, move the next bottom loop in front of the stitch and repeat. I know what you’re thinking, “There’s got to be a better way!”
(In the voice of Ron Popeil) There is! Meet the double-ended crochet hook!
After you ladder up your knit, you’ll insert your crochet hook bottom to top into the giant loop.
Now here’s where the magic happens: slide to the other end of the hook and move that big loop (that will be your purl) to the front of the stitch on your hook. Now, notice how you are in the exact same position as the single-sided hook was. Ready to pick up your purl with hook facing down, and then into your knit, with hook facing up.
And ta da: garter edge!
I know, I know, I hear you, stop with the pictures and give us a video. Here’s a little silent video that might help:
So before you change an edge, consider: Is it a finished edge, or are you going to do something to it? If it’s your finished edge, then make it pretty. If it’s not, then make it functional. After all, who cares what it looks like underneath your seam!