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22 Comments
  • Thanks Kate. This one always leaves me scratching my head.

  • Great article. I recently did a shawl pattern where the first stitch was slipped with no other instructions– I did this throughout the pattern but no matter how I treated that first stitch I ended up with an unyielding tight edge — I’ve decided to just knit the first stitch on my next shawl to avoid that. Do you have another suggestion in fixing that issue?

    • I am guessing it was a triangle shape shawl that you were knitting, Yes, the edges of a triangle shawl do get tight, because if you keep adding the stitches along the “growth” edge and at the same time not work the edge stitch, in the long run you end up with a bit less fabric at that very edge. That long growing edge is much longer than if you just continue knitting vertically (i.e. without adding stitches to grow the triangle). Think the diagonal line across a rectangle – it is always longer than width or length sides of said rectangle.
      There are ways of avoiding this tightness. Some patterns suggest to actually work that edge stitch on every other row or to do a yarn over two stitches in from the edge and to drop it on the next row…

    • You did just what I would do: knit them! Slipping them is too darn tight. (Some people double-wrap the yarn for a slipped stitch at the edge, dropping the extra wrap on the following row, but I find that can introduce other issues, and make it too loose.)

  • Thanks. Grateful for putting the why in my knitting.

  • Thanks, Kate! I love the clear explanations and the take-away bullet points. So helpful!

  • A huge pattern pet peeve of mine: not specifying knit wise or purlwise, or worse, whether it’s wyif or wyib! Why do pattern writers assume you can read their minds? The pattern I’m currently working on has the edge stitches slipped and doesn’t specify, so I held to the wrong side as you suggested, but turns out that wasn’t right. I laddered down my edge stitches and fixed it, but I wouldn’t have had to do that if just four itty-bitty letters had been included in the pattern! It’s not hard!

    • Agree, that info SHOULD be in the patterns. But the good news is that there’s a pretty simple rule: unless it’s part of a decrease, always slip the stitch purlwise. If it’s stockinette stitch, hold the yarn to WS; if it’s garter, always hold the yarn in front.

      • That was exactly my problem—it’s my first time doing a slip on a garter stitch edge, and I didn’t know the rule was different for garter!

  • Gah! Where has this article been all my knitting life?! So very happy to have this! Thank you, Kate!

  • Another great piece. When I started more complicated knitting, so many patterns weren’t specific as to how to slip. They should be!

    My other pet peeve is the current focus on ‘pretty/artsy’ photos of shawls where you can’t see the shape and the shape/dimensions aren’t given. Not helpful at all.
    Thanks for so much clarity!

    • I’m with you there, Gail! Every pattern should have one photo of the item, laid flat, plain background, so a person can see it clearly. Then a bunch of pretty/artsy ones, which are so nice to look at….

    • Totally agree with you on the photos, Gail! I’m not going to choose your pattern to knit if I can’t tell what it looks like!

  • Thank you so much for the article – although I pretty well knew it all it is so helpful to have it all written down, explained and bulleted. I am in the process of knitting a scarf in the round. To give the edges a nice neat look the pattern instructions are to knit or slip the edge stitch on alternate rows. I find that if I slip knitwise and twist the stitch then I see it more clearly on the next row and so I don’t have to use a row counter. I just knit into the back to straighten that stitch out again.

  • Thank you, Kate! I appreciate your clear photos and explanations. My socks are definitely better — easier to knit and more comfortable to wear — when I slip that stitch on the heel flap.

  • Kate, in reading your post, I found that I have generally been doing the correct actions, even when directions did not specify, just because they seemed the natural thing to do. Now you have given us the reasons behind the techniques. Thanks Kate!

  • The question I always have is not answered here. You state “It’s a little different for garter stitch: since the fabric doesn’t really have a right or wrong side, always slip purlwise with the yarn held to the front, and then take it to the back to knit the first stitch.” My question is this, when slipping purlwise with the yarn in front, do you wrap the yarn around the edge to get it to the back and knit, or do you move the yarn over the knitting between the needles to get it to the back to knit? I have done both, but am never sure which is correct.

  • Great article! It’s especially helpful to know that you should only slip the first stitch if the edge will be left alone. Yesterday a friend was asking me about doing a crocheted edge on a scarf. This morning I was thinking I should tell her to slip the first stitch, but now I know better!

  • Hi Kate! Excellent article, as always. You say that the first stitch of a row should only be slipped if it’s going to stay that way, but aren’t there times outside of sock heel construction that stitches are slipped to be picked back up again later? For example, I’m currently working on the Color Explosion throw which has the first stitch slipped every row, to later be picked back up to bind all of the blanket panels together. Will slipping the stitch not make picking the edge stitches back up later on easier? Is there some advantage to not slipping the first stitch in a situation like this?

  • Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

  • Thanks for this! It clears up my oft overthought conversation with myself on whether WYIF means the front of the piece or the side facing you.

  • Total rookie question! Does WS stand for working side or wrong side? I had an instructor who used WS for working side but I think your using it for wrong side. I’m confused!