Nothing Nicer Than Even Edges

It has always been important for me to professionally finish my projects, particularly garments – where the difference between “handmade” and “homemade” is obvious. Finishing not only comes at the end of knitting, but happens throughout the knitting process. I love even edges, not only because they are visually pleasing, but are easier to sew, or left exposed. The following tips will help you even your edges and improve your finishing process.

  1. Increasing and Decreasing Within Edges
  2. Evenly Spacing Your Stitches When Decreasing or Increasing Along a Row
  3. Consecutive Bind Offs
  4. Thoughts on Slipping Stitches
  5. Blocking
  1. Increasing adds stitches to a row of knitting, and decreasing reduces the number of stitches to narrow a piece. Most often these techniques are worked on the right side of a knitted fabric. To avoid uneven side edges, increase or decrease a few stitches in from the edge. For example, when I’m shaping a waist, I like to decrease or increase 2 or 3 stitches in from the edge on the right side of the fabric, creating “fashion marks”. You can decide on the placement, but maintain consistency throughout the garment shaping. Good pattern instructions will specify the type of increase or decrease used and placement.
  2. Working multiple increases is often done on the last row of ribbed borders. The increases are the extra stitches needed to obtain the correct measurement for the body of the piece. It is important to increase as evenly as possible across a row. If the instructions do not indicate the placement of the increased stitches, use this simple calculation to figure out the number of stitches between the increases. Subtract one from the number of stitches to be increased. Divide this number into the total number of stitches on the needle. For example, if there are 34 stitches on the needle and you need to increase 5 stitches, 5 – 1= 4, therefore 34 divided by 4 = 8 with 2 stitches left over. The increase row would be worked as follows if using a make one (M1) increase: work 1 stitch, (M1, work 8 stitches)4 times, M1, work 1 stitch. There should be 39 stitches on the needle. If you are using a bar increase (making an increase in one stitch) in our example above, there are 7 stitches between each increase, as one of the 8 stitches is being used for the increase. The increase row is worked as follows: work 1 stitch, (increase 1 stitch in next stitch, work 7 stitches)4 times, increase 1 stitch in next stitch, work 1 stitch. Again you should have 39 stitches. Decreasing evenly across a row uses similar math calculations.
  3. When shaping shoulders or armholes using consecutive bind offs, the following method creates an even slope. Pattern instructions may read like this: “with the right side facing, bind off 5 stitches at the beginning of next 2 rows, then bind off 2 stitches on following 4 rows”. Proceed as follows: on the first right side row, bind off 5 stitches and work to end of row. Turn and bind off 5 stitches on wrong side, and work across to the last stitch. Slip the last stitch onto the right needle. On the next right side row (bind off 2 stitches), slip the last stitch again instead of working it, and work next stitch binding off by lifting the slipped stitch over. Bind off next stitch as normal and work across to last stitch and slip it. Repeat this process, slipping the last stitch till the rest of the bind offs are completed on both side edges.
  4. Beginners are often taught to slip the first stitch of every row, if they find their edges to be loose and uneven. I would suggest not slipping edge stitches for every project, but practice this simple tip to create an even side edge. Simply make sure when you knit or purl the first stitch, that you pull the yarn tighter than for the rest of the row. Edge stitches are referred to as the selvages of the knit fabric and are often 1 or 2 stitches at each end. Selvage stitches are added to the total stitch count, and are used to stabilize the knit and prepare it for seaming, or as a finish for an exposed edge. If you can’t seem to create an even edge without slipping stitches, the following method works well, creating a chain along the edge of stockinette stitch and a great way to finish exposed edges. Row 1 (right side): Slip first stitch knitwise, work to last stitch, knit 1. Row 2: Slip first stitch purlwise, work to last stitch, purl 1. This method is one of many variations to create a selvage edge, and remember if you want to include a selvage in a project, add these extra stitches to the total stitch count.
  5. I have written several posts on blocking, and you can search my archive for these. Like knitting a gauge swatch, blocking is an essential step that knitters often dismiss. Blocking is the process of wetting or steaming knitted pieces to even stitches and fibers, and smooth the edges. For the best results, it should be done prior to sewing. Grab yourself some blocking materials, and you will be amazed by the results.

I hope you will begin to incorporate these tips to professionally finish your projects.