Sunday, December 9, 2007

Knitting shut hems and facings (part 4 of "knitting better bands")

There are two ways of tacking down a folded-over band. One way is easily done with knitting needles--today's post. The other way (cue scary music!) requires a sewing needle--that's the next post.

The knitting needle method of
knitting shut doubled-over
hems (and facings)

The knitting needle method of knitting shut hems is similar to a 3-needle bind off. The stitches in the first row of the hem or facing are knitted together with the stitches in the last row of the hem or facing.

Here's the TECHknitting method for this trick in 4 illustrated drawings:

1. (below) LOOSELY cast on the hem using the long tail method or the long tail method for LOTS of stitches (casting on is shown in red, below). Work the ribbing (shown in green, below) to TWICE the desired height. Arrange to finish your hem so that the long tail cast left over from the casting-on is on the left, and the running yarn (shown in blue, below) is on the right, as shown below.
2. (below) The live loops of the hem are on the purple needle. Pick up the right arm of each bottom loop onto a different needle, as shown in light blue, below. If the cast-on edge is a bit tight, use a smaller needle to catch these bottom loops. (Although this is illustrated on a ribbing hem, this also works on a stockinette hem, a seed stitch hem or any other stitch, and the action is the same--you pick up the same loop of the long tail cast on, and do everything else the same, too.)

3. (below) Hold the cast-on stitches on their light blue needle at the inside "behind" the live stitches on their purple needle. As you can see, the cast-on stitches on their light blue needle present LEFT arm forward when they are held inside-out behind the live stitches on the purple needle. Use a third needle (the golden needle in the illustration below) to knit together each live ribbing stitch with the cast on stitch held behind it, as shown below.
4. (below) The finished product: the "knitting together" row is shown in blue, the cast-on stitches which are caught into the back of the hem facing (the "inside" of the hem) are shown in red, the balance of the fabric in green. Of course, in real life, the row of live stitches in front and the cast row behind would be the same color, and the cast-on row would therefore not show on the front of the fabric, unlike the red cast-on stitches in the illustration below.

* * *

The finished product "in the wool" is shown in the photo at right.

By knitting the top and bottom of each column of ribbing together in this manner, the hem is fastened down in a folded-over manner, and no sewing is required.

, as slick as it is, this "knitting needle method" of shutting hems and facings has a limitation.

This knitting-together method has an incurable tendency to FLIP, and this is true regardless of whether the band is in stockinette, ribbing (foldover ribbed band) or any other fabric. Therefore this trick is best on narrow tubes (socks, sleeves) where the shape of the garment counteracts the flipping. You can try this on a hat, too, but it works best with deeper, longer hats--you may get flipping on a shallow beanie-type hat. The long runs and loose shapes of a bottom band or a front band will allow a knit-shut band to get up to the kind of shenanigans it prefers: flipping straight over. (On these longer runs, the more successful method is the sewing method, the subject of the next post.)

* * *

We'll end this post with a Q and A:

Q: Why do you use a long tail cast on, instead of a provisional cast on for this trick?
A: Many knitters (most knitters, probably) DO use a provisional cast on, as follows: Remove the provisional cast on and put the live loops on the second needle (the light blue needle in the above diagrams). Holding the live loops at the back of the hem, use a third needle (the golden needle in the above diagrams) to work together a stitch from the front of the fabric (on purple needle in above diagrams) with a live loop from the back of the fabric, using the same method as shown above for long tail.
NOW: despite the fact that most knitters DO use a provisional cast on for this trick, the reason I DON'T is that the live loops created by the provisional method have a nasty tendency to run out.
To explain further: Near the end of the row, the needles holding the stitches, especially the rear needle (light blue) want to slide out because there are very few stitches left to hold them in. When the inevitable happens, and the rear needle slides out with only a few stitches to go, I don't have to worry: because my rear stitches are secured by the long tail cast-on, when those rear stitches come off the needle, they can't run because (ta da!) they aren't live stitches.

sock top hemQ: What about the fold line? Are there any tricks for that?
A: Certainly there are: You can knit a simple fold-over hem as in the 4 opening drawings of this post. OR, you can knit a hem facing of stockinette, then create a single row of purl and then knit the outside of the hem--in a texture pattern if you like. The row of purl makes a lovely sharp edge for folding. The gray ladies' sock in the photo at left shows a stockinette hem facing, a purled edge row, and a ribbed outside of the hem. (For an additional image of a purl fold row, click here.)

elastic drawstringQ: Any other tricks with a hem?
A: You bet! A knitted hem is a tube--and you can run a drawstring or an elastic through it. Socks made with an elastic garter in the hem will simply not fall down--nearly all my socks are made this way--including the one in the previous illustration. Here is an entire post about elastic in socks.

Another trick: As shown on this commercially knitted sweater, right, you can run an elastic drawstring through the hem--a good idea for a heavy outdoor sweater to be used in sporting or working conditions--shown is a ski sweater.

Next post: SEWING down the hem on the inside.


PS:  Addendum October 2014: Since this post was written, some valuable comments have been left by readers...maybe take a look?
You have been reading TECHknitting on knitting shut hems.


Marcy said...

I just recently discovered this blog and have been going through the archives like mad! This has got to be my favorite (not to mention most useful) knitting blog.

Marjorie said...

Interesting post. Since I learned to sew and knit at about the same time and had more formal training in sewing than knitting, I don't approach sewing with any hesitation. It never would have occurred to me that there was any other way to attach a hem besides sewing it down. I'm not sure I'll switch to your method because sewing works for me, but I always like to see what other options there are for a technique.

As always, I learn something every time I read your posts. Hope you feel as good as new now.

Camping Jason said...

Thanks for posting this series. I'm currently knitting a pair of toe-up socks and would be very interested on a technique to finish them with a folded hem, if one exists.

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Marcy: thanks for your kind words.

Hi Marjorie: The knitting down method is faster for small tubes (socks, cuffs) but not so good for long runs--there sewing is better.

Hi Jason: Certainly there is a way to finish a toe-up sock with a folded hem: Knit the sock to the top of the sock. Purl a row for a fold line, if you want a fold line. Knit the hem facing. Sew the inside of the hem facing to the inside of the sock. That's all there is to it. Variations:
- If you like, you can make the outside of the hem in ribbing or any variation: seed, double moss, garter, whatever, while the inside of the hem can be in the same stitch OR stockinette.

- If you like, you can insert an elastic garter into the hem before you sew it down. An elastic garter is nothing more than a circle of elastic sewn to fit your calf at top-of-sock height. Be warned: a sock with a garter looks all splayed out at the top because the garter is usually wider than the sock top when the sock is at rest. BUT when you put on the sock, all looks fine, and those socks WILL NOT fall down!

As to how to sew down a hem--stay tuned for the very next post.

Dixie Ipsit said...

Having gone through a lot of significant dental work in the last two years (braces and implants), I wish you all of the best and good dental health in the future!

Terry said...

Soooo, what about bands, as in the button band of a cardigan? I am about to knit the fronts of a pattern that requests picking up and knitting four rows of garter stitch along the front edges (sideways), then binding off. That edge does not sound very attractive to me.
Cardigans are my favorite sweater but I have not figured out the ideal band--what kind and how to add it to the front, especially when knitting with a bulkier yarn.

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Dixie: Thanks for your kind wishes. Isn't dental work horrible?

Hi Terry: I agree with you: a 4 row garter stitch band doesn't sound very attractive, especially because it sounds like the edge of the fabric will be the edge of the garment. Perhaps you can modify the sweater with a simple roll-over edge, rolled to the inside, with a frog-and-button closure across the roll? Or a folded-back button band picked up along the edge of the front, knitted to a fold line, folded back, knit the inside of the button band with a thinner yarn, perhaps, to reduce bulk, and then tack the band down on the inside? Again: sewing down bands on the inside of a garment will be the very next post.


Andy's Crafts said...

You are suc a treasure to have around. I sometimes read and re read your posts , you make things so easy. I will be back lol!

Kathy said...

I have avoided hems in my knitted garments so far because I am not quite sure how to make them look their best. Your tips are most appreciated.

JoLene Treace said...

Actually, this works best if you use a very small needle and only pick up every other cast on stitch/loop. I learned this trick as a Machine Knitter, and when I learned to hang a hem as a machine knitter, every stitch was not picked up and placed on the needle bed because of the issues you cited. Every second or third stitch works well, however. You just don't work a stitch together from both needles for each stitch across the row.

Wired said...

I have found that for knitting together a hem facing, or doing a three-needle bindoff, my best tool for the third needle is actually a crochet hook. It keeps the yarn from running away when I pull it through the rough terrain of two other loops and under two other needles.

DIANNA said...

I just found your blog after searching high and low for an old "Golden Hands" magazine from the 1970's that I remembered had instructions for this knitted tube type hem. Thank goodness for the internet and I really appreciate your blog! I'll be visiting often to see what else I can discover since I have revisited the knitting bag after about 40 years... Thanks for being there with good information and clear instructions! Dianna

EverEvolving said...

I had just finished another foldover hem the day before I read this post. I'm one of those who use a provisional cast on for that, the simplest one: , so all my cast on stitches are sitting on a string of waste yarn, which I do NOT remove and do NOT move the stitches to a needle to attach the hem. I simply fold the hem piece behind my live needle, with cast on stitches up; then, with the right needle I pick the first cast-on stitch that's on the waste string (it's easy to see, it's of different color), put it on the left needle and knit it together with the live stitch on that left needle. Repeat those steps: pick a stitch from waste yarn, put on the left needle, knit together with the next stitch. I find it much easier to handle than three needles bind off, plus you get to skip the putting cast-on stitches on the needle step. One can do the same with a crochet hook, of course, but that will be slower, as you have to move the knitted stitch to the right needle from the hook.

Anonymous said...

I used a knit shut technique on a picot hem of a child's dress (that's what the pattern suggested) and of course it is flipping terribly. Can I correct this by also sewing the hem (I normally sew picot edges). The dress was started at the hem line and worked up so I'd rather not unravel the work I have done. The other option I thought of was knitting a small strip and sewing it over the joined edge to reinforce the proper shape.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--the flip is, unfortunately, due to the tightening of the knit-shut row. Perhaps you could try threading a blunt sewing needle with some thin matching yarn, then try catching one stitch below the sew-shut row, then one stitch above it, bridging back and forth over the knit-shut yarn on the inside of the hem, to tame the curl.

If you try that over a short stretch and it does not seem to be working, there are a couple of further options:

You could simply remove the entire hem by snipping a single stitch in the row just above the knit-shut row, then catching all the live stitches on a needle and working "down" instead of "up." I don't know how to insert live links in comments, but if you cut and paste this into your browser, you'll get to the post which shows in illustrated detail, how to do this.

You could try the sewing of the strip idea, but it might be a bit bulky.

You could, perhaps, try adding weight to the hem--there are hem weights available for sale, maybe there is a fabric store near you with these in stock. The weights are in the form of a sort of a light-weight chain, and you could possibly wiggle this into the hem, thus transforming the hem into a sort of a casing.

Best of luck! --TK

Anonymous said...

I'm knitting a bottom-up vest in reverse stocking stitch. I'd like to have a hem at the bottom. How would I create a turning ridge in this case? The hem will be in stocking stitch. Would a purl row still work as the turning ridge? Thanks for your blog and your generosity, detail and precision. I have learned so much from it. - Christine in Toronto

TECHknitter said...

Hi Christine--yes, a turning ridge of purl will cause a fold line so that the knit sice faces out in both directions, and the purl side is caught in the fold.

(and thanks for the kind words!)

Laura said...

The knitting needle method of
knitting shut doubled-over
hems (and facings)

That's almost a haiku.

VMacJen said...

Oh please, oh please write all this down in a book! I would be the first to buy a dozen copies and distribute them to every knitter I know. I have older knitting friends that just aren't very tech savvy and would greatly benefit from all your wisdom.

Timothy Peters said...

In order to prevent the flip on sweater bands, I knit 1 extra round on the public side (after the purl round is behind you) and knit from the LTCO edge as usual. This balances the fabric out better (very short hems on sweaters are still difficult to keep from flipping).

GhostofaRose said...

Your blog is my "go to" reference for all my knitting questions. I've been knitting for over 40 years, and you've answered questions and addressed issues that I've wondered about for decades and have never found solutions for until now. Brilliant! I recommend this site to all the knitters I know.

You mentioned that one cause of flipping is that the cast on/first row tightens up too much after being knitted into a second time from the bottom. I also noticed this, and here's how I fixed that: I start with a provisional crochet cast on. Then when I knit the first permanent row in the project yarn, I knit it over two needles like some people do when casting on. I prefer this method to the long-tail (or any other) cast on when working a hem - especially in the round - because it stretches as much as the rest of the knitting. No more binding around the top of the sock!

Another thing that helps a lot to prevent flipping is: After working the first round over two regular-size needles, change to smaller needles. Work the first section of the knitting - the part that will be folded to the inside - in the usual way but with the smaller needles. Once you've reached your desired hem depth, change to your regular-size needles, work the purl fold row (if desired) and continue with the regular needles. If you are working in ribbing or any other stretchy stitch, as you normally are when making socks or a hat band, the smaller inside section will stretch enough so that it won't feel too tight. Since the inside section of the hem was made at a smaller gauge, it has a smaller circumference than the outer layer, and thus it wants to stay on the inside where the circumference of the garment is smaller. The slightly tighter inner facing also helps to keep your socks up and your hat on without causing discomfort. Plus, doing this also helps to prevent the flaring-out that often occurs with a faced hem.

This works great for in-the-round projects such as socks, hats, gloves, etc. Unfortunately it doesn't help with flat knitting (such as the center front bands on a cardigan) and could even make the flipping worse in that kind of situation. Your sewing method will be a huge help in those cases. Thank you!

TECHknitter said...

Hi GoaR: Thanks for writing with your valuable tips (and thanks for the kind words!) I will amend the text of the post to direct folks to your comment. Thanks again! TK

W x W said...

Just want to say - have learnt SO much from this Blog and really appreciate people that put this info out there. Really helpful and wonderful. Thank you!