Friday, January 14, 2011

A neat little edging for garter stitch

Worked back and forth by knitting on every row, garter stitch makes the easiest-to-create of all hand knitted fabrics. However, where the edge is exposed, such as on a scarf or afghan edge, there is often trouble. There may be waving, ruffling, stretching. This trouble may announce itself at the time of knitting, as when an edge comes off the needles a bit loose and wavy, as shown below.

Garter stitch fabric, a bit loose and wavy, before edging

However, somewhat loose fabric is not the only situation where this trouble may arise. Even tight, well-executed garter stitch fabric may face this problem in the future, as it stretches into ruffles while it is worn.

Today's post shows an uber-easy edging which will cure existing garter-edge problems and prevent future ones.

Tight (back) and loose (front) garter stitch fabric, edged

This edging can be applied with a knitting needle, although it is easier to do it with a crochet hook, as illustrated. This technique is called "slip stitch" and creates a neat little chain around the garment.  The chain constrains the edge.  Once edged, the garter stitch fabric can stretch sufficiently to preserve the knitting's stretchy nature, but not so much as to permit ruffling.

As far as appearance, chain edging garter stitch offers a simple design element, suitable to all. Both MrTECH--that fashion-averse curmudgeon, and MsTECH--that teen fashion-setter, find this edging attractive--a rare case of agreement between these fashion-opposites.

Here's how, in 3 steps.

Step 1: Insert the crochet hook (or knitting needle) through the edge of the fabric.  Take a note of just WHERE on the stitch you are inserting--as long as you insert into the same part of every stitch, you will get a pleasant, consistent edging.  I think it looks best to insert a bit off the very edge, leaving a bit of the original garter edge showing above the chain as in the photos, but you must use your own judgment--some prefer the look of a chain right along the very edge of the fabric.

Once the hook (or needle) is through the fabric, catch the running yarn and draw up a loop. Now, go to the next stitch of your garter stitch fabric and again insert, catching the yarn on the hook or needle. The below illustration shows the hook inserted through the fabric, from front to back, catching the running yarn, and about to pull the second loop through the fabric edge--the first loop was pulled through the same manner.

Step 1

 Step 2: The second loop has been drawn through the fabric. There are now two loops on the hook on the front face of the fabric.

Step 2

Step 3: The last step is to draw the second loop  (the one more towards the business end of the hook/needle) THROUGH the first loop (the one more towards the handle).

As the steps are repeated and the just-pulled-through chain drawn through the one before it on the hook or needle, you will see a pleasant-looking chain forming along the edge of the garter stitch fabric. The chain only shows on the front face of the fabric--there is a neat "stitched" look on the back of the fabric.

The edge of the fabric will not ruffle and stretch when edged in this manner.

Step 3

Of course in this, as in all things, "use makes master" as the Latin saying goes. If your edging is coming out too tight or too loose, change needle or hook size (or pull more or less hard) until you get the "just right" tension you're looking for: firm but not unyielding.  It's very easy to pull this edge out and re-do, so mess around until you like the tension --you'll know when you get there.

Happy knitting --TK
PS:  There is a view of another edged garter stitch scarf--a quite tailored one, on Ravelry, if you click here. When you get there, click on the top photo, and then on the "+" sign on the photo, and you will get quite a closeup of the front and the back of this edging on the mustard-colored scarf at the link.

You have been reading TECHknitting blog on chain edging for garter stitch fabrics


Marushka C. said...

I didn't even know I needed this, but I love how it looks. What a great idea. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Very informative post!

A thought: How about just slipping the first stitch of every row instead of knitting it? Works for me!

Carolina said...

Neat idea. I also like the idea of a yarn that complements the item but is not exactly the same. You might have done this so we can see it in the photos, but it could be a design feature too.

JelliDonut said...

Brilliantly simple, but then, the best ideas usually are. Thanks for another bookmark for my Knitting How-to folder.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--slipping makes a chain selvedge, which is a nice look, but (in my experience, at least) that, too, is prone to stretching.

Hi Carolina! You are right--a complementary yarn gives a tailored look, like contrast-stitching on woven fabric. Color-whizzes (like you!!) can choose their own contrast, but for those of us who are not so gifted, this kind of color-complement is easy to get automatically, by using long-color-repeat yarns. The "loose" example is made in Crystal Palace mini-mochi, so the repeat of the edging was color-coordinated with the main scarf, without being exactly matching.

Emily said...

You have so many wonderful tips, clear explanation and oh, the illustrations! Zippers are now possible for us nonknitters, buttonholes no longer look like mistakes, and I can finally, bind off in the round. Now, what I would really appreciate is Techknitter's guide to pockets. The pros and cons of each variety, and the tricks to make them look good.

Azalea said...

Great minds think alike! I recently did exactly this on a Noro scarf, though I don't remember if the knitted edge was garter or straight stitch. But I didn't like the look on the 'back' so I did the same thing there, putting the hook through the knitted edge _and_ the top loop of the chain stitch on the other side. You can see it here:

catknitz said...

This solution seems to work for me. See what you think:
1. Slip the first stitch knitwise.
2. Knit across the row until the last stitch.
3. Purl the last stitch.
4. Keep repeating steps 1-3.

It seems to make a nice neat edge that has some stretch but not too much.
BTW, I really find your blog thoroughly enjoyable. Keep up the great work! You are my "go to" place when I am looking for the answer!

Barb said...

I am a very new knitter so there are many, many things I do not know how to do yet. Your site is amazing and I have found wonderful information on things that I didn't have a clue how to even approach. I don't know how I found your site, but I'm so happy I did and I really want to thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge with the rest of us. It really is very generous of you. Thank you so much!!

Linda in TX said...

I LOVE your blog. Thanks so much for helping all of us - even, as Marushka says, we didn't know we needed it till we saw it!

olivia john said...

Informative.Thanks for sharing

Jean Carter said...

This is a great idea, as all your techniques are. Do you pull up one loop per garter ridge or per row? If it's one per ridge, which it looks like in the picture, I expect you would have to use a hook a bit bigger than the needle you used for the knitting, because a garter ridge is a bit longer than one row and smaller than 2 rows of stockinette. Do I have this right?

Marjorie said...

That is the kind of seaming I do on nearly all my pieced sweater seams. I think it makes a really nice side seam. Critics say that it leaves a bulky seam, but I think that if you steam block heavily, it is nearly as flat as mattress stitch on yarns that are worsted or thinner.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Marjorie-- I completely agree, and always seam my sweaters this way! Not only does it look well and go quickly, but it can easily be removed in the event the seaming starts to go astray--a quick jerk and out it ravels, whereas mattress stitch is the very bear to unpick.

Hi Jean Carter--yes, the garter stitch slip stitching must be done loosely, using either a large crochet hook OR loose tension worked freehand, because otherwise you will get unwelcome puckering and a too-tight edge. Luckily, this edging can easily be unraveled and redone if you find, after a few inches, that the tension is not correct!

Best, TK

Anonymous said...

Great Blog! I just came across it. I like the process - and understanding it - of knitting as much as the finished products and I will refer to this often. Thanks for making it public!

Anonymous said...

Hi! What kind of selvedge do I need to be able to pick up stitches from it and knit them? And, how do I pick the stitches? How does one manage to not get holes along the border, whenever one has to sew 2 knitted pieces?
Thanks in advance.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--TECHknitting blog has not yet covered picking up stitches--those posts are planned for this fall. Check back for full details then. In the meanwhile, sorry to be disappointing. Best, TK

Lauren said...

I just wanted to tell you I used this edging on a patterned fabric with equally good results (or better!). I was struggling with how to give a nice outer edge to a large circle (knit with short rows). The inner edge doesn't matter since it's going to be seamed. This worked perfectly!! So my knit edge has K1, P1, then 2x2 garter ridges. I put this little chain right in-between the first K1 then P1. It makes the first K1 kind of roll to the back side, and this chain is just gorgeous. Thank you!!!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Lauren--thanks for letting me know. Now I want to try it on a patterned fabric, too! Best, TK

Anonymous said...

My favorite edge for garter stitch is to Knit across the row and two stitches before the end of the row bring Yarn Forward and Slip the last two stitches purlwise for every row. This makes a lovely edge...looks almost like applied I-Cord.

suzknittyspinner said...

I just discovered your blog recently, and this post in particular has been very helpful to me! Even though I have known to slip the first stitch on the edge of each garter stitch row for at least 20 years, I somehow forgot to do so recently when I made my daughter a Moebius Ring. Seeing this post rescued me since I was able to add a tidy slip-stitch crochet edge using your instructions. I enjoy crochet, too, so it was actually a fun way for me to finish off the project. Thanks for all of your wonderful help here. If you would like to see my finished scarf, check out my blog by clicking on my profile. Thanks again!