Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Picking up stitches part 2: picking up along a bound-off edge

Garment finishing often requires the knitter to pick up stitches--to form a new row of live loops at the edge of a fabric where no live loops exist. TECHknitting blog has already dealt with picking up stitches along a selvedge, which is the "vertical" type pick up typical of cardigan bands.  This type of pick up is shown in green on the below schematic.

Today's post deals with a different kind of pick up: horizontal pick-ups (the brown areas on the below schematic).  A future post will deal with picking up stitches along a combo edge (light green).

The different types of picking up--today's post deals with the kind of pick-up marked "horizontal" on the above schematic of a cardigan sweater

There are actually TWO different kinds of horizontal pick ups: picking up live stitches from a provisional cast on, and picking up new stitches through a bound-off (or cast on!) edge. Today's post is only about the second kind: picking up through a bound-off edge.  This is because TECHknitting blog has already covered the first kind, links below.
As you can see, the bottom bands and cuffs (brown) were picked up on a horizontal edge.  In other words, the brown back-of-the-neck, as well as the bottom bands and cuffs were picked up and knit in the SAME direction as the knitting to which they are attached (arrows go the same direction on schematic).

Horizontal pick-ups are simple: the rate of pick up is 1:1, meaning one stitch is picked up through the top of each stitch-column in the main fabric.  Below is a diagram of how these are done using the "added yarn" method (very similar to the added-yarn method for selvedge pickups). As you see, the loops are picked up from the back to the front so that the live stitches appear on the OUTSIDE of the garment.  This hides the bind-off itself on the garment-inside, where no one can ever see it again.

The purple yarn is being picked up through the bound-off edge (brown) of the main fabric (yellow) using a crochet hook to draw loops through the top of each stitch column.  The loops are then parked on a knitting needle.
Here is a close-up photo of what such a pick-up looks like "in the wool" with the stitches parked on the knitting needle.

Reality check: how the picked-up stitches actually look "in the wool"

On the picked up stitches shown above, I knit a dozen or so rows to represent a collar, let's say, working one half in ribbing and one half plain (photo below) so you could see how the fabric would look either way.

The stitches picked up in the first photo were worked for a dozen or so rows, as a sample to show what a picked-up fabric--a collar, perhaps-- would look like worked in ribbing (right) or plain (left)

In the above photo, the "ditch" of the pickup (located along the row where the purl columns start)  shows as a disturbance in the smooth fabric, but the stitch pattern remains undisturbed through the pick-up row, because the bind-off itself is hidden on the back of the fabric scrap shown here.  In other words, the bind-off is inside the garment.

Where and why would a knitter want to pick up stitches through a bound-off edge?

Picking up through a bound-off edge is probably most common at the back of the neck of a garment. The reason to bind off and then pick up again is to hold the back of the neck from stretching--here is a link to an entire post about this.

Another common location this might happen is when your pattern calls you to bind off stitches at an underarm, followed by a requirement to pick the stitches up through the bound-off edge.

Yet another example of picking up through a bound-off edge can be seen in a scrap-yarn project featured in an earlier TECHknitting post, where the bind-off itself is a decorative horizontal element. This is called "Fake Latvian Braid, bind-off version." In this trick, the pick up is done from the outside to the inside, thus forcing the bind-off to the surface of the knitting where it becomes a decorative element. Using a decorative bind off like this is a particularly great trick to protect the already-knit part of a scrap project from unraveling, while at the same time freeing your knitting needles from a  project which might be knit in spurts, years apart, whenever more scrap yarn becomes available.  Using a bind-off as a decorative element also lets you use scrap yarn of different weights, colors, etc. because the horizontal element provided by the bind-off hides what would otherwise be discontinuities in the fabric.

As to picking up bottom bands and cuffs through a bound-off (or cast-on) edge: in truth, this isn't an ordinary manner of picking up such stitches in knitting. What's actually unusual is not the idea of picking up stitches to add the bands and cuffs afterwards.  In fact, adding cuffs and bands afterwards is an excellent idea because it allows you to custom-fit the garment with you in it.  However, such afterwards-added bands are usually worked "going the other way" on a provisional cast on. Bottom line: it's not the idea of picking up stitches for bands and cuffs which is unusual, it's picking up for these through a bound-off edge which is out-of-the-ordinary.

However, if we're talking children's clothes, it might make perfect sense to pick up the bottom bands and the cuffs in this unusual manner, working through a bound-off (or cast-on) edge.

Kids grow lengthwise a lot quicker than they grow in diameter. Further, the edges of a kid-sweater could use refreshing after a year of so of constant wear. By nipping the bottom bands and cuffs off and knitting brand-new, longer ones, you can keep a kid-sweater going for more years than you can imagine. Band/cuff lengthening  COULD be done on live stitches/provisional cast-on as you would do for an adult sweater, but it's actually easier to rip off the cuffs/bands and knit all-new ones if you don't have to worry about catching live loops.  So, if you'd originally picked up the cuff/band stitches through a bound-off edge, when the time comes for refreshing and lengthening, you'd simply rip merrily away until the cuff/band is all gone, then pick up all-new stitches through that same edge and re-knit.

An overlapping reason is that kids are hard on sweaters.  In fact, kids often wear sweaters  right out--little me sure did (and little-inner-me still grieves all these years later for that one worn-out, rust-colored sweater my mom knit!)   When cuffs and bands are picked up through a bound-off edge, a worn cuff/band can't unravel very far and all damage is constrained.  Instead of having to grieve for a worn-out sweater with runs all over it, your kids will think you are a magician as you simply frog that one worn-through cuff and knit a replacement, 1-2-3.

A final situation is which to use picking up through a bound-off edge arises in the special case of grafting ribbing head-to-head. Generally, such grafting would result in a 1/2 stitch offset causing disruption of the pattern.  However, if you bind off one fabric and then Kitchener-stitch (graft) the live stitches to the bound-off stitches, you can avoid this problem.  Here is a post with more info.

Until next time, good knitting!