Whether you need to add pockets or work neck and buttonbands, the art of picking up stitches is a useful addition to any knitter’s arsenal. Learn to pick up and knit stitches with our handy tutorial.
What is picking up stitches?
In UK patterns, picking up stitches is often expressed as “pick up and knit” (sometimes abbreviated to PUK or pick up and k), although in some patterns you may just be instructed to “pick up” a certain number of stitches. Both usually mean the same thing but it’s worth checking with your pattern provider just in case.
Read on for our step-by-step guide and useful tips for a professional finish.
How to pick up stitches along an edge
If you are adding a trim or buttonbands to the opening of a cardigan or borders around the arms of a sleeveless top, you will be required to pick up stitches from the side edge. This is known as the selvedge of your knitting. You will also need this method for entrélac patterns.
Step 1: with RS facing, insert your RH needle into the edge stitch of your work from front to back.
Step 2: wrap the yarn around the tip of the needle and pull the yarn through to the RS.
Step 3: repeat this in every stitch, or as directed, until you have picked up the correct number of stitches, then continue knitting as instructed.
How to pick up stitches around a neck that has been cast off
Necklines on garments are worked after the shoulders have been joined together and you may be required to pick up stitches from a cast-off edge. This is usually a straight edge. How to do it: with RS facing, insert the needle into the centre of the stitch on the row below the cast-off edge. Wrap the yarn around the needle and pull through to the RS.
NOTE: You can also pick up stitches from a cast on edge in the same way, just insert the needle between the stitches instead of through the centre.
How to pick up stitches around a neck on a curved edge
Some necklines will also have shaped edges, such as v-necks which are sloped and round-necks which are curved.
How to do it: with RS facing, insert the needle into the middle of the first whole stitch next to the shaping, wrap the yarn around the needle and pull through to the RS of the work.
How to pick up stitches in the centre of the fabric
There are several different ways of creating pockets; sewing them on separately, holding some of the stitches on a holder, or picking up stitches from the middle of the fabric, as shown here.
Step 1: thread the tail of the yarn through the front of the fabric and secure on the WS. Insert the needle into the middle of the stitch to be picked up and under the top of that stitch.
Step 2: wrap the yarn around the needle and pull through this part of the stitch. This is your first picked up stitch.
Step 3: continue to pick up stitches in this way until you have the correct number. If you want your pocket to be stocking stitch, p the next row.
Tips and advice
- Make sure you insert the needle into the same relative stitch or row. If you accidentally use the wrong stitch, you will find your buttonband will end up wonky.
- If after picking up stitches on a neckline you feel the fabric looks holey, unpick it and re-do the picking up working one stitch further in. This will create a slightly larger ridge on the WS of the fabric but will give a more professional look.
- Some knitters find it easier to insert a crochet hook through the fabric and use it to pull the yarn through before placing the loop on the needle.
- To pick up stitches evenly, work out how many you need to pick up over how many centimetres, calculate how often they should be spaced and place a marker at each point.