Monday, April 18, 2011

In which we get technical about picking up stitches for buttonbands

I have not remained unaware that, while this is nominally a knitting blog, I haven't been posting much about knitting recently.  Let's see if I can make up for that.

I steeked Cityscape last week.  Steeking - so not a big deal.  Been there, done that several times now.  The idea of cutting my knitting doesn't even make me break out in a cold sweat anymore.  Just machine stitch a seam -- carefully, mind you -- on either side of the column of stitches you intend to cut.  Then cut.  See?  Simple.

Buttonbands and buttonhole bands, however, always require thought.  The pattern says "pick up and knit" along the folded edge of the steek.  This means that you need to sew down the steek on the back side by hand.  I didn't want to bother with this, because I have practically no blue yarn left and it would be hard to stitch down the blue section with white yarn without it showing through.  Also, when knitting patterns say "pick up and knit" I have discovered that they really mean what I call just plain "pick up" - starting from right side of row where you are picking up stitches, and with right side facing, stick needle into hole where you will pick up a stitch, loop yarn around on underside, draw it up and voilà - a picked up stitch.  It requires only one needle to pick up a stitch, but the resulting stitches do not encase the edging at all.  This is not a problem on items like socks, but may be disappointing on a blanket or sweater where you have an edge you'd like to conceal.

What I decided to do instead was to "pick up and REALLY knit" the stitches.  I discovered this a few years ago, quite accidentally, when I was exploring the new-to-me technique of "Cro-Kay" in the Emma Peel dress from Mason-Dixon Knitting.  I couldn't figure out why my "Cro-Kay" edging came out looking like a line of chain stitches following along the edge of the knitting but set in from the edge, rather than an actual, you know, edging.  Kind helpers on Ravelry explained that what I needed to do was to "pick up and REALLY knit" (my words, because I can't help but think it's weird that people mean different things by "pick up" depending on who you talk to, and I like to be as precise as possible with words) each stitch before proceeding with the rest of the edging. 

Here's how you "pick up and REALLY knit" (if you're righthanded, anyway): With right side facing, and working from right to left along the edge where you intend to pick up stitches, stick RIGHT needle into hole where you will pick up a stitch, loop yarn around on underside, draw it up.  DO NOT STOP, you're only halfway there.  Insert LEFT needle into picked up loop from back to front, take the yarn that's on the underside of your work and throw it around the right needle, knit the stitch just like you would if it were a normal stitch in the middle of your knitting instead of one you just picked up.  You do this for every stitch you need to pick up -- 134 is what I came up with for Cityscape.  (You also are supposed to pick up stitches on vertical stockinette edges at a ratio of 3 stitches for every 4 rows, but I probably fudged that a bit.  I just need to be sure to pick up the same number of stitches on the other side, so they match.)
This "pick up and REALLY knit" technique does two unique things.  On the front, there is what looks like two rows of stitches if you look carefully, instead of one.  And on the back, the raw edge that would otherwise be unsecured is secured by the extra loops of yarn that it took to go back and knit the stitches you picked up immediately after picking them up.  This means I don't have to hand-sew the raw edges of the steeks down.  Yay!
Here's a closeup of the process from the front (the red scrap of yarn is marking the 50th stitch).  There are a few small drawbacks: The occasional gaps between stitches are more obvious with the white on dark blue, and the ribbing will begin on what is basically the third row, so it does not meet the picked up edge exactly.  But I think it will be minimal, and I really like the finished edge of the steek.

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