Picking Up Stitches Properly and Evenly

Picking up stitches is very simple in actuality, but it’s sometimes confusing as written in patterns. Way back in 2009, Knitting Daily founding editor Sandi Wiseheart did a couple of wonderful tutorials about picking up stitches, and I thought we could all use a refresher course:

What does “pick up and knit stitches” mean?

Picking up stitches is a way to add new stitches to an already finished bit of knitting—along the sides for a button band, perhaps, or at the neckline for a collar. You can add stitches to any edge: a cast-on edge, a bound-off edge, or the side edges.

There are two steps involved:

1.  Pick up loops along the edge of the knitted piece, using a spare knitting needle. (This is the “pick up” part.)

2.  Knit new stitches into those newly picked-up loops. (This is the “and knit” part.)

That’s why many instructions say “pick up and knit”—it is a two-step process. Many knitters do both steps for each single stitch—pick up the loop, then knit a new stitch into it—before moving on to pick-up-and-knit the next stitch.

However, there are many skilled knitters who pick up all the loops along the edge at once, placing them on a spare needle. They then switch the spare needle with the new loops to their left hand, and knit all the new stitches onto the loops in a second, separate step.

It doesn’t matter which way you do this, as long as you do both steps—pick up, and knit—for each stitch.

Here are some step-by-step photo tutorials:

Picking up stitches along a slipped-stitch row edge, such as a sock heel flap or button band, shown at top left, or picking up stitches along a cast-on or bound-off edge, such as a collar or cuffs, shown at bottom left.

—Sandi Wiseheart, founding editor of Knitting Daily

I’m one of those knitters who picks up all of the stitches at once, and then knits them as part of the next step—button band, collar, heel flap, whatever.

One question that I get all the time concerns picking up stitches evenly. I have a knitter friend who finds this very challenging, and in a recent project she had to pick up stitches for her button band five times before she got the correct number.

Anyway, here’s how to pick up stitches evenly:

When a pattern instructs you to pick up a specific number of stitches along an edge, save yourself some frustration with a simple trick.

  • First, measure your piece, then gather locking stitch markers or safety pins. If you have only a small area, you may find that just dividing your piece into two sections will be enough.
  • For longer edges, use more markers and divide your piece into four or more equal sections, using a ruler and placing locking markers at even intervals along the piece.
  • Now divide the number of stitches that you need to pick up by the number of sections you’ve created and you’ll have a much more manageable number to track.

I found this great tip in a back issue of Interweave Knits; I hope it helps you out the next time you have to pick up stitches for a project.

Aside from the gorgeous knitwear in each issue of Knits, there are tons of useful tips, such as the one above. Did you know that there’s an online index of every single pattern and article that’s appeared in Interweave Knits since its inception? If you’re like me and you have a bookshelf full of back issues, this index is invaluable. Check it out. (There’s one for Knitscene, too, at the same link!)

Check out the back issues we have on sale now!


P.S. Do you have a tip for picking up stitches? Share it with us in the comments!


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