Knitting Skills: Attaching An Edging While Knitting

I love knitting lace. My youngest stepdaughter, is also a knitter who loves to knit lace. So far she has done lace scarves with a simple garter stitch border, such as Elizabeth I (this picture is actually in fingering weight, here is one in a lace weight). I sometimes want a simple garter stitch edge, and it is one that I will choose deliberately depending on what I want. There are times, though, where I want a dressier edge treatment.

Knitting an edging and attaching it while knitting can be a daunting prospect, but in reality it is not difficult to do.

Edgings that are knit as they are being attached generally fall into two categories. You are either working horizontally, or vertically. A horizontally worked edging is one that is cast on for width (length) and worked from either the bottom up or the top down to the finished depth. One that is knit vertically is one that is cast on for depth, and the width (length) is achieved by working additional rows.

We are all more familiar with the first type of edging, as we normally work some form of this, such as ribbings or other edge treatments. There are times where we need to use the later approach, and despite the desire for some hard and fast quick rules regarding the rate of attachment, there just are not any. It is all based on the gauge of your own knitting.

You will need to work a sample of your edging and block it to determine the final gauge for your edging. While it might be simpler to adjust the number of stitches when working your set up row so that you have one stitch to consume for each row you are attaching, this is not always the best approach. When dealing with different gauges, if you decrease more than a small number of stitches when picking up and knitting, you are working a row that will constrict the edge of your knitting.

If the number of stitches at the edges your main piece are based on your gauge, and then consume those stitches while attaching the edging based on your gauge, your knitting will not be constricted nor will the edging flare out.

There are two types of “edges” you pick up and knit from in your preparation round (even with triangular shawls). Ultimately through the preparation round you are either attaching to rows (a vertical edge) or stitches (a horizontal edge).

To determine how many stitches you will need to pick up and knit for the vertical edge or have at the horizontal edge after working the preparation round, you will need to refer to your washed and blocked swatch from the main part of the knitting. Whatever your stitch gauge is will determine the number of stitches per inch that you will need to end with at the end of this round.

The stitch gauge of your main swatch, as it is dressed, will tell you how many stitches per inch you need to have. For the vertical edge, determine the rows per inch from your dressed swatch of the main knitting, and compare this to the number of rows you have worked. Divide the total number of rows in your main piece by your row gauge and you will know how many inches you truely have to pick up stitches over. Multiply the number of inches you just determined by the stitch gauge and you will know the unadjusted number of stitches to pick up and knit along the vertical edge. You now know the unadjusted number of stitches for both horizontal (your live stitches from your cast-on or “bind-off” edge) and vertical edges.

You will then look at the gauge for your edging, and make any final adjustments in numbers prior to working your preparation round (or set-up round). A small number of stitches will not make a difference in your lace piece, and you can safely adjust a small number (2 or 3 for example) so that you have even repeats of your edging.

Look at the stitches per inch in your edging, and write it down. Look at your rows per inch in your edging and write it down. You will be working according to the number of the stitches you have to consume.

You will want to adjust up or down so that you have an even number of repeats.  Figure this out on your paper alongside your notes for your gauge and the stitches available. For example, let’s say your gauge is 6 sts per inch and 8 rows per inch on your dressed (washed and blocked) main swatch. In this example we have 36 stitches at our cast-on edge. The total sts (36) divided by the row gauge (8) is 4.5 which would leave us with a partial repeat. We can have either 4 whole repeats (in which case we would need 8×4=32 sts, or we would need 8×5=4o sts). In this case the numbers up or down would be the same so it really would not matter much which way we went (although I tend to think more is better than less). Keep in mind when looking at going around the corners, some of these extra stitches can help you ease around the corner when working the edging (more about that later). For now, right down your two choices. The lower number (32) with the number of “extra” stitches you have (4, as 32+4=36), and your other choice which would be to increase from 36 stitches to 40 stitches. Note how many repeats you would work with each choice also so you know how many “points” you would work.

Now that you know how many stitches you need from corner to corner on each side, look at the width of the edging. Wide edgings will require you to work extra rows to get around the corner. If you are working an edging that doesn’t get too wide and you are at the narrowest part of the edging when you are at the corners, you may be able to simply continue around the corner without doing anything special. Edgings with points will allow you to do this.

If you find that you need a little extra “ease” around the corner, you can work an extra two rows without attaching in straight knitting (if you need more rows to ease around the corner you can plan more stitches towards the corners for attaching more rows or you can consume less stitches to add extra length to ease you around the corner).

Determine if you need to do any adjusting for the corners, add up the stitches you need for full repeats along each edge and then determine what number of stitches you need for your preparation round. Work your preparation round with a circular needle, picking up and knitting the number of stitches you determined you need for each edge of the main piece you are attaching to.

To attach edges while working, you need to consume the stitch gauge of the main piece over the row gauge of your edging for each edge. This means you will need to consume (main stitches per inch) sts for every (edging rows per inch) rows while working, attaching on (half the row gauge of edging) rows for each inch. Work the corner as you determined, adjusting as necessary if you find you need to work a couple extra rows to ease around the corner. Take care to work each corner the same.

When you get to picking up and knitting into the chained edge on the vertical edges of the piece you may need to pick up more stitches than you have chains. The consistency in what you do is just as important as how you do it. You may go under both loops and then into the front loop, for example. Pick a method and stick with it so that it looks the same and forms a pattern.

You now have your set up round worked. You have live stitches around the entire circumference of the main piece on hold on a circular needle. Turn your work over so the wrong side is facing you, in readiness for the first row the work is attached on. This first row is actually the last row of your edging pattern (or if you have had to adjust where in the pattern the rows start and end, it would be the new ending row).

Your first attaching row is always followed by the first right side row of your edging, where you will work away from the attaching edge and out to the shaped edge (most edgings have a pointed or shaped edge and instructions for shawls and other lace items will refer to “points” along an edge). When you get to the end of your edging and all stitches from the circular needle have been consumed, you will be ending with the last right side row of the pattern and sewing or grafting the edge together.

If you wish, you may end with the second to last wrong side row, and graft in pattern for the row where you would be working the last right side row. In fine lace yarns, this is really not a noticeable issue. With heavier yarns you may notice that extra row and need to choose the last option, where you are not essentially adding an extra row in your joining.

Cast-on for your edging using a double pointed needle of the same size as your main piece with a knitted or provisional cast-on (if you are working on a lace piece, or the size needle you used for your swatch). Knit across the cast-on stitches, and when you reach the last stitch, knit it together with the stitches of your main piece that are to be consumed (you will work either a k2tog with an edging stitch and a stitch from the circular needle, or a k3tog with an edging stitch and two stitches from the circular needle). Turn your work and slip the first stitch on the double pointed needle, and work row 1 of your edging.

The work progresses in this manner: slip the first stitch of the double pointed needle, work toward the main piece stitches on the circular needle and attach at the end of the row on even/wrong side rows. Turning your work, slip the first stitch on the double pointed needle and work across away from the attached edge on odd/right side rows. Work all rows of edging pattern, attaching at the rate you determined for your gauge, repeating edging pattern rows for the number of “points” or repeats needed.

Many find that attaching at the rate of 3 stitches to 4 rows works well. This amounts to picking up 3 stitches for every 2 attaching rows when the first stitch of each row is slipped. Stockinette sts are about 2/3 as high as they are wide, generally, but as in most generalizations this is not true in every situation. The only way to know for certain is to knit a sample of your edging and obtain a gauge from that.

This truely is more simple than it sounds. Take it step by step, write everything down, and give it a try. Remember, it takes a fair amount of words to describe things sometimes so don’t let the length of the description put you off. Above all have fun with it.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace


7 Responses to “Knitting Skills: Attaching An Edging While Knitting”

  1. Melanie Says:

    Thank you for the comprehensive tutorial! Having recently slogged through the math of getting an edging around the corners of a stole whilst considering row and stitch gauge and pattern repeats, I truly appreciate the value of this information.

  2. jolenetreace Says:

    You are welcome and thanks for stopping by.

  3. angelarae Says:

    This is awsome. Just what I needed for my shawl. Linked to this entry on my blog and sent trackback. Hope it works:)

    Thanks again:)


  4. JoLene Treace Says:

    Thanks, Ang! Hope you saw the post yesterday with the additional info. Let me know how it goes!

  5. Zeninfala Says:

    Sweet blog. I never know what I am going to come across next. I think you should do more posting as you have some pretty intelligent stuff to say.

    I’ll be watching you . 🙂

  6. Says:

    This really is the fourth blog, of yours I actually went through.
    However , I love this one, “Knitting Skills:
    Attaching An Edging While Knitting JoLene Treace Unraveled” the most.
    Regards -George

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