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How to knit tidy edges

by Cynthia MacDougall

In this series of posts, I’m making samples and talking about some basic stitch patterns using  Hue + Me yarn by Lion Brand. In my last post, I described how to work some basic stitch patterns – seed and moss stitch – both in the round and in back-and-forth knitting.

Three balls of yarn with a white ball band rest on a worn white bench with an arbor and trees in the background. A soft gray yarn (haze) is in the foreground with rosewater (a soft peach) behind it on the left, and agave, a soft medium green almost the color of blue spruce, on the right.

Knitters can relax with Hue + Me, as all colors complement one another. Here, (l-r) rosewater goes with haze, goes with agave.

In this post, I show you how to make neat edges on the sides of your scarf, or any project where you want a tidy edge: a blanket, button bands, or tunic vent. There are times when you might want the seams inside a garment to be neatly done, perhaps to make a jacket reversible.

This is not a difficult technique. The challenge is simply remembering to do it consistently.

Selvages (selvedges, if you are British), are defined as the margin on the sides of woven cloth, where the weft (weaving) threads weave in tightly on the sides of the loom. In knitting, the knitter creates these edges as they make the fabric, usually by working them consistently on the first and last one (or two) stitches on each side of the work.

Selvages have several useful purposes, and are often overlooked. Sometimes, they dress up an edge to give it an attractive appearance.

A two-stitch selvage makes a decorative but functional design element to a garment, often adding structure at the edges of a garment. For example, a garter stitch selvage is shorter than the adjacent stockinette stitch fabric. This adds sturdiness to a side seam or sleeve seam – particularly useful when working with cotton or rayon yarns.

There is an entire chapter (4) dedicated to selvages in the book, The Principles of Knitting, truly a knitter’s text book. If you’re not as avid a knitter as I am, you can look up this massive resource at your local library. I heartily recommend having a look at this chapter!

Below are the instructions I used for a tidy, chain edge on the sides of the scarf that is the project for this series of posts. Generally speaking, if you plan to use selvages on your garment, add the stitches for them onto the number of stitches for your garment. For example, if your pattern has 110 stitches for the body panel and you want a 2-stitch selvage on each side, make sure there are 114 stitches on the panel.

I used to know a knitter who worked her selvage at the end of the row, but I find it easier to remember them at the beginning of each row.

A close-up of the edge of a piece of peach-colored knitting showing a very neat chain edge going up the side of the seed stitch border, with one stitch of the stockinette stitch body of the scarf showing. The background is green on the lower left and red on the remainder; Lion Brand Hue + Me

A selvage creates a neat chain of stitches on the exposed edge of this scarf, but it can do the same for button bands, or a blanket.

To make the selvage in the photo, slip the first stitch of every row as if to purl it, keeping the yarn at the front of the work, then move the yarn wherever you need to work the next stitch.

Caveat: This works really well on the seed stitch borders, but when worked on stockinette stitch, one side may be looser than the other. This is another reason I advocate knitting samples.

For the scarf project, I have intentionally worked the collar increases at the edges of the scarf. They look like this:

A close-up of the edge of a piece of peach-colored knitting showing an interruption after every third chain caused by knitting into the front and back of the first and last stitch of every 8th row. The yarn and background are the same as in the previous photo; Lion Brand Hue + Me

Even though the increases are right at the edge, the scarf still has an attractive edge.

If I weren’t doing a seed stitch border, I could move the increases a stitch or two away from the edge and maintain the smooth chain in the previous photo.

In my next post, we’ll get knitting on our Hue + Me pocket scarf.

This is part 3 of 5 in this series

Go back to part 2: Seed Stitch and Moss Stitch and Hue + Me yarn

Go to part 4: Double-knitted pockets add functionality to a knit scarf


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