If You Can Wrap Yarn Around Your Knitting Needle, You Can Pick Up Stitches

Actions

You're super excited about trying a new knitting pattern, but then you scan the instructions and see "pick up stitches" or "pick up and knit" and think: Okayyy, maybe not.

Don't be afraid! Picking up stitches is actually a simple way to build off a finished edge. It doesn't require any special skills or tools. In fact, if you can wrap yarn around your needle, then you already know how to pick up stitches.

When to Pick Up Stitches

There are several different scenarios in which you'll need to pick up stitches. Here are five common ones.

Sock Gussets

If you've ever want to knit socks with a heel, you'll have to pick up stitches along the sides of the heel to create the gusset.

Drawstring Bags

Projects like drawstring bags often have you knit the bottom circle, then pick up stitches around the circle. This gives the bag shape and also helps it sit up without falling over.

Sweater Necklines

Some sweater patterns ask you to pick up stitches around the neckline to make it smoother and more streamlined.

Button Bands on Cardigans

When knitting a cardigan, you may occasionally need to add a button band as part of finishing. This requires picking up stitches along the edges.

Sweater Sleeves or Hems

You can pick up stitches around armholes to add sleeves. You can also pick up stitches around hems to add length.

How to Pick Up Stitches

Horizontal Edges

I'll demonstrate how to pick up stitches from a bind-off or cast-on edge. (Note: I'm using a contrasting color yarn so that you can more easily see the picked-up stitches.) You'll be working from right to left across the edge.

Place your work right side up. Insert your needle into the first stitch from front to back. For a bind-off edge, the needle will go inside the V of the stitch just below the bind-off edge. For a cast-on edge, the needle will go inside the V of the stitch just above the cast-on edge. (Here, I'm showing picking up stitches from the bind-off edge.)

Grab the new yarn that you're going to attach. Leaving a long tail for weaving in later, wrap the new yarn around the needle.

Pull the new yarn through the stitch.

Insert the needle through the next stitch. Make sure you're inserting the needle into the center of the next V so that the stitches are spaced evenly.

Wrap the new yarn around the needle, and pull the new yarn through the stitch.

Continue picking up stitches evenly across the entire edge (or as your pattern instructs).

When you look at the edge of the work just behind your picked-up stitches, you'll notice that there's a neat little chain or braid running across the top.

Vertical Edges

Now I'll show how to pick up stitches from the edge of the piece. (Once again, I'm using a contrasting color yarn so that you can better see the picked-up stitches.) Just like with the horizontal edge, you'll be working from right to left.

Place your work right side up. Insert the needle into the first space on the edge of the piece. Notice how the edge forms a little braid or chain. You'll be inserting the needle right through one of those chain links.

Grab the new yarn that you're going to attach. Leaving a long tail for weaving in later, wrap the new yarn around the needle.

Pull it through the stitch.

Insert the needle into the next stitch, wrap the new yarn and pull it through the stitch.

Repeat this across the edge (or as your pattern instructs).

Notice that because this is a vertical edge, I didn't pick up a stitch in each and every chain. I'll explain why in a minute!

Tips & Tricks

Use the Skip Ratio for Vertical Edges

Since the number of stitches per inch and the number of rows per inch are often different in gauge , it's a good idea to use a ratio to make up for the extra stitches. Instead of picking up every stitch on the vertical edge, use the 1-2-3-skip trick to get the right amount of stitches.

The technique is simple: Pick up three stitches, then skip a stitch. Skipping that stitch will make sure that you don't have too many stitches packed onto that vertical edge.

Change-Up Your Needle Size

When you're picking up from a vertical edge, you have to account for the fact that stitches may take up less room vertically due to gauge. To make up for this, use a needle that's about two sizes smaller than the needle you used in the project. This will make the stitches look more even along the vertical edge.

Use a Crochet Hook

It's sometimes tricky to get the yarn through the stitch using a slippery knitting needle. If you can't seem to get the yarn through the stitch, try picking up stitches with a crochet hook, then placing them on the knitting needle.

Pick a Hand

You can use either your right hand or left hand to wrap the yarn around the needle. Experiment to figure out which way works best for you.

Once you get some practice under your belt, you'll see that there's no reason to worry about picking up stitches. You might even look forward to it!

Start a free trial for unlimited access to every project, pattern, recipe and tutorial on Bluprint.
NEXT FOR YOU
Are you sure to want to remove this?
First time knitting a sweater? We’ve got you covered.
Caddy Melville Ledbetter
Caddy Melville Ledbetter
Are you sure to want to remove this?
Put a handmade spring in your step as you knit your first, favorite pair of socks. Use yarns you love to make beautiful, comfortable socks with step-by-step guidance.
Lucy Neatby
Lucy Neatby
Are you sure to want to remove this?
If you can knit and purl, you can make an amazing first sweater you'll love to wear. Knit along with Amy Ross to create a classic raglan pullover or a cute cardigan.
Amy Ross
Amy Ross
Now Reading
If You Can Wrap Yarn Around Your Knitting Needle, You Can Pick Up Stitches