Pick-up Lines

A whole bunch of you expressed interest in how I was picking up stitches in garter for the blanket, and so the other day when I finished one block and began the next, I took a bunch of pictures so I could show you. I experimented with a bunch of techniques at the beginning of this project, and this is what I’ve found that seems to make them really tidy. A whole bunch of other knitters asked why I was casting off stitches at all. If a pattern calls for casting off and then picking up again, they queried (and it’s a reasonable question) why on earth would you bother? Why not just leave the stitches live, placing them on a spare circular or stitch holder until you needed them again? My answer is both personal and technical. First, I like that each square is accomplished and bound off. It makes me feel like I’m “finishing” the squares, and perhaps like I could stop any time I wanted, since every time I bind off I have a blanket of a different size. (That’s the personal reason.) The technical reason is that binding off creates stability of a sort, and I think that’s valuable to keep the blanket from stretching all over the place. (I talked about that more in this post, and you can read that for more information if you like.) It might all come down to how much you hate binding off/picking up, which is for me… not at all. Knitters choice.

The Log Cabin Moderne calls for several rectangles knit off of each other in different directions, so part of the challenge in picking up stitches is that in one row, you’ll be picking up from bound off edges, and then the sides. This means that in one row you’ll need two techniques. Here’s how I handle it.

Step 1. Okay. There’s a rant here about the loss of knitting techniques/terminologies that I could get into, and if you’ve taken a class with me then you’ve likely heard some version of it. Synopsis: In creating directions that are easy to read and use, we’ve lost fine distinctions between similar techniques. Best example, the distinct and important difference between “pick up” stitches, and “pick up and knit” stitches. One involves a working yarn, the other does not. I advocate knowing how to do both, and using them when they make sense. For creating new stitches along a garter edge, I advocate “picking up” stitches. This includes no working yarn. I work LEFT to RIGHT, and scoop up the stitches that I want. First I identify the loop I want to collect. In this case, its the edgemost ladder of the edgemost garter stitch. (Note that this is not that weird little knot on the very edge of all garter stitch. That sucker is odd, and impossible to collect neatly. Ignore the rotter.)


Continuing to work LEFT TO RIGHT, I get all those stitches on the needle, taking care to collect them all in the same manner. This is one advantage of “pick up” rather than “pick up and knit”. The stitches aren’t distorted by the action of knitting them and therefore it is plain as day whether or not they are picked up properly and uniformly. (It also makes it dead easy to see if you’ve missed one, which is harder the other way.)


Step 2: When all the little dudes are picked up, including one in the cast on (or off) edge, I examine them all from both sides to make sure that I’ve always collected the same portion of the stitch, and I get my working yarn.


Step 3. I knit them. I insert the needle in the traditional manner. (If I thought that was making a big hole, I might go in the other way. EG: knit into the front of the stitch.)


Step 4. Now I’m at the point where the direction of the source knitting changes. Now I’m collecting stitches from the length wise rather than vertical edge of the garter stitch. Since the work has changed direction and what I have to pick up has changed, I’m changing techniques. If I were married to “pick up” rather than “pick up and knit” at this point I would have some trouble collecting the little gaffers. Luckily, I have another way to go about it.

I’m going to switch to “pick up and knit”.


Step 5. I find the first loop of the source bind off, and choose the inner leg. I know that right about now some of you lost your everloving minds. You are coming unglued because you’ve always been taught that you should pick up both legs, because the work is allegedly stronger. Well… I know no master and this works better for me. In my experience, picking up both legs isn’t any stronger. Most knitting is one single strand of yarn carried through another single strand, and I don’t see any reason to change here, and picking up both strands creates a large ridge on the other side of the work that I don’t care for, especially in a project like a blanket. Not doing it, and it works just fine.


Step 6: Once I’ve identified which leg I’ll be picking up, and had a good look-see at its location, I’m off. I pick up and knit the stitches in order, being sure not to miss one. I come UP THROUGH THE STITCH. Bottom to top…


and then knit it like a regular stitch. Some people like to twist that stitch. I think it makes an already bound section more bound and creates a pucker. I don’t do it either.


Ta dah! This is the wrong side, where you can see that the leftover leg snuggles right down into the source garter stitch and is practically invisible.


This is the public side, where it looks – to my way of thinking, very tidy indeed.


Finished, front…


and back.


In other blanket news, I’ve been grounded for a couple of hours by a dye lot problem I’m not ready to talk about.

(Also, the fact that it is a million degrees (Celsius) in an un-airconditioned house makes draping this thing on my lap seriously unappetizing. Gotta figure a way around that.)