How to Keep the Edges Straight While Knitting


The craft of knitting is filled with a variety of stitch patterns. There are color change techniques like Fair Isle knitting, textured stitch patterns like many knit-and-purl patterns and there are cables and lace. However, they each have one devastating drawback --- the edges of knitted fabrics are often wavy, giving that scarf you spent hours on a decidedly homemade appearance. You could let the edges of your knitting waver, relying on wet blocking to straighten them out; after all, wet fibers, especially natural fibers like wool, are extremely pliable. They tend to take on whatever shape they dry in which is why you are generally instructed to dry knitted garments lying flat. However, you could prevent wavy edges in the first place by adding an "edge" to your knitting (pun intended.)

Things You'll Need

  • Yarn
  • Knitting needles
  • Pattern, if using
  • Cast on two additional stitches to the number specified in your pattern. The extra stitches will serve as a border to keep the edges of the knitted fabric straight. You will be working an extra stitch at the beginning and end of each row.

  • Knit one of the extra stitches you cast on; this stitch is the first selvage stitch. Work the pattern as written, ending by knitting the last stitch (another selvage stitch.) Do this for each row. The pattern is centered between selvage stitches --- one at the start of the row and one at the end of the row.

  • Knitting the first and last stitches of each row will produce a garter selvage edge. This type of edge looks like garter stitch (the stitch pattern where every row is either purled or knit) but is still very stretchy.

  • To make a firmer garter edge, knit the first stitch of each row and slip the last stitch by inserting your needle knitwise into the last stitch and, without working it, transferring the stitch to the other needle.

  • Make a selvage edge that looks like a crochet chain by knitting the first selvage stitch of each row and purling the last stitch of each row. Alternatively, make the chain edge more stable by slipping stitches in pattern. For example, you could slip the first and last stitches of each right side row; on alternating rows (wrong side rows,) you would purl the first and last stitches.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use a selvage technique that works with the pattern you are knitting. For example, use a slip stitch selvage to make your edge blend into a stockinette pattern.
  • Adding a single extra stitch to each side (for a total of two extra stitches) will produce a narrow selvage. Alternatively, you could add two stitches to either side (for a total of four additional stitches) to make a broader selvage edge.
  • If you use a slip stitch in your selvage pattern, your work will become more stable but that also means it will become less stretchy. This could be to your advantage, like with a strap or belt, but it could also make the edge of a cardigan, for example, too taut.

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