How to Knit a Sweater Collar

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Closures and neckline influence the kind of collar that can be added to a sweater.
Closures and neckline influence the kind of collar that can be added to a sweater. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Collars give a finished look to hand-knit sweaters. A variety of collar styles can be made for a sweater. Crew neck is a basic ribbed neckband; a turtleneck embraces the throat; a cowl neck envelops the neck in soft, loose folds, and shawl collars lie across the shoulders. All begin by picking up stitches around the neckline of the sweater. Most necklines are small enough that double pointed needles are the tool of choice for making the collar, but some may be large enough to use a circular needle.

Things You'll Need

  • Knitted sweater
  • Yarn
  • Double-pointed needle set
  • Plastic needle caps
  • Circular needle

Pick up stitches by sliding the knitting needle into the topmost stitch at the edge of the neckline. Start at the throat opening for sweaters that open down the front. For round collars, such as the crew neck, turtleneck or cowl neck, start at a shoulder seam or the middle of the neck back. To make a shawl collar, start at the center front or leave a short space at the throat open, and start the collar on one side of that space.

Knit a ribbed pattern for a crew neck collar. You will need an even number of stitches on the needle. Ribbed patterns are made by knitting one stitch, purling one stitch and then repeating that pattern all the way around the neck. Knit a band twice as wide as the desired collar, and bind the stitches off in pattern. Fold it over to the inside of the neck and stitch the top of the band to the base.

Knit turtlenecks in fashion similar to the crew neck, but make the knitted band twice as wide as will be needed to reach the wearer's ear lobes. Bind the stitches off in pattern. Again, fold down the top of the knitted band on the inside of the neckline, and stitch it to the base of the band of knitting.

Knit cowl neck collars in regular knitting, not in a ribbed pattern. Pick up the stitches around the top of the neck using double-pointed needles. Begin the first round at the back of the neck and knit once around. Knit four stitches, pick up one stitch from the previous round and knit it. Continue this pattern around the neck. Knit a regular round. Gradually increase the number of stitches as you knit the collar. The exact number of increase rounds will depend upon the size of the sweater, the weight of yarn you are using and the length of the cowl desired. Keep the soft, draped look of a cowl collar in mind as you knit.

Knit shawl collars starting from the center front or slightly to the left or right of the front, leaving an open space at the throat. Pick up the stitches around the top of the neck using double pointed needles or a circular needle. Purl one row, then knit an increase row by knitting four stitches, picking up one stitch from the previous round and knitting it, and repeating this pattern across the row. Turn the work and purl back across. Shawl collars need to increase at a steady rate that will allow the collar to lie flat over the shoulders. The exact number of increase rows depends upon the size and style of the sweater, and may require some experimentation. A good rule of thumb is to add increase stitches every other knit row.

Tips & Warnings

  • Knit lace patterns make interesting shawl collars.

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