How to Pick Up the Correct Number of Stitches Every Time

Have you ever followed the suggested number of stitches to pick up around a neckline or button band, only to find that your trim looks terrible?

Or perhaps you've devised a pattern of your own and just can't get your picked up trims to sit nicely?

In this blog post, I'm going to show you exactly how to pick up the correct number of stitches every time, so that your picked up trims can consistently look neat, even and professional.

How to Calculate the Correct Number of Stitches to Pick Up

Picking up stitches can be infuriating! It feels like it should be incredibly basic and yet, many knitters tell me that it is one of the main areas where their finishing work goes wrong. Pick up too little and you're gathering and pulling your garment. Pick up too many and your border will look wiggly and uneven. It's really not as straight-forward as you might think.

I've fallen into the trap of blindly trusting the number of stitches that the pattern suggests that I pick up. However, on occasions where my stitch gauge is a little off, I did not get the results I expected.

That's why it's better to work it out yourself. Essentially, you will be doing the following steps:

  1. Measure the edge of the fabric you are working into.
  2. Measure the gauge of the trim you are adding.
  3. Multiply the number of stitches per 1cm in the trim by the length of the fabric you are working into.

This traditional method will calculate the correct number of stitches to pick up, but it won't guarantee that you will pick the stitches up evenly across the length, risking frilly or contorted edges. It also requires a certain amount of trial and error to get it right.

My similar, but simpler, method will ensure that you get it right first time, every time.

1.Break it into segments 

It is it much easier to break the distance up with stitch markers. In this example, I broke my "neckline" curve into 5 cm segments, which I find to be the ideal distance between markers. Alternatively, you could break yours into 10 cm segments.




2. Measure the gauge of my trim

I hate to tell you to knit another swatch when preparing to knit a garment, but knitting a trim swatch will help you to calculate how many stitches to pick up for a neckline or button band.

It can be a small one - I made mine long enough to give me a good indication of stitch gauge because row gauge isn't important to me here. Alternatively, if your rib trims on your cuffs and body are big enough, you can use those.

Once you have your trim swatch blocked and slightly stretched out, as you would want it to look on the trim, it's time to measure the stitch gauge. Find out exactly how many stitches fit into 10 cm. In this example, I got 28 stitches per 10 cm.

3. Calculate number of stitches to pick up per segment

Here's the bit that requires a tiny bit of simple mathematics. Divide the number of stitches per 10 cm by 10 to get the number of stitches per cm. Then, multiply the number of stitches per cm by the number of centimetres per segment.

In my example, I divided 28 by 10 to get 2.8 stitches per cm. My segments are 5 cm long, so I multiplied 2.8 by 5 to get 14 stitches per 5 cm segment.

It is so much simpler to make sure you are picking up 14 stitches evenly over a 5 cm segment than it is to pick up 56 stitches over a 20 cm neckline curve.

Try it for yourself!

Next time you are picking up the stitches for a garment you've made, try using the method I've shown you here. Not only will you be able to calculate exactly the number of stitches to pick up, but you will be able to get it right first time! It takes all of the guesswork out of the process.

Do you have problems with picking up stitches? Have you tried it this way yet? Share in the comments below, particularly if you have found another method that works for you!



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