Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Perfecting the Perpendicular Pickup

In a previous post, I described how to join knitted pieces at right angles to each other, in such a way that the join is as neat as possible. The join used the sliding-loop technique devised by Rick Mondragon. In Mondragon's technique you are joining two pieces of knitting with parallel grain. With the perpendicular join, you join the side edge of the piece you are knitting to a row of free loops from another piece of knitting.
In this post, I would like to describe my method of picking up and knitting stitches from a selvedge. In entrelac knitting, half of the connections between squares are made this way.

Picking up and knitting stitches from an existing piece of knitting involves two steps, inserting a needle and pulling through a loop. Where is a good place to insert the needle? Normally, you are told to insert the left needle one stitch in from the edge of the knitting. The reason for that is that the last column of stitches is ill-formed. At least, the edge half-column is. But reaching that far into the knitting creates a bulky join, and moves the ugly column to the wrong side of the knitting. That's OK when there is a public side and a private side, but what about entrelac scarves? Wouldn't it be nice to have a method of picking up stitches that doesn't leave your knitting with an ugly side? 

There is. If you use the loops that are formed by the turning of the knitting as it goes back and forth, you get the neatest possible stitch pick up. However, finding that turning-loop is not easy.

If knitting existed in some Platonic realm, the edge of knitting would look like this, and one would simply slide the left needle along the selvedge and pick up loops to be worked as the first row of the new knitted piece.

Alas, there are physical forces at work in the real world that transform the ideal into the actual. Instead of easily-identified turning loops, one has a chain of knots joined by gappy loops:

Ah, but the turning loops are in there somewhere. You "merely" have to re-form that ugly half-stitch at the selvedge.

Here's a diagram that shows how the Platonic ideal of a selvedge stitch gets transformed into a knot-and-loopy mess:

So, all we have to do is use a needle to reverse the process. Here's a written description of the process... bu you can ignore all that except the diagram and skip to the video...

  1. Look at the knitting. Starting from the top edge of the knitting, there is a series of loops and knots alternating all the way down to the beginning. Orient the knitting so that the right side is facing you, the selvedge edge is parallel to the floor, and the knitting is hanging down from it. The top (last-knitted) edge of the knitting is on your right. The bottom (first-knitted) edge of the knitting is on your left. 
  2. On the selvedge, the loops are being clutched by the knots. With your eyes, follow a loop's yarn down (towards the beginning edge of the knitting) through the knot to where it joins the back (purl side) of the knitting.
  3. Insert the tip of the left needle upward (parallel to the selvedge, from your left to your right, pointing toward the top edge) through the length of yarn between the knot and the rest of the knitting. You'll know you have the correct bit of yarn if you can see the gappy loop decreasing in size as you insert the needle more into the bit of yarn, since you're robbing yarn from the gappy loop to make the little bit of yarn bigger. This piece is the purplish piece of yarn in the diagram below:

  4. With the tip of the needle, scoop the rest of the gappy loop toward the back of the work, while letting the bit of yarn you just poked through fall off the needle, as follows. When you're starting the scoop, you're going to swing the point of the needle toward you and perpendicular to the plane of the knitting. To perform the scoop, you'll be swinging the tip of the needle through the plane of the fabric, pointing to the floor. At the end of the scoop, the needle is pointing away from you and perpendicular to the plane of the knitting.
  5. At the end of the motion, move the needle back to the position of step 3. You should have a loop on the needle in the standard mount position. Knit the loop off the left needle.
  6. Go back to step 2, using the next gappy loop down (toward the beginning of the knitting.)

It's video time:


  1. Very, very, nifty. Entrelac here I come. (I've always been put off with the pick up)

    Oh hey, when did you change the layout of your blog? It looks good, sorry I didn't notice before but, I always read you through my reader.

  2. Thanks, I'll post another video later on how to pick up from the purl side, which is necessary sometimes. There's also a trick involving picking up an extra stitch in the corner which I'll have to document somehow.

    I changed the look of the blog about a week ago. Blogger makes it pretty easy to do.

  3. Most excellent! Thanks for sharing this so generously over at http://www.thesamestitch.com ! It is the same process as Jeanne's, and I love both the written instructions, the illustrations and the video. Well done!

  4. Well, thanks for linking back. Link love rocks. I like to provide as many explanations as possible. I'm weak on written but strong on illustrated, myself.


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