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In the previous issue I promised to talk about picking up stitches along curved edge -- for our purposes, a neckline. Of course I wound up with the deadline upon me and nothing on the needles that was close to a neckline. So I ripped back the mock turtleneck of Sweetness, bound off for the front then worked a few rows back and forth for the back of the neck in order to take these pictures. I have cannabalized a sweater for you, Dear Readers. I'm just hoping I can get it back the way it was afterwards. Or maybe I should let myself be inspired by the Fix-a-thon sweeping the knitting blogosphere and turn it into a V-neck? Turtlenecks, I've realized, don't suit me.

Picking up stitches along a neckline is a bit of a mixed bag. You'll be picking up stitches from the top of the stitch, along a slant, and perhaps even just knitting on some stitches that were being held on a holder. This is definitely something that's easier to do if you're a bit relaxed about the process. If the final product fits and looks the way you want it to, then an extra stitch here or a little fudging there aren't the end of the world.

Here's few random thoughts before we begin with the details.

Your pattern is likely to tell you to pick up a certain number of stitches for the entire neck or for each section of the neck. To make your life much easier, place markers around the neckline every 2-3 inches...

... and then count the number of spaces between markers. Divide the total number of stitches to be picked up by the number of spaces and you'll know how many stitches you'll need to pick up for each space. I tend to get caught up in doing the actual picking up and before I realize it I've picked up the total number of stitches before getting halfway round the neck. With only a couple of inches you can more easily keep your focus.

If you do finish and then realize you've got an extra stitch or two, don't worry -- just decrease them on the following row. In fact, it may be a good idea to pick up a stitch or two -- especially in the corners where holes sometimes appear -- then knit two stitches together on the following row to tighten things up. Another way to tighten things up is to knit all the stitches through the back loop on the following row.

Be sure to bind off quite loosely, either by using a larger needles while binding off or by using a particularly flexible method (try doing a google search for "invisible bind off" for instructions). There's nothing worse than having the triumph you feel at completing a garment turn to despair upon having it refuse to go over your head. And a too-tight edge will wear out quickly from the stress of putting on and taking off; then you're in for a real mess because you likely won't notice the broken yarn until it's unravelled itself back down the neck and taken several of its neighbors with it. Do I speak from experience on both these subjects? Yes. Yes, I do.

Most necklines have a straight edge with bound-off stitches on the back and the front. To pick up stitches just below the bound-off edge, insert the needle into the center of the stitch below...

...wrap and pull through. The results should look like this...

...and once you've picked up all the stitches, you will continue the knitting upwards as normal. By the way, if you want to pick up stitches from a cast-on edge and knit it downwards, pick up the stitches from in between two stitches rather than in the center of one.

Before we move on to picking up stitches along the sloped edge, let me mention something here that I've found incredibly useful.

Many, if not most, neck shapings (as well as shoulder shapings) have you binding off one or more stitches on every other row several times. Simply binding off those stitches in the usual way leads inevitably to a distinctive stair-step edge. This technique (which I first read about in Vogue Knitting) prevents this problem beautifully.

On the row just before the bind-off row, knit to 1 stitch before the end :

Do not work that last stitch. Instead, turn the work (being careful not to drop that single stitch off the needle). Ignoring the unworked stitch on the right hand needle for a moment, slip the next stitch on the left hand needle as if to purl.

You now have two stitches on the right hand needle. Pass the first stitch (the one that was unworked from the previous row) over the second (the one that you just slipped).

This equals 1 stitch bound off. If the pattern says to bind off several stitches, just continue to bind off the remaining stitches in the normal binding-off manner. It's amazing how neat and tidy a slope this makes.


Now. To pick up a stich from a sloping edge, insert the needle into the front half of the edge stitch...

then wrap...

and pull through.

If you find this difficult, then a crochet hook is always a helpful tool when picking up stitches.

Insert the hook through the front half of the stitch...

Grab the yarn with the hook...

and pull through.

Now you're ready to knit your neck band however you see fit. Just makes sure it's one that suits you!



Theresa is an American living, knitting and blogging near Oslo, Norway with her husband and step-daughters.

She's just started working full-time as a nurse and has no time for housework.