The cast-on edges of knitted garments are generally very presentable and need no finishing. Not true for the other edges of a knitted piece. Edges not encased in a seam, such as necklines, the center front edges of a cardigan, and the armholes on a vest, require some kind of finishing or edging. Usually, a neckline gets a neckband or collar, and cardigans feature knitted bands along the front edges for buttons and buttonholes.
Picking up stitches is a knitter's way to avoid sewing on these extra edgings. Instead of creating a collar or button band separately and sewing it onto a knitted garment, you can use needles and yarn to pull up new loops along a knitted edge and knit a border right then and there. Some knitters are so enamored of picking up stitches that they make sleeves for garments by picking up stitches around the armholes and knitting the sleeves upside down to the cuffs. (Knitters are very ingenious.) Follow the instructions in this section to pick up a row of completely new stitches and knit from there.
You can pick up stitches from three kinds of edges:
i Horizontal, such as the bound-off stitches along a back neck i Vertical, such as the center front of a cardigan i Diagonal or curved, such as the shaped section of a front neckline
To pick up stitches, you need the yarn for your project and one needle in the size you plan to use for your band or collar. Most patterns specify the needle size required for collars, cuffs, and other bands; but if yours doesn't, one or two sizes smaller than the needles used for the main part of your knitting generally works well.
Be sure to block your sweater back and fronts before picking up stitches. (See Chapter 16 for details on blocking.) Rather than cope with edges that want to curl in or out, your blocked edges to be picked up will lie nice and flat — and therefore be easy to work.
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