I often come up with my own knitting methods instead of using traditional ones, and picking up & working edge stitches is no exception. The traditional method works well for sweaters, but I don’t think it’s the best method for socks.
In this post I will cover the following:
- Brief review & recommended tutorials for traditional method of picking up and knitting edge sts
- Tutorial for my method, and why I prefer it to the traditional one
- Details specific to working flap & turn heels from the toe up, like JSPH (Jeny's Square Peg Heel)
I will start with a brief word about the last point above, because JSPH has completely transformed the way I think about working edge sts. If you’re working a flap & turn heel from the toe up, picking up and knitting the flap edge stitches is only part of the picture. You also have to pick up and purl on the opposite side of the flap, and also work decreases with picked up sts on the first row. Neither of these is hard to do, just slightly fussy.
If you prefer learning by video rather than still images, I made this video just for you.
0:00 - Pick up and knit
4:23 - Pick up and purl
6:58 - Working decreases with picked up sts
There are lots of tutorials available on the internet on “How to pick up and knit edge stitches.” These generally all demonstrate the same method. I personally recommend this photo tutorial on Modern Daily Knitting written by Kate Atherley, and this illustrated tutorial by TECHknitter (“Added Yarn Method” section). Bear in mind that with socks, it’s not necessary to skip every 2nd or 3rd stitch as you would need to do if you were making a sweater or large garment.
Let me explain why I don’t use the traditional method when I’m making socks. Look closely at the photos above. The RS looks ok, but on the WS you can see there is a prominent seam. This is fine for sweaters, but for socks it is potentially uncomfortable.
Whereas, this is what I get when I do it my way:
Viewed from the RS, the two methods just look a little different.
But, viewed from the WS, you can see that my method eliminates the bulk of the seam.
I do think the traditional method looks nicer on the inside than mine does. But if it's on the inside, I'm much more concerned about comfort than I am about appearance.
There are two key structural differences between my method and the traditional one: 1) I pick up and work through only the outside leg of the edge stitch, rather than both legs; 2) I twist the leg in a particular way as I work it.
Tutorials on the traditional method often state that working edge stitches through both legs makes the joint more secure, but that's not necessarily the case. The real game changer is to twist the picked up leg as you work it.
Let’s zoom out for a minute...
See how the traditional method is taller at the joint? And the gauge of the new sts (off-white) is slightly expanded right there? And the edge sts (purple) pooch out a little bit? These are all subtle indicators that the traditional method is looser and therefore less secure than mine. Again I’m sure it works well for sweaters, but for socks I think my method works better.
Tutorial - My method
Here is what the flap looks like just before I start working edge stitches. The example shows a sock heel sample. The colors indicate different parts: the purple section represents the foot, the blue section is the flap, and the magenta working yarn represents the first row of edge stitches. Rows begin and end in the middle of the flap.
It's easier to see the stitches on the WS. There are exactly 12 edge stitches that I'm going to pick up, numbered 1-12 below. Stitch #1 is immediately below the last stitch worked, and stitch #12 is actually below the first turn of the flap; the color change indicates that this stitch was worked in the round.
The stitches can each be picked up and immediately worked, or you can pick them all up first and then work them. I personally prefer to pick them all up before working any of them. I start at #12 and work my way up to #1, but the direction of pickup doesn't matter.
To pick up: I insert the R needle into the middle of the edge stitch, then continue to the next. I typically use a needle 1-2 sizes smaller, because these can be tight.
The resulting row of sts will sit on the R needle just like normal stitches, leading with right leg in front.
Once the stitches are all picked up, knit each one through the back leg. (Note that stitch #1 has been worked once already.) This will twist each stitch and tighten up the joint.
*Note that if you are working a toe-up flap & turn heel, there will be an ssk at the end of the row. This decrease and the p2tog on the other side are worked a little differently from normal. This is discussed in more detail in the last section.
The picked up stitches can be twisted either way, but I prefer the look of them when they are twisted as described above. Below is a comparison example - the stitches on the right half were twisted in the other direction. These are slightly looser and more prominent.
Toe up flap & turn heels
So far I’ve given you everything you need to know for using my edge stitch method with a standard cuff down flap & turn heel. For working toe up, there are some remaining details to cover.
Picking up and purling
(Jump to 4:23 in my video)
Picking up and purling is slightly trickier than picking up and knitting, but it is not difficult. I find it easiest to hold the flap WS facing me with the edge at the bottom, then rotate it in order to work the purls. Note that even though you have worked down and back from the other side, there are the same number of rows on this side from which you will pick up stitches. Once again, stitch #1 is immediately below the one just worked, and stitch #12 was worked in the round just below the flap.
To pick up: I insert the R needle into each edge stitch, then continue to the next.
This time, the stitches sit on the needle in the opposite direction, leading with the right leg in back.
Now purl each stitch through its front (left) loop. When you turn it to the RS, you will see that the picked up stitches twist in the opposite direction as those on the other side of the flap.
Working decreases with picked up stitches
(Jump to 6:58 in my video)
If you are working a toe up flap & turn heel, your first RS and WS row of the heel back are worked as you are simultaneously picking up and working sts. This calls for a bit of jiggery-pokery.
In both cases, if you work the decrease normally you will get a hole. This is what the ssk would look like if worked normally:
Slip both sts back to the L needle purlwise, then k2 tbl. The resulting decrease twists to the left, just like all the other edge sts that were picked up and knitted (tbl).
I work these adjusted decreases on the first rows only; for subsequent rows I work regular ssk's and p2tog's.
Thanks for reading!