When working picked up bands, good pickups are critical to good results when executing bands. It truly is a case of practice makes perfect. This type of band is most often worked in a non-curling, flat fabric. However a very simple reverse stocking stitch band can make an effective edging which rolls towards the wrong side. All of the classic rib stitch patterns make good neckbands due to their natural elasticity. They require few or no decreases to fit well. Virtually any stitch pattern with a mix of knit and purl stitches will lay flat and will be appropriate for use as a band. If using seed or garter, decreases may be necessary to pull the band in around the neckline as it gets smaller.
Instructions in patterns vary in their directions to either “pick up” or to “pick up and knit”. Some instructions intend for the knitter to pickup loops at the edge of the work on a needle and then knit into them to create the new stitches. This method can distort the edges and strain the stitches adjacent to the edges. Some knitters choose to work the pickup in the middle of the V of the edge stitch. This often works best for tight knitters who have very even edge stitches. Most knitters get better results picking up one stitch in from the edge in the same column that would be used for mattress stitch; that is between the first and second stitch. This avoids the loose stitches which sometimes exist at the edge of the knitting. The disadvantage is, there is more of a ridge on the inside of the work when working one stitch in.
If pick up and knit is the preferred method, work with the right side of the garment facing. Insert the needle from front to back, one stitch in from the edge, wrap the working yarn around the needle and draw it to the right side of the work creating a new stitch. Work from right to left. All of the picked up stitches should be worked as knit on this row. To find the correct spot to pick up on horizontal edges, look carefully at the knitting, the little V’s are columns of stitches. Pick up in the center of the V’s. If the pickup is in the center of an upside down V it is in the wrong location. The next pickup is after two legs of a downward V.
It is important to work in a single column or row, when picking up stitches. If a section has looser stitches on the edge, pick up an extra stitch and mark the spot with a safety pin to decrease a stitch on the next row. Generally it is better to pickup an extra stitch and then eliminate it on the subsequent row, rather than to leave visible unevenness along the garment edges.
The usual stitch pickup rate is a stitch for a stitch on horizontals; three stitches for every four rows on vertical edges; one stitch for every cast off step on curves and diagonals. Some diagonals advise a pickup for every row depending on the angle. The closer the angle moves to the horizontal the higher the number of stitches required.
These ratios assume a standard stitch to row gauge ratio and are approximate. Often knitters work towards stitch gauge and completely ignore row gauge while swatching, this can lead to abnormal ratios which will impact band results. The normal ratio is approximately, stitch gauge multiplied by 1.4 for stocking stitch. The ratios can change dramatically with different stitch patterns which is another reason the ratios don’t always work. A too loose row gauge contributes to vertical garment stretch which compounds the problems of band ratios. Row gauge mismatches require changes in the yardage required for a project, which explains the mystery why two knitters getting the same stitch gauge use different amounts of yarn on the same project. Most designers work mathematically so a mismatched row gauge can have a large impact on pattern calculations making the project less than successful.
Some references quote the ratio as five stitches for every seven rows or two stitches for every three rows. Some change the ratio according to the stitch gauge and use the two to three ratio for gauges less than four stitches per inch. The ratios are based on stocking stitch. For garter stitch the ratio is one pickup for every ridge (two rows). On rare occasions, a pattern might change the ratio as the band pickups cross over a different main body stitch pattern.
Many patterns supply very specific numbers for bands; however this depends on the knitters gauge matching exactly the gauge of the designer. Often the knitter is unable to do this or they need to shorten or lengthen the garment for better fit. Patterns which give instructions in the format of stitch to row pickups may be easier to adapt for this reason.
Unfortunately it is difficult to see how well the pickup ratio is working while the knitting is still on the needle. Pushing the live stitches to the center of a circular needle’s cord or using waste yarn as a holder, will give a better sense of the end result. A light steam blocking will also help to assess any problems early on.
Often band problems are created by the use of these ratios in garments not constructed with stocking stitch and which have different row gauges. Another cause of problems is the ratios are then used with a band knit on a smaller size needle which may have a different ratio. This also varies from knitter to knitter in the amount of gauge change between the needle size used for the body and the smaller needle used for the bands.
As a secondary check, do a band swatch and use the gauge from it to calculate the stitches required by measuring the length of the garment edges. Decreasing a few stitches in the band across the back neck often improves fit significantly as the pickups on the garment edges are for a longer measurement than the measurement at the edge of the band. The number of stitches to decrease is about one inch worth in total.
Patterns suggest pickups are to be knit with the needle size the bands will be worked with. Completing the pickup and knit instruction with a smaller size needle and then changing to the band needle can improve the results by making the first row of stitches smaller and tidier in appearance. Choose a needle size a minimum of one size down from the size required for the band.
There are alternative methods, pickups can be made from left to right using a crochet hook to pull the working yarn through placing each stitch onto the needle. The advantage here is the first row to be knit is a right side row.
The choice of cast off on the band edge will be important to the final results. Cast off in pattern or try casting off on both right and wrong sides to compare finishes.