Knitting neat edges

14 June 2011
Two very generous ladies sent me knitting-related gifts this past week.  Leanne sent Baby Knits for Beginners by Debbie Bliss and Maria sent two balls of yarn - one a cotton and one a mohair and nylon blend. Thanks Leanne and Maria, I appreciate your generosity very much.

So that leads me nicely onto today's knitting post. I've had a few people email lately asking about how to keep their edges tidy. As you know, I don't claim any knitting prowess but I do know about nice edges, so here are my tips for knitting that way.

We'll start with casting on. Start with a slip knot and leave a tail.

Next, do your cast on as normal making sure it is not too tight. A tight cast on doesn't give you a neat edge, it just makes the edge too tight and often you'll have loops coming out of it when you knit your second row. Knit the tail in with the first few stitches, making sure it knits through at least three stitches - that is enough to anchor it. If you have problems casting on not too tight, use needles two sizes larger, then change back in your second row. When you finish your project, snip off that tiny piece of yarn if there is some poking out.

Now do your second row - this is what makes the neat edge.  Knit into the back of the stitches.  By that I mean that the stitch is almost a knit stitch but instead of doing the normal knit stitch, going under the stitch from the left, you go behind the needle coming into the loop from the right with your needle pointing to the left, and do your knit stitch there instead.  See photo above for the stitch you should do, see photo below for the normal knit stitch.  Look at the position of the yarn. It seems complicated but it's not and once you get the hang of it, it's easy.

Do the entire row knitting into the back of the stitch.

The photo above shows the row when it's finished. You get a slight bump where you've knitted the tail in but that almost disappears when you keep knitting. When you do that second row of knitting into the back of the stitch, go back to your normal pattern.

Now, the sides - this is really simple. Start every row by slipping the stitch from one needle to the other without stitching it, as if you're going to do a knit stitch, and keep your yarn tightish. After that first slip stitch do whatever your pattern tells you to.

On the other side, end every row with a purl stitch. And that's it. You'll get these edges that look plaited/braided instead of the bumpy edges you usually get with normal knitting.

I'm knitting several bits and pieces at the moment and I'm hoping to get Hanno's jumper finished soon. Yes, it's the one I started last year. I just have the front to finish and then it's done. I'm also working on this pink and natural scarf I started a couple of weeks ago. It's made with a beautiful organic cotton that is lovely to knit with.

In the next day or two, I'm starting on a little hat for "Peanut", Shane and Sarndra's soon to be born baby boy. I'll be using the cotton above - it's an organic Japanese cotton.  Both these cottons are from the wonderful Eco Yarns. If you're looking for good quality yarn, check out Vivian's website.

And finally, if you're looking for an excellent socks tutorial with understandable photos and instructions, here it is.  

I'd love to know what knitting you're working on and if, like me, you do a few projects at once. And for all the crocheters out there, I hope you'll help me when I start crocheting soon. I'm just waiting for a book to arrive and I intend to do a couple of projects. I have been taught to crochet by my sister and my late friend Bernadette, but I always feel a bit lopsided working with only one needle. I intend to get over that and progress on from my usual one crochet row and I'll need all the help I can get.


  1. I have that Debbie Bliss book and it's full of beautiful patterns, as one might expect. However, when I saw the cover, I wondered if Debbie Bliss had ever been around a real baby -- gifting a baby that small with something that TIES AROUND ITS NECK! is a pretty awful idea.

  2. I thought the same thing, brokedown life.

    You're welcome, Katy.

  3. At the moment I have got a couple of projects on the go knit wise. A pair of around the house ankle socks for my friends daughter, they just have to be sewn up and cord threaded through. I am also knitting a beanie for my son on circular needles. First go at them and it is all very interesting. Learning how to make jogless stripes and knitting in the round.

  4. Ahhh Rhonda...I still remember the horror of trying to knit with frozen fingers at boarding school while trying to avoid the gaze of our scary art and craft teacher!
    However, I think you may have inspired me to give it another try. :)

  5. Thanks for the tips! :) What am I working on? a baby cardigan for one of the many babies about to born around me (will it be a niece or nephew this time?), learning how to embroider (wow! So much easier than I have always thought), I have been sewing up some cushion covers out of a vintage sheet I found at the Salvo's, and sewing little gifts for my son's friends who are all turning 4. Can't get enough of creating! :)

  6. Morning Rhonda....I love that pink in your scarf. I knit into the back of the stitch when I cast on, gives me the same neat edge, amazing what a difference these little 'tricks' make.

    I do a bit of knitting for charity, so often have a few things on the go, at the moment, a long scarf, a couple of beanies, some fingerless mitts for me, and some dishcloths to go into a fundraiser raffle for some local friends having a hard time.

    Haven't got the hang od crochet, like you, I feel lopsided, and not sure where my fingers should go. I've only tried to teach myself from books, not had anyone sit with me to watch. I'd like to learn.

  7. Thanks for those handy knitting tips I especially like the one about knitting in the tail. Can't believe I never thought of that myself. I often have a few knitting projects going. At the moment just a babies cardigan with a couple of articles to be sew up!

  8. That first slipped stitch, do you slip as if to knit or purl?

  9. Luna, as if to knit. So a knit slip stitch at the beginning and a purl at the end.

    Hello ladies It good to see so many projects on the go.

  10. Thankyou so much Rhonda!! I love the way you make things so simple to understand, for a relatively clueless (knitting wise) soul like myself.

    Blessings to you :)


  11. oh, and as for what I am working on - dishcloths! I've FINALLY found a pattern that works for me - needless to say, it isn't complciated, but it looks nice. I really like the waffle pattern, but I keep forgetting which stitch I am up to, and end up making lots of mistakes (I have shocking short term memory!)

    I did make my first scarf recently, from feather wool stuff I purchased from the op shop - and I must say it turned out magnificently - primarily because that yarn hides a multitude of sins :)

    I'd like to move onto something a little more interesting eventually, but once we move beyond knit and purl and have to start adding and dropping stuff - I get a little scared!

  12. Hi Rhonda - oh what a great tutorial - I am going to do that as my edges always look a little ragged. My MIL has got beyond knitting and gifted me with all her bits and pieces of yarn. I have been knitting and crocheting squares for blankets for the AIDS orphans in South Africa. Something easy to pick up and leave off. Then my grandson saw a photo of a hat and scarf and asked me to knit them for him with my "sticks". I just finished that in time for their family vacation to Brisbane so that should keep him warm.

  13. I learn something new every day, it never ceases to amaze me at my age. My mother taught me to slip the first stitch at the beginning of each row and purl at the end but the starting rows and anchoring the starting thread are great ideas which I will use from now on. Thanks heaps

  14. Hi Rhonda, I have just finioshed a jumper for my Dad and have started a vest for my daughter. I too want to learn to crochet again as I would like to make a couple of wash cloths for my neices little bub due Sept.

  15. Hi Rhonda, Another good post (as always). Thank you. Have knitted for many years, but never knitted socks, so the link you provided as a tut is much appreciated and hopefully I won't get myself into too much trouble following it. One problem I have is working out what ply wool (in Aust terms) do they mean when mentioning 'double knit/sports' (I'm assuming 8 ply??), and also worsted - in overseas publications. Could you please clarify that for me. Thanks


  16. Rhonda thank you so much! I bought some sock yarn in Spotlight on the weekend. Yesterday I nearly went nuts trying to figure out the procedure according to the pattern that came with it. Tried youtube etc and finally gave up for the day and started something else. Checked here this morning and I find THE BEST sock tutorial!:) Will give it another go later.
    I have made socks before but it has been many years. Am also making a matinee jacket and some dolls clothing.
    Cheers! Karen near Gympie.

  17. Hi Rhonda...I'm working on a rug/throw to donate to our parish Arts and craft show in early July,another throw that I take to 'knit and natter' sessions at K4BN, plus some scarves knitted in 'Jazz' yarn for a fete that's coming up also in July.It's lovely having so much time to knit!

  18. Great tips Rhonda. How do you do your cast on? I was doing the slip knot and twist to make a loop way and found the stitches were very tight and messy.

    I have been using the long tail cast on method and find it works great. It leaves the edge a bit stretchy. Thought you might like to give it a try. (If that is not the one you have been using) Its pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

    Thanks for the purl the end tip, I always slip the first stitch of a row but didn't know about the other end.

    I'm finishing up the last of the facecloths for the season and have a special baby set to finish. I'll pick up the knitting again in the fall when there is more inside time.

    Have a wonderful day.

  19. Oh wow - those are some great tips. Thank you so much for sharing them. I always just thought I was a messy knitter!
    I'm still working on the knitted winter coat for Alice - it's on a circular needle which I hate!
    Can't wait for you to start the crocheting. I'm trying to teach myself too - and feel the same as you - a bit lopsided after knitting all these years. Looking forward to that.
    I love your knitting needles!

  20. I think I needed a lot of these tips. Thanks Rhonda :)

  21. thanks Karyn, I'll try that on my next project. ATM, I do the short tail cast on with two needles.

  22. Rhonda, at the moment I am finishing off my first pair of socks. It's been a challenge to find the time. Thereafter I want to make these three projects: I know the lady who spins the wool and bought some of her lovely wools last year June!

  23. Thanks for these helpful tips, Rhonda.

    I am busy crocheting two stripy blankets - one for each of my children. I only started crocheting last year and found a lot of inspiration and help from Lucy at Attic24.

    She has wonderful tutorials and some lovely bright ideas.

  24. Your knitting posts always make me feel a twinge of envy, in a good way. :o) I do so wish I had time to learn how to knit properly. I wish I learned it before I was married - I learned to crochet and am keeping up with it, but ever since the girls were born it's more difficult to find time for learning a new hobby (although I do squeeze in candle making!).

    I also thought I'd let you know we got our first chickens, which makes a very fun and educational project, and hopefully a valuable addition to our household.

  25. Hey Rhonda! I'm a crocheter! I learned to knit but it seemed to take so long I gave it up. I think you'll find it much easier than knitting once you get over the "lopsided" aspect. I can turn out a dishcloth in about an hour or less depending on the size of the hook.

  26. Another good way to have a neat edge is to cast on using the thumb method:) Very easy once you get the hang of it, quicker too!

  27. you make it sound do-able for even ME! really should give knitting a try one of these days...thanks for your encouragement, RJ!!

  28. This is a very handy tutorial Rhonda! Thanks for posting, I was always wondering why my edges didn't look quite as nice as the products in the pictures. I love the colours in your scarf.
    This month I'm finishing up my big sister's order for a baby blanket and hopefully, a small afghan. I'm doing the blanket in tunisian crochet (afghan stitch) and you might like that over regular crochet. It is a cross between crochet and knitting, quite easy to learn, and the stitches all stay on the hook, like knitting. (That was comforting to me as I love knitting and couldn't quite get crochet.)
    The Girl in the Pink Dress
    PS- That little note about knitting in the tail was a huge light bulb moment for me. What a great idea!

  29. Well done, Rhonda! I also have that book and a new granddaughter on the way, so I'd better get busy!

    Wanted to let you know that you're in the blogroll for our "official" new farm blog. It's at:

    I'll keep My Southern Heart also!

    I know you're enjoying being a grandmother. I love it!


  30. What a funny coincidence -- my sister was just here last month visiting from Australia, and I finally sat down with her and *learned to knit* (I am a ex-crochet convert!) The first thing I did was the boatneck sweater from that very book, for my baby-est girl, and I am now just more than half-done with the little white dress, which, incidentally, I've done with green, yellow and white variegated yarn :-) Love your blog as always.

  31. Lizzylanefarm, I use long-tail cast-on too. Despite Rhonda being a fully fledged Aussie, and me being English (I live down the road from Rhonda in Aussie-terms) it's Rhonda who uses that very English cast-on and me who uses long-tail :-P I prefer long-tail because of the extra stretch at the cast on edge, but I use some of the other cast on and cast off methods too with the help of the free vids on Sometimes one of my patterns suggests a particular method based on the need for elasticity.

    It's worth mentioning too that while slipping the first stitch does give beautifully neat edges, it's entirely unnecessary when you're going to seam that edge to another! It's only worth the bother if it's going to be a raw edge, as it usually is on the most simple (and most beautiful in my eyes) baby garments :-)

    I have got too many knitting projects on the go to name here! I'm getting particularly in to knitting socks thanks to finally completing a pair for myself and realising how superior they are to commercially made socks. While commercial socks are often sold as 'high wool content' etc they are still nowhere near as functional as my 80% Aussie merino, 20% nylon versions... I don't know why, perhaps because my yarn is much thicker than the stuff that goes in their machines? I really don't need to wear slippers with these :-O I've bought three skeins now from Ewe Give Me The Knits, where Mandy spins the yarn herself. It's $20 for enough yarn to make one pair for me but they are SO WORTH IT! I can't wait to finish this second pair! I am currently wearing the first pair for two days in a row before I can dare give them up to the washing basket so I'll be glad to get another pair to add to the equation!

  32. I'm so sorry to bring this up so late after the original post.

    I just stumbled upon your blog, and I've been reading much information, and such a friendly manner of if you and I were drinking tea in the kitchen and chatting!

    Anyway, my question is this: you told another commenter that after you slip the first stitch knitwise, you do what the pattern says. My pattern calls for 3 knit stitches at the beginning of each row. Do I slip one, then knit 3, as the pattern says, or slip one, knit two?

    I'm trying to make a shawl for my sister who's just moved to England, and I've restarted the blasted thing 6 times already! Just can't get it to look finished, you know? So, the k in back first row has helped already, and now I'm sitting here, waiting to move forward for what I hope will be the last time.

    Kate in Georgia, US

  33. Kate, you would slip one and knit two. Good luck with the shawl.

  34. Rhonda, thank you so much for the quick reply...I'll get it done quickly now!

  35. Thanks for the tutorial on neat edges. I kept doing the first 3 rows n it seemed hopeless but I persevered n it turned out. Thus the first few rows r toughest. I just finished a wool hat for my friend's son who is studying in Melbourne. I'm in Malaysia where yarn is scarce n when it isn't, it is expensive. The hat took 8 hours to knit n now I'm working on the scarf

  36. On one of the rows of my knitting I start with Purl 1 then knit 5 and follow that pattern to the end of the row.. How do I make the edge neat if my first stitch is a purl? If I slip the purl that will throw the pattern off. I am a new knitter. Thanks!

  37. Thank you thank you thank you!! I was trying to knit a scarf but the side edges looked terrible I kept unpicking and trying to do it firmer. However looking much better now thanks to your method :)


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