When you first learn how to knit, the first thing you make is probably a square dishcloth. However, if you only use plain stockinette stitch (knitting on every right side row and purling on every wrong side row), your dishcloth will curl up and won’t stay flat even after blocking.
Using a selvedge stitch can help with that.
So, what is selvedge stitch knitting? A selvedge is a special technique to help you create a clean and decorative edge for a piece of knitting so that the resulting fabric will stay flat with a beautiful, professional-looking edge.
In this article, let’s learn more about different types of selvedge stitches and how to create clean decorative edges for your knitting.
What Is Selvedge?
Selvedge is a special technique that helps you create a clean, neat edge for your piece of knitting.
Selvedge is just like its name, a “self-edge.” A selvedge is done on both edges of the knitted fabric, so your edges will look clean and professional. When you use a selvedge, the edge can be exposed without adding any more finishing to the fabric.
In some projects that require picking up stitches from a finished seam (such as when you pick up stitches for a sleeve of a sweater), a prominent selvedge can make it much easier to see the stitches and pick them up in nice, even rows.
A selvedge can also help a piece of fabric stay flat and prevent it from curling up. This is especially a problem if you use a plain stockinette stitch since this type of stitch will curl up as soon as you finish a row. This can cause the fabric to lose its structure, and it just doesn’t look very nice!
The selvedge technique is usually done on the first and last stitch of the row, but there are also some techniques that can create more prominent edges by working the selvedge pattern for the first and last three (or four or five) stitches of the row.
There are a few different ways to create selvedges. If you are using a pattern, the pattern will usually tell you what type of selvedge you will need to create and how to do so.
If you are choosing a selvedge for your project, then which type of selvedge to use will depend on what the project calls for. Let’s take a look at the easiest methods to create a selvedge below.
Ways To Create Selvedge
Below are some simple ways to create selvedges and how to use them.
The slip stitch selvedge is the easiest and simplest way to create a clean selvedge.
It’s also quite simple to do: you slip the first stitch of every row (both right side and wrong side) and knit or purl the last stitch (according to the pattern).
Since the last stitch of every row is always a bit bulkier, skipping this stitch on the next row will account for the bulk (since this stitch will be long enough to cover both rows) to create a clean edge with no bulk.
This method is super simple since it’s going to be the same on every row, so you don’t have to remember the pattern for the right side or the wrong side. Just slip the first stitch on every row, and you will see a clean edge after a couple of rows!
If the first stitch is knit: Slip the first stitch knitwise with the yarn in the back and continue working according to the pattern until the end of the row.
If the first stitch is purl: Slip the first stitch purlwise with the yarn in the front, and continue working according to the pattern until the end of the row.
Note: There’s a slight variation of this called the chain edge method, where you also slip the first stitch of every row. However, you will slip the knit stitch purlwise and the purl stitch knitwise so that the edges will look like chain rows.
It’s totally up to you which edge you prefer, but the basic method is definitely easier to remember!
Take a look at this tutorial from The Blue Mouse Knits on YouTube.
The English Selvedge is a twist on the basic slip stitch selvedge, but there’s a distinction between the first row and the last row.
The principle of it is the same as the slip stitch method: the first and last stitch of every row will cover two rows to adjust for the added bulk, so the edge will appear clean and neat.
However, with the English selvedge, you will skip the first and last stitch of every right side row and knit all the stitches of the wrong side row according to the pattern.
Right side: Slip the first stitch knit-wise with the yarn in the back, knit across until the last stitch, and slip the last stitch.
Wrong side: Purl all stitches.
These instructions assume that you’re working in stockinette stitches, but you can work them according to whatever pattern you’re using.
As long as you slip the first and last stitch of every right side row and work all the stitches of the wrong side row, your edges will look very neat!
Take a look at this tutorial from Knitiversity on YouTube.
The garter stitch method is very beginner-friendly since you only knit the first and last stitch of every row to create a garter edge.
The garter edge is a bumpy edge that lets you know how many rows you have, which is why it’s often used for seam edges. When you pick up new stitches along the edge, the bumps will let you know how many stitches you’ll need to pick up and where.
There’s a variation of the garter edge, where you knit every first and last three (or four or five) stitches of the row to create a more prominent garter edge. This type of edge is often used when knitting dishcloths or even gauge swatches.
If you want the garter edge to look even cleaner – if you want to use it as an exposed seam, you can also combine it with the slip stitch method by skipping the first stitch of every row. If you want to do this, make sure that the first and last two stitches of every row are knit stitches.
Then, you can slip the first stitch, knit 1, and continue knitting until the last two stitches, knit two. The edge will appear as one stitch with a chain edge along the side where the first and last stitches are slipped.
Take a look at this tutorial from Piia Maria Knit on YouTube.
The seed stitch is also a variation of the garter stitch, but to be able to see the seed stitch pattern clearly, you will need at least 4 edge stitches so that the seed stitch pattern will show up.
The seed stitch is made up of a knit 1, purl 1 repeat. The first and last stitch of every row will still be knit stitches, but the rest of the border stitches will alternate (knit over purl stitches, purl over knit stitches) so that the purl stitches will appear as ‘seeds’ on a plain fabric.
Here’s how to create a seed stitch selvedge when with 4 border stitches:
Knit 1, Purl 1 twice, then work in pattern until 4 stitches are left, purl 1, and knit 1 twice.
Repeat this for all rows (both right side and wrong side), and you will start to see a garter border accompanied by seed stitches!
There’s also a variation of this selvedge where you’ll see a chain along the edges, which are created by slipping the first and last stitch. To work this variation, you will need two knit stitches at the beginning and end of the row. Here’s how:
Slip 1st stitch according to the pattern, knit 1, purl 1 twice, work until there are 5 stitches left, purl 1, knit 1 twice, knit 1.
Then, you can repeat this for all rows to see a seed stitch border with a chain edge.
Take a look at this tutorial from Rokolee DIY on YouTube.
I-cords are short for “Idiot cords” (yes, that’s really its name), where a flat knitted piece will appear like a rounded cord. Technically, there’s no edge since all of your stitches will curl up and form a seamless rounded cord.
This is a super popular finishing technique for sleeve edges and necklines, as well as straps for knitted camisoles.
To work an i-cord strap, you will need to use double-sided needles since the row will only be worked on one side and from right to left. Here’s how:
Cast on as many stitches as you’d like the strap to be.
1st row: Knit all stitches
2nd row: Slide the double-sided needle holding the stitches so that all your stitches will be on the right side, then knit the row as normal (your yarn will be carried across from the last stitch of the last row)
Repeat the 2nd row until your strap is as long as you’d like.
It may look complicated at first, but this is a super simple technique that’s easy to master and will help you create a super clean and neat edge that’s quite quick to finish!
Take a look at this tutorial from James Cox Knits on YouTube.