What are selvedge stitches?
Selvedge stitches are simply the first and last stitches in any crocheted or knitted row. There can be 1, 2 or 3 selvedge stitches at the beginning and end of a row. In the following, I’m going to assume that the selvedge is a single stitch (just for ease of writing).
Why are these stitches special?
- If you work a project in pieces that need to be assembled, the selvedge stitch will be your seam allowance. This means that this is an extra stitch that is not part of the stitches needed to, say, work a specific width.
Check your pattern to see if the selvedge stitches are included in the stitch count – normally they are.
- A stitch at the very beginning or very end of a row often behaves differently from other stitches.
- In knitting, this stitch, which has a companion on only one side, is often looser than the other stitches, or simply a bit wonky.
- In crochet, the first few stitches in a row are very, very often tighter than those that follow.
So, do you need to treat selvedge stitches differently?
In knitting, it depends.
I know knitters who work their selvedge stitches in the main stitch pattern and still get straight edges.
However, most knitters need to give the selvedge stitches a special treatment to avoid their being too loose.
You can decide always to work this stitch as a knit stitch, to make a garter selvedge.
You can systematically slip the first or last stitch in the row, to make a chain selvedge that is a bit tighter.
There are many methods, and often the pattern will suggest how to work the selvedge stitches. Try the suggested method and see what you think! Everyone knits in a very personal way – perhaps the recommendation in the pattern is not what works best for you.
Also, think about how this selvedge will be used: are you going to seam pieces together, pick up stitches or simply leave the edge as it is?
In crochet, you must decide on a selvedge treatment.
When you start a crochet row, the hook needs to be at the height of the first stitch – and you must find a way to get it there!
There are many ways to do this, classic or innovative, simple or complex.
I’ll be back to show you some, of course!
And how do you like to work your selvedges?
It all starts with an idea. You don’t really know where it comes from, and sometimes it’s very vague. It can be a kind of vision, but it might also be a memory, a scent, a feeling… and sometimes it’s a full-blown concept that shows up from nowhere, presenting itself to you when you brush your teeth on a Tuesday morning.
In all cases this idea begs to be translated and transformed using yarn.
Crochet or knitting? What kind of stitch pattern? Which fiber? Cotton or wool? Which weight? And the ultimate question: to make what?
You fumble, you think, you try some things. Sometimes you try many, many things before you happen upon something valid.
Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. The idea can’t be transformed into a real-life object, at least not right now.
However, often this is the start of a new project. It can be very close to the original idea – or it can be very far away, so that only you can know its origin.
And now it is time to take a creative gamble.
Whatever the size of the project, you will need to spend many hours to make this thing born from your imagination, this thing that doesn’t exist yet.
You don’t know if you will succeed. You don’t know if the finished item will be appreciated. If you’re making something big, you might spend weeks or months with a disappointing final result. If the creative process is also your job, you can potentially even lose money.
And yet, you must take this gamble, bet on your creativity and skills to give life to this nonexistent thing, create it out of thin air and present it to the world.
It’s an uncomfortable situation, and so many questions race through your head. It would clearly be much easier not to make this thing – but still, you make it.
You make it, because you know it can be a winning bet. There are no guarantees, but there is possibility, and you are far too curious not to try and see what happens.
And when the creative gamble pays off, when this idea becomes a beautiful thing, when you can share it with the world, your satisfaction is so much greater than your uncertainty ever was.
If you are inspired to take a creative gamble, I can help, in a positive and reassuring setting. I have already led several creative coaching programs in French, aimed at people who want to design their own pattern. Perhaps it’s time to start one in English?
If you are interested in creative crochet coaching with the aim of creating your own crochet design, click the button below!
My creative coaching sessions typically run over 8 weeks and include 5 live sessions via Zoom and access to a private discussion group where I connect with the participants several times a week – all for the very reasonable price of 99€.
Click the button to send me an email and let me know if you’re interested!
A short video tutorial to help with the North Cape shawl – and, of course, with any other knitting project featuring narrow stripes !
I know, I know, you must always swatch before you start a new project – this is what I tell people all the time. And I also know that very often, this is not at all what you want to do!
To be perfectly honest, there are situations where you can skip the swatch – and where I don’t swatch either.
You just need to know when you can do this, and what can happen.
Narrow projects worked in the round
Do you want to crochet or knit a sock, a glove, a cowl or a hat?
A swatch worked flat will never give you the correct information for a project worked in the round.
When knitting, the smallest difference between your knits and your purls will significantly affect your gauge when working flat or in the round, respectively.
When crocheting, a stitch pattern worked flat will hardly ever look exactly like the same pattern worked in the round.
And if you decide to work your swatch in the round, you will need to work it over twice as many stitches. Solution: Use your project as your gauge swatch!
All you need to do is to try on your sock, mitten or hat after having worked a few inches. (For constructions starting with some kind of rib, work at least an inch past the ribbing).
Is it too small or too big? You will know for sure with this full-sized project.
A sleeve is a gauge swatch
For garments worked bottom up, you generally start with the back (for a garment worked flat in pieces) or the body (for a garment worked in the round).
That’s a lot of stitches to work before you can start comparing the actual measurements with those indicated in the pattern.
I suggest you start with a sleeve, which has many fewer stitches but still is big enough to yield a significant sample. Once you have checked that the width of the sleeve is correct, you can simply leave it to one side while you tackle the main part of the garment.
When size doesn’t matter (that much)
Very often people don’t make swatches for shawls, scarves and other accessories that are to be worn without a precise fit.
As long as you like the fabric you get, you can of course go ahead even if your gauge is tighter or looser than the pattern states – provided that you are a bit adventurous.
It is important to know that your gauge will affect the yardage needed for your project and its finished size.
If all your stitches are a bit (or much) smaller than the ones in the original item, you will obtain, for example, a narrower and shorter scarf.
If all your stitches are a bit (or much) larger than the ones in the original item, you will use more yarn, and you might not be able to finish the pattern as written.
If you are willing to improvise the final steps of your project, or to buy more yarn – no problem! You only need to know that this can happen, and have a plan for how to handle it.
And now, I’m off to knit a few more rows on my hat in progress. My head is larger than average, so I have chosen a larger needle size than the one suggested in the pattern. I have worked a couple of inches past the ribbing, and I’ve just tried it on – it looks good! I know that I will most probably use more yarn than stated in the pattern, but I have more in my stash – and if needed, I can add another colour in a similar yarn.
You have already guessed it – this is a project for which I didn’t make a swatch!
Yes, I crochet a lot. But I knit a bit, too! And the latest of my knitting endeavours is this easy knitted shawl: North Cape.
Shaped as an elongated triangle, this shawl mixes relaxing garter stitch with easy lace. Alternating stitch patterns and adding a pop of colour makes sure that the relaxing knit never gets boring!
Worked in a sportweight yarn on 4.5 mm needles, this is a big and cozy shawl that knits up quickly.
Lilac, violet, periwinkle… I think these colours will be everywhere this spring – and they certainly are in the Whirl 762 Popin Candy colourway!
Dreaming of spring with soft and sweet colours… Whirl 760 Candy Man is available in the shop!
To be completely honest, when it comes to socks, I tend to turn to knitting… But you can also make great socks in crochet!
This gorgeous crochet sock pattern named Marguerite was designed by my friend Sylvie Damey.
Worked in tall stitches, the Marguerite socks are fast to make!
The new sock yarn with hemp in my shop (Admiral Hanf) works perfectly for the Marguerite socks – one ball will make a pair.
The yarn can be found here: https://boutique.annettepetavy.com/home/777-fil-a-chaussettes-avec-chanvre-admiral-hanf.html
And Sylvie’s pattern is available
It has taken me a long time to find a sock yarn that I wanted to sell – I was looking for something special and inspiring.
And I have found it! A beautiful yarn that works for socks but also for many other lovely projects, and with a very interesting fiber content.
This little miracle is called Admiral Hanf, a yarn from the German company Schoppel Wolle. The yarn is a blend of 67% wool, 23% biodegradable polyamide and 10% hemp.
The semi-solid colours are subtly nuanced and the weight makes it a great companion for the multicolored Zauberball 100 which I also sell and design with (but, please, no socks in Zauberball 100, it’s pure merino wool!)