Selvedge stiches – what are they all about?

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?

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