Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pick up lines

I've had occasion of late to ponder knitting terminology evolution.

I've been knitting for... well more than 20 years. Up until recently, I wasn't aware of any distinction between "pick up stitches" and "pick up and knit" But it's come to my attention that some people are making this distinction. After selling the Sheepy Pants for months, I'm now getting questions about what I mean. And when I went to look up tutorials to send links to customers asking questions, I found no real consistency, and lots of references to "pick up and knit." Some making a distinction between 2 different instructions meaning 2 different things.

And it has come up at knit night and elsewhere. Some people complain when a pattern says "pick up" because they pick it up and say "then what?" I've heard others complain that it says "pick up and knit" because you're not doing that. To me the latter seems to be telling you to do 2 steps, (which could be several different things) where the pattern generally means for you to do 1 step.

I got to thinking about it and started to think this is new. I had never before the past few years encountered any confusion on the subject. All the patterns I learned on said pick up stitches. At least, I thought they did. *head scratch*

So I picked up the first 3 books I saw on my shelf with basic knitting instructions.

They are:

The Complete Book of Knitting by Barbara Abbey, (the book I learned to knit from, and a book I still continue to reference often.)

Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework (another excellent reference book from a long time ago.)

and a book of my 9 year old daughter's, Quick Knits, by Judy Ann Sadler

A pretty good variety, I thought.

This is The Complete Guide to Knitting. It says that the term is a poorly chosen phrase because it's confusing, but that "Common usage, however, has made this term an accepted part of the knitting language, and is generally used in all modern instructions."

See, I told you. So in 1971, I was right. I'm not (completely) crazy.
I also see that she uses the phrase "knitted up" which Lucy Neatby suggests as a better term. While I might agree that it's more clear, I have yet to see any pattern that calls for knitting up stitches.

By the way, here is the diagram of picking up stitches. This is what it means to me when I see it in a pattern.

I really like this book because it has excellent schematic diagrams.

And here is the Reader's Digest book, from 1979. It describes 2 methods of picking up new stitches, either by knitting, or using a crochet hook, both of which do the same thing a different way.

Interestingly, it does say "usually written pick up and K." However, all through the knitting section of this book the directions say "pick up stitches along" whatever edge.

So apparently they don't follow their own notes. I also note that nowhere are there instructions to pick up stitches without knitting them.

This is the page from the instructions of Quick Knits, from 2006. This book also describes exactly what I've always thought "pick up stitches" means. You put your right needle through a hole in the fabric and knit it, just like it were a stitch on a needle.

Apparently some people think this is "pick up and knit." By this way of thinking, "pick up stitches" means just putting knitting on your needle. Like the picture in step 2 on the left (only without the wrapping).

So, you just put a bunch of fabric loops on your needle without actually knitting it. To my mind, that is not a stitch, so you haven't picked up a stitch yet, you have picked up fabric.

I've been thinking this through and I can't imagine a case when you would *ever* want to do this (unless you are putting them on your left needle and then going ahead and knitting them... which is still the same thing as knitting them each one at a time). Otherwise your yarn is on the wrong side when you're done. I just can't see a reason you would need to do this picking up without knitting thing. If you know of a pattern that calls for this kind of picking up please let me know, I really want to see it.

I'm also kind of curious, what makes some people think of it one way and some people think of another? Is it continental knitters and throwers? Or something else? I'm going to have to come up with a way to satisfy all the different ways people think for writing patterns. I would love to hear more thoughts on the subject.

Theresa from Knitty wrote this article in 2004, where she mentions the same kind of thing, that some minds work differently. I also noticed that in her next article on the subject in the very next issue she went back to dropping the "and knit." It seems implied.

I would have to say that, unless the instructions were very clear about picking up fabric without using the working yarn, I would assume that they meant picking up stitches by knitting them up.


  1. Hmmm... thanks for posting this! I just finished a hat and I'm not sure what termonology the pattern used but... I am now quite sure I did it wrong . lol
    I just went along the edge mentioned and put "stitches" that were prev. made on the needle, then went along like normal and knit them.
    I also thought recently that I was correctly decreasing (in crochet) and yesterday... found out that I was completely doing it wrong.

    Now... when a pattern says to basically add stitches after you've been knitting something... like you cast on 8 and knit those for a bit and then add 9 more stitches to the work... what's the correct way to add those 9 stitches to the needle? I did that recently and it worked but ... I know I did that wrong.


  2. Interesting thoughts, Mandie. How long did it take you to do this? I do the same thing and spend a lot of time researching and much more analyzing everything. :-)

    I am a very exact thinker, so I would think that picking up stitches would be pulling through yarn and that's it. I used to think it meant picking up the already knitted stitches. I do know that I received that idea from some place, probably back in a 1970s pattern (no internet then), so can't remember where.

    The internet has been so cool for learning about things instantly. Still love books. They go back farther, well, so far. :-)

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