Monday, 4 August 2014

Knitting a Round Neckline

I've just come back from teaching a weekend course on Finishing Techniques at Farncombe Estate near Broadway and it came to my notice yet again the lack of information provided in commercial patterns when it comes to shaping the neckline. Most commercial patterns will say something like;

'Decrease 1 stitch at the neck edge on the next and every alternate row 8 times'

but they don't generally give any instructions about what method of decrease to use or where to place the decrease i.e. on the edge or a stitch or two in from the edge. They also often tell the knitted to cast off a block of stitches at the bottom of the Front neck shaping rather than putting the stitches on a stitch holder.


The picture above is an example of how many knitters will shape a round neckline when they are given a minimal amount of information in the pattern. The stitches at the centre bottom of the Front neck have been cast off and the decreases have been worked as 'knit 2 together (k2tog)'  on the neck edge on both sides of the neckline. As a result the neckline has very little flexibility and the decreases on the edge of the neckline make it very difficult to pick up stitches neatly for the neckband.


In this second sample the bottom of the neckline has been cast off again but the decreases have been worked 2 stitches in from the edge. This does make the edge much easier to pick up stitches through, but in this sample the same method of decrease has been used on both sides of the neckline shaping i.e. k2tog. Looking at the sample the right hand neckline edge has a 'fully fashioned' finish. The k2tog decrease leans towards the right which is in the same direction as the edge is being decreased. As a result it gives a clear column of stitches leaning to the right - following the shape of the neckline.

The left hand side of the neckline (as you look at it) has been shaped using the same right leaning decrease i.e. k2tog. The decrease is worked 2 stitches in from the edge so the neckline edge is still smooth for picking up stitches for the neckband, but the knitted fabric does not have the same smooth line of stitches following the direction of the neckline shaping. It does not mirror the other side of the neckline. In order to mirror the neckline shaping you need to use a left leaning decrease such as 'slip 1 knit 1 pass slipped stitch over (skpo)'.


This 3rd picture shows how I would work a round neckline. I prefer to put the centre section of stitches onto a stitch holder rather than casting them off as this helps to retain the flexibility in the neckline. If the round neckline is quite open and deep like a scoop neckline it is not so important to keep the stitches from the bottom of the neckline and the back neckline on stitch holders, but if the garment has quite a close fitting neckline, the knitting needs to be able to stretch to fit over the wearer's head.

For the shaped section of the neckline (the decreases,) I have used a k2tog decrease on the right hand side (as the sample faces you) and a skpo on the left hand side. Both decreases are worked 2 stitches in from the edge. As a result the edge of the neckline is smooth making it very much easier to pick up stitches through the edge for the neckband and I personally like the 'fully fashioned' finish that is achieved by working 2 stitches in from the edge of the knitting.

The images below show a close-up of the round neckline on 2 different garments. Both garments are knitted in stocking stitch, one with a k2, p2 rib and the other with a k1, p1 rib, but both with close fitting necklines. Due to the way the neckline has been shaped it was much easier to pick up and knit a very neatly finished neckband.



These two examples show the neckline shaping on a stocking stitch garment. I would still use this method of shaping i.e. the decreases worked at least 1 or 2 stitches in from the edge, even when knitting different stitch patterns as it makes the neckline much easier to finish neatly and I like the detail it adds.


This last picture is a v-neckline but it shows how the fully fashioned decreases have been worked within a stitch pattern. There is a 2 stitch wide column of stitches either side of the neckline just inside the garter stitch neckband.

To work fully fashioned decreases to shape the Left Front neckline (the right had side when looking at the pictures) work to the last 4sts, k2tog, k2.

To work fully fashioned decreases to shape the Right Front neckline (the left hand side looking at the picture) k2, skpo, work to the end of the row.

I would also work fully fashioned shaping at the armhole edges, the sleeve cap of a set-in sleeve garment and the raglan seams on that style of garment.

I hope this 'article' gives some of you the confidence to realise you do not have to follow a pattern word for work. The pattern will tell you how many times you need to work the decreases but you can decide where exactly you are going to work those decreases i.e. 1 or 2 stitches in from the edge of the knitting and what method of decrease you want to use.

23 comments:

  1. Thanks for a very interesting article. I have a question. If you were to decrease the neck curve 2 stitches in from the edge using a knitting machine, would you just load the 3rd stitch in from the edge onto the 4th stitch in from the edge and move the outer two loops onto the empty needle left by the 3rd stitch being moved? Would this give an even looking curve on both sides?

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    1. When working on a knitting machine I would use my 3 pronged transfer tool to move the edge 3 stitches over by one needle as the simplest way to decrease. This doesn't give a completely fully fashioned look as the decrease stitch is laying in the wrong direction but it gives a pretty good finish.

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  2. So useful! Thankyou, I shall use your method every time. WHY don't the patterns tell us about this?

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  3. A lot of commercial patterns produced by the yarn manufactures are written in the same way they have been written for many years and I know they don't often detail how to shape your knitting beyond the instruction to decrease (or increase). In my patterns I usually include instructions on decreasing in the Knitting Notes part of my pattern.

    Thank you for letting me know you found this blog post useful.

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  4. The pattern is written for a square neckline (youth age 11.
    Where would you begin the round neckline from the armhole decrease. Vogue 1954
    Thank you.

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  5. I don't know what size an 11 year old would be as I usually work from bust/chest size measurements for sizing garments. You need to look at the overall length of the garment to work out where the round neck shaping would start. For a 66 and 71 cm chest (26 and 28 inch) the front neck starts 7.5cm from teh top of the garment. For 76, 81 and 86 cm chest (30, 32 and 34 inch) the front neck starts 9cm from the top of the garment.
    Hope that helps.

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  6. Hi. Very detailed instructions. How about decreasing neckline on the WS of the work means on the purl side? What method is best?

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    1. If you have to work decreases on a wrong side purl row you should still work 2 stitches in from the edge and use the purl decrease that matches the direction of the knit decrease it is above e.g. p2, p2together, purl to the last 4sts, ssp, p2.

      If you are not familiar with ssp, this is the decrease that matches the ssk decrease on a knit row. It is worked by slipping the next 2 stitches one at a time knitwise to the right needle. The 2 stitches are then slipped back to the left needle and you finish by working purl 2 together through the back loops. This will give you a left leaning decrease on the knit side of the fabric.

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    2. Thanks very much once again for the detailed instructions. Really appreciate it. Do we use this for armhole shaping as well? Like taking 2 stitches in?

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    3. Yes I would use the same method of decreasing 2 stitches in from the edge for armhole and sleeve head shaping as well. I use this method when knitting in most stitch patterns as I like the fully fashioned finish this gives the garment. Do do work slightly differently when shaping in Fair Isle/stranded knitting. In this case I work the decreases 1 stitch in from the edge and I work the decreases the other way around i.e. k2tog at the beginning of a row and slip 1 knit 1 psso (ssk) at the end of the row. By working the decreases this way around the decrease stitch lies vertically rather than leaning in one direction or the other which looks much better in stranded knitting as it doesn't dieturb the stitch pattern.

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  7. Hi. Can I also use this decreasing method for shaping the neckline to the back of the garment?

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    1. I use the 2 stitch in method of decreasing (with paired decreases) when shaping both the front and back parts of a neckline, the armhole in a set in sleeve garment, the sleeve head shaping in a set in sleeve garment and raglan seams for both body and sleeve.

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  8. I hope you can help me. I am following a VERY old pattern for a baby round neck jumper. I am very unsure how to proceed with front neck shaping, as this is the first knitting I have done for many years! This is what the pattern states: (29sts)
    Shape Neck
    NEXT ROW: k1, k2tog tbl, k6(7),cast off 7(9) sts, k to last 3sts, k2tog,k1.
    Continue on each group of sts dec at armhole edge as before at the same time dec 1 st at neck edge on next 3 rows. Continue dec at armhole edge only until 2 sts remain. Work 1 row. Fasten off.
    I have done the first row but am unsure whether I am now meant to decrease on both purl and knit rows? Am I correct in thinking I will be decreasing 2 stitches for next 3 rows? Please can you put this in plain language for me otherwise my grandson won't get his jumper 😟 Many thanks

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    1. The pattern does say decreases are worked every row for 3 rows. This means you have to work decreases on both knit and purl rows. The decreases on the purl row need to match the knit row decreases below them so you need to work as follows;
      beginning of a purl row, p1, p2 together.
      end of a purl row, work to the last 3sts, p2 together through the back loop, p1.

      Hope that helps.

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    2. Thank you for the prompt reply. This is very helpful. I also appreciate your previous explanation/tip of how to make a neat neckline by casting off to match each side

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  10. Thank you so much! I have been searching on line for advice on shaping necklines and yours is the best , and clearest explanation I’ve found. I will definitely use your instructions in the future, I particularly like the decrease being two stitches in from the edge.
    However I still have a problem with my pattern. The instructions require decreasing on the WS (purl row) as well as the RS (knit row). If I use k2tog and SKPO on the RS what stitch should I use for decreases on the WS?
    The instructions are as follows: (beginning with RS row at sleeve edge)
    Patt 72 sts, turn and leave rem sts on a holder. Work each side of neck separately. Cast off 4 sts at beg next row and foll alt row. Dec 1st at neck edge on next 3 rows and foll 5 alt rows. Cont without further shaping..... It’s all further complicated as the pattern is Aran style, not plain stocking stitch.
    I would be extremely grateful if you can give me advice as I don’t want to continue until I have a method for making a good edge to the neck. Best wishes,
    Jane

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    1. Hi Jane,
      If I am knitting a garment I do still work the decreases 2 stitches in from the edge but you could work just one stitch in from the edge. To work decreases one stitch in from the edge you need to work as follows;
      Decrease at beginning of RS row: k1, skpo (or ssk), work in pattern
      Decrease at end of RS row: work to last 3sts, k2tog, k1.
      on the purl rows you need to p2 at the beginning and end to keep the stocking stitch edge.

      If you need to work decreases every row I would work the RS row decreases as above and the WS row decreases as follows;
      Decrease at beginning of WS row: p1, p2tog, work in pattern
      Decrease at end of WS row: work to last 3sts, p2togtbl (or ssp), p1.

      p2togtbl - purl 2 together through the back loop.

      Once the decreases are completed you need to maintain the 2sts stocking stitch edge to the top of the piece of knitting.

      Hope that helps.

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    2. Many thanks for this, I will follow your instructions. I've just been watching you video on utube for picking up stitches around the neckline and found this very useful too.
      I notice from your website that you run workshops if someone sets them up, but do you teach any courses of classes that it would be possible to enrol on? I live in London. Best wishes, Jane

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    3. Hi Fiona, Sorry to bother you again but I wonder if you could advise on one other point about the instructions for the neck shaping that I sent you (above). When it says: cast off 4 sts at beg next row and foll alt row. (a) do you slip the first st to avoid a step in the edge or will this leave a hole? and (b) would you cast off in k st on RS and p st on WS, or would you cast off following the sts in the patt on each side. Many thanks! Jane

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    4. Hi Jane,
      I have replied to your 2 questions but didn't realise they were not in the reply box so you will have to look at the comments on the Round Neckline post for my answer, sorry.

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  11. Hi again Jane,
    Most of my teaching is done through yarn shops in my local, South Hampshire area. I don't teach a set course although some workshops are offered as linked together. Details of where I am teaching are on my website www.fionamorrisdesigns.co.uk.

    With regard to your question about casting off in blocks, you can slip the first stitch as this does help to smooth out the steps you tend to get with casting off blocks of stitches. When casting off I usually work in the stitch pattern being used at the time. If it is stocking stitch I would cast off in knit on RS rows and purl on WS rows. If I am knitting in a stitch pattern e.g. rib or moss stitch I would cast off in the stitch pattern

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  12. Hi Fiona,
    Thanks so much for your response - most welcome! I think I just have to take the plunge now and have a go at the neckline! I'm fairly confident about my knitting skills when doing the actual knitted fabric but still feel disapointed in the quality I achieve with the finishing. It's so disheartening to put all the work into the knitting and then not get a really good finish to the garment. Still, your blog is extremely helpful at clarifying all the things that, as you say, patterns rarely explain. I'm sorry to hear you don't run any courses in London, I'd be enrolling if you did! I noticed the link to the City and Guilds course on your website - I wonder if it's possible to do individual modules on that, perhaps I should investigate! Alternatively perhaps I'll check your courses in South Hampshire - it's only a train ride away from London...
    Best wishes,
    Jane

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