When to Slip

Shawl patterns often specify to slip the first stitch of every row, the idea being that this gives a cleaner appearance to the garter edge of the project. While this is often true, none of my JahDoily Knits patterns tell you to slip the first stitch and I have a good reason for this. Different yarns behave differently and slipping the first stitch is a matter of taste.

On garter edges in which the first stitch is worked (knitted) the side of your work will have a little knob. There is nothing wrong with this. I like texture in my knitting and like to accentuate the garter stitch so I often don’t bother slipping the first stitch. Garter has ridges and that’s what I like about it. In some projects a smooth edge, im my opinion, deters from the garter, even tries to make it more refined than it is. Garter is the most basic stitch and there is a beauty in that.Vintage Cotton_Unslipped_2

Slipping purlwise with the yarn held in front
Slipping the first stitch of a garter edge will create a smoother edge with what looks like a row of stockinette running up the side. This is a very tidy edge but it will also have less give because it is only being worked on alternating rows (ie, the first stitch of right side rows is only knit on wrong side when it is the last stitch of the row). When working with 100% wool yarns this likely is not much of an issue but shawls knit with fibers such as silk, cotton and linen won’t block as widely when the first stitch is slipped. Whatever your fiber, for projects that are going to be heavily blocked, slip the first stitch loosely.
Vintage Cotton_slipped with yarn in front_2

Why is the yarn held in front?
If you slip your first stitch purlwise with the yarn held behind your work, the yarn wraps itself around the slipped stitch. This looks a little like a noose around the first stitch and pulls the stitch downward. It isn’t the prettiest edge. I have however noticed that this helps the fabric lay flat which can be helpful with fibers that tend to curl even in garter. Unless you are experiencing the garter edge curling in dramatically, I wouldn’t recommend holding the yarn in back.
Vintage Cotton_slipped with yarn in back_2

Selecting Which Method to Use

In addition to gauge swatches, I knit test swatches for each pattern, whether it’s something I’m designing or another designer’s pattern. Some will be small swatches to test out how the lace or other motifs knit up in the yarn I’ve selected, others will be larger to see how one stitch transitions to the next. Each swatch is done with a garter border which is the perfect place to test out whether to slip the first stitch or not. If it is a swatch testing a stitch pattern I may alternate between slipped edges and un-slipped edges each chart repeat. On Gauge swatches looping a strand of a contrasting yarn colour around or through the first stitch when I change the edge treatment helps identify the transition after blocking. Knowing what you did where is essential. These little pieces of knitting can tell us so much about how our projects are going to turn out but for them to do so we need to remember how we achieved the effect.

These samples do take some time and on occasions it can be a challenge to delay jumping into a new pattern. In the long run, however, I’ve found that they save me a lot of time.  Beautiful patterns and beautiful yarns aren’t always as wonderful when paired together. Dedicating time to swatches have saved ripping back many a project.

So, when you read in K3, sm, in a JahDoily Knits pattern keep in mind the tips, which I also include, that remind you to swatch and test out slipping the first stitch.

Can you tell how these edges were treated?
These are a few examples from my knitting basket. Can you identify the method used on these edges?


Drops Alpaca, 100% alpaca fingering


Indigo Moon, BFL fingering


SweetGeorgia Yarns, CashSilk lace


2 responses to “When to Slip

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