How to Knit a Perfect Edge – Finishing Free Technique

Today I would love to share with you a technique that I learned several years ago that is absolutely essential for cardigans if you want to avoid knitting the bands and finishing the raw edges. It also comes in handy for scarves or any items with open raw edges. It looks like an applied I-cord, but rather than picking up stitches along the edge and knitting the i-cord on, you knit “I-cord” simultaneously with the main fabric and don’t have to spend time to trim the edges after you are done with the project – a huge time saver!

How to Knit a Perfect Edge

This technique can be used with any stitch pattern. It looks best when knit next to the textured stitches, but can be used with simple stockinette, it won’t “pop” as much, but it will do the work – keep the edge of your knitting flat and neat – from the front, back and the sides. I used it a lot in my “pre-blog era”, but there are several projects with this technique documented here – Textured Scarf (I think it was my third or forth blog post!), Journey sweater (to create side splits) and Grateful Shawl (to create smooth edges and avoid finishing later).

There are two types of “i-cords” or selvage stitches I use – double and triple. They look slightly different from each other. Triple is thicker and will be perfect for cardigan front edges – it will perfectly hold the shape. Double is great for light garments and for lace. First I will give you the written instructions and then I’ll break it down for you in step-by-step photo tutorial.

Abbreviations

  • Sl – slip.
  • wyib – with yarn in back.
  • wyif – with yarn in front.
  • st/sts – stitch/stitches.
  • k – knit.
  • p – purl.

Double Selvage

Instructions:

Row 1 (RS): Sl 1 wyib, k1; work in any given stitch pattern to last 2 sts; sl 1 wyib, p1.

Row 2 (WS): Sl 1 wyib, p1; work in any given stitch pattern to last 2 sts; sl 1 wyif, p1.

Repeat Rows [1-2] for a double i-cord/selvage.

Tutorial

(To see a bigger picture, open it in the new tab)

Right Side Row

Wrong Side Row

Triple Selvage

Instructions:

Row 1 (RS): Sl 1 wyib, sl 1 wyif, k1; work in any given stitch pattern to last 3 sts; k1, sl 1 wyif, p1.

Row 2 (WS): Sl 1 wyib, k1, sl 1 wyif; work in any given stitch pattern to last 3 sts; sl 1 wyif, k1, p1.

Repeat Rows [1-2] for a triple selvage/i-cord.

Tutorial

(To see a bigger picture, open it in the new tab)

Right Side Row

Wrong Side Row

The result

The front of the work:

How to Knita Perfect Edge

The back of the work:

How to Knit a Perfect Edge

As you can see both sides are equally neat and even. One more thing to remember – if you are adding this edging to a scarf, for example, don’t forget to add 4 (for a double one) or 6 (for a triple one) extra stitches to your stitch count.

I hope you will find this tutorial useful for many of your future projects!


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How to Make a Sweater on a Knitting Machine. Hand Knitter’s Guide. Part I.

106 Comments

  1. Love love love all your tutorials!
    So well written and useful!
    Thank you so much for all the new knowledge!
    You’re the best teacher 😉

    • Thank you so much, Zeta! I am glad you find them helpful 🙂

      • Hi, Alina,
        I just found your post and this is almost identical to the edge I came up with this summer. Great minds! Anyway, thank-you. You wrote it out so much better than I did and hopefully I can remember it and teach it much better with the use of your notes. Excellent!

  2. I am going to bookmark this post so it will always be handy, it is wonderful and so are you!

  3. Excellent post. I’m going to practice this and use it in future knitting. Thanks!

  4. I have used this a few times in projects it’s great isn’t it!

  5. Perfect timing as I am working on my button band. Will this work with a 2×2 rib, do you think?

    • Yes, it will! Make sure that the purl is right next to this edge – it will create a beautiful contrast and won’t interrupt the pattern .

  6. that looks so fantastic, so crisp and clean! I’ll be pinning this for sure.

  7. wonderful! thanks for sharing….i’m definitely going to use this!

  8. I have Pinned this for future reference, Alina. Your photos are great and your knitting is so perfect. :^)

  9. This is a wonderful tutorial! I can’t wait to try this out.

  10. Isn’t that something! That’s a really neat (as in “nice,” yes, but also as in “tidy-looking”) solution for edges. I’m not working on anything now that really could benefit from it, but you can bet I’ll be coming back here for the tutorial as soon as I do.

    Come to think of it, besides the time-saving and neatness, this technique would build a good hardy edge onto a dishcloth, wouldn’t it?

    • Oh, absolutely! It is perfect for dishcloths or blankets for example, when you just want a mindless knit and don’t want to bother with the finishing later. Just start with the ribbing using these selvages (they will blur in perfectly with the rib pattern) and then continue in any pattern (I would use trip;e selvage for the blanket). So, when you are done – you are DONE! No picking up stitches along the edges and the fabric will be flat and neat!

  11. Lovely clear tutorial. I’ve used this technique on a baby bonnet pattern before but had forgotten about it. Thank you for the reminder 🙂

  12. Brenda J Human

    Evelyn, thank you so much, I am so grateful for the Internet and Pinterest for allowing me the privilege of learning from all you experts. I’ve been knitting for many of my 69 years but never had so many opportunities to learn to perfect my garments as I have now. It’s great to be part of the beautiful creative world. Brenda, Johannesburg, South Africa.

    • Hello Brenda!! Thank you so much, for these wonderful words!! Internet is an amazing place, isn’t?! I am also very grateful for the opportunity to meet so many interesting and creative people!

  13. I love your neat knitting and finishing tecniques ! Congratulations ! And would also love to recieve your “lessons” by email, please !
    And if you ever come to Uruguay, South America, we will be happy to show you around our Reserve.
    Take a look at the website.
    Regards,
    Maria Ines

    • Thank you so much, Maria! You can subscribe to the blog via email in the side bar. I visited your website and it looks gorgeous!!! I would love to visit it one day, thank you so much for your generous offer!!

  14. I sent the link to this to everyone in my knitting class. It appears that it will also stop the rolling that you usually get with stockinette. One question though. Do I need to cast on extra stitches for this technique?

    • Hi Sue! Thank you so much for spreading the word! Yes, it will stop rolling. A couple of things to remember with the stockinette though. The edge will be neat, but won’t stand out as much as against texture; stockinette will have a row gauge slightly bigger than the edge, so to avoid pulling the fabric you need to knit this i-cord slightly looser than usual. Yes you need to cast on extra stitches – “One more thing to remember – if you are adding this edging to a scarf, for example, don’t forget to add 4 (for a double one) or 6 (for a triple one) extra stitches to your stitch count.” I hope it helped!

  15. Marie Hawkins

    Can you tell I’d you use this technique only on button bands of a sweater and if so do I add stitches like recommended for scarf or just use the number of stitches required for button band and add to fronts in lieu of knitting separate bands.

    • Hi Marie! Ok, I need some more information to answer your question…
      “Do I add stitches like recommended for scarf or just use the number of stitches required for button band and add to fronts in lieu of knitting separate bands.” As I understand (correct me if I am wrong), you want to create faux I-cord in place of a separate button band? What do you mean by a separate band – the one that you knit from picked up stitches along the edge (so the button band stitches are perpendicular to the fronts)? Or the one that you knit separately and then seam it to the fronts (the button band stitches are parallel to the fronts)? I am asking because it will make a difference in how you calculate your mods.
      If you want to skip knitting the band, you will have to make sure that the fronts of the cardigan will still have the same width or otherwise they will be of different size, which means that you will have to calculate how many more stitches you need to add to the fronts. It sounds so much more complicated than it is actually is… To help you with that I need to know your gauge. It is hard to explain in one short comment…
      Feel free to send photos of your project at my email, so I will have a clear idea what you mean and help you with that.

  16. Gail Bresser

    What a neat Idea! It looks like a sturdy edge good for blankets. I am definitely pinning this one for future reference. Thanks!

    • Thank you so much, Gail! I am glad you like it! This technique is amazing for blankets! You can just knit away and not worry about trimming the raw edges once you are done!

  17. Hello,
    I love the look of this type of edging. Do I need to add the extra stitches to the cast on row to accommodate for it? (2 or 3 stitches at each end depending on which edge I want to do). This is not listed anywhere. Thank you for your response.

    Fellow Knitter

    • Hi Sandy! Yes, you add extra stitches to your stitch count. 2 sts at each end for a double selvage = total of 4 extra sts to your stitch count; 3 sts at each end for a triple selvage = total of 6 extra sts to your stitch count. For example, your pattern says to cast on 40 sts for a scarf; if you choose to use triple selvage you will cast on 46 sts. I hope it helped! 🙂

  18. maria jesus

    I love it, Beautiful hint thank you so much!

  19. Do you slip as to knit or slip as to purl?

  20. I wish I had seen this sooner! I am doing a long simple lace weight stockinette stitch cowl and this would be wonderful for the edges. Oh well, there’s always next time! But thank you for the wonderful tutorial and instructions. I am bookmarking this for sure.

  21. Any advice for the left edge (RS)? It comes out much looser than the right edge and I can’t manage to get it to match the right…

    • Hello, Jodi! On the left edge we purl the last stitch. Some knitters tend to purl looser than knit. Maybe this is the problem? Try to check and adjust your tension on this side each time. Let me know if it helped!

  22. I like the finished look but I don’t understand how to make the button holes with this finish if it replacing button bands?

  23. What a greattutorial! Thanks!
    Another way to do the triple selvedge, is to do the same on all rows. This will also eliminate the risk of having one side come out looser than the other:4
    First three stitches: Knit 1, Slip 1, Knit 1
    Last three stitches: Slip 1, Knit 1, Slip 1.
    (All slips are made purlwise with yarn in front)

    Regards
    Marc

  24. Hello, Just came across your blog while I was browsing and I love your tutorial and all the comments.
    I wonder, is there a book with all your blogs? ….is ” 48 thoughts on Knitting a Perfect Edge A Free Technique”
    a book title or the title of your blog……if there isn’t a book, have you considered publishing one with all your
    tutorials? I love hard copy. Thanks much

    • Hi Francese! I am glad you liked this tutorial. No, I don’t have a book with the tutorials. Maybe one day, you never know, right? 🙂

  25. Hello Alina
    Many thanks for sharing this! Very helpful for me. I have made my first i-cord thanks to you!! Vanessa

  26. Hi… I have made my self a poncho, it’s already done but the edge of the knitting keeps rolling in…I was wandering if you can help me with that, since the stitchs are all close…Could you help me with that….Please…
    I’m not so good with my english, I hope that you understand what i’m trying too explain here….hihihiih
    Thank you….
    Nat.

    • Hi Nathalie! Of course, I will try to help as much as I can!! If you prefer, we can do it via email (alina@giftofknitting.com) where you can attach the photos if necessary! First of all, let me ask you if you blocked your garment properly? What yarn weight and fiber content did you use? Which selvedge did you use – double or triple? Please, let me know and I will try to see what we can do!

  27. Hi! Thanks for the tutorial. I have a question. When you slip a stitch, do you slip it as if to knit or as if to purl? Thanks!

  28. therese parent

    Love your tutorial easy to understand

  29. Can I print this instruction off please

  30. Hi Alina,

    I have had this bookmarked for the longest time and now would like to use it but wondered if you could give me some advice. I am knitting a bottom-up sweater with a 2 x 2 rib bottom edge, and am planning to use a provisional CO, then come back to the ribbing at the end and knit a split hem, with the 2 stitch selvedge you have suggested.

    I’m wondering – in integrating the selvedge into the 2 x 2 ribbing pattern on the RS, should I do [2 st selvedge], K2, P2….K2, [2st selvedge], or is the selvedge better worked after a single K stitch?

    I hope this makes sense!

    Thank you x

    • Actually, my bigger question is this:

      When using an i-cord edge (whether it is 2 stitches or 3), how do you treat these selvedge stitches when it comes time to bind off? For example, if I am knitting a split hem on a sweater, in ribbing, and I am using the 2 stitch i-cord selvedge, then when I come to my tubular bind-off, how do I neatly account for the extra stitches?

      • Hi Quynh! Thank you for your questions!

        “I’m wondering – in integrating the selvedge into the 2 x 2 ribbing pattern on the RS, should I do [2 st selvedge], K2, P2….K2, [2st selvedge], or is the selvedge better worked after a single K stitch?”

        I would do the following on the RS: [2 st selvedge], P2, K2….K2, P2 [2st selvedge]. Purl sts look better next to the i-cord selvage, because the contrast is much more profound than next to the knit sts. Plus, it will create a beautiful symmetry, as the i-cord will look like a part of the 2×2 rib pattern.

        “When using an i-cord edge (whether it is 2 stitches or 3), how do you treat these selvedge stitches when it comes time to bind off? For example, if I am knitting a split hem on a sweater, in ribbing, and I am using the 2 stitch i-cord selvedge, then when I come to my tubular bind-off, how do I neatly account for the extra stitches?”

        I always bind off in pattern, that is to say I knit the selvedges as established and cast them off.
        For example, 2 st selvedge.
        (RS): Sl 1 wyib, k1, pass the first st on the needle (the slipped one) over the second st on the needle; continue binding off as usual up to last 2 sts; sl 1 wyib, pass the previous st over the slipped stitch, p1, pass the previous st over the slipped stitch.

        3-st selvedge:
        RS: Sl 1 wyib, sl 1 wyif, pass the first st on the needle (the first slipped one) over the second st on the needle (the second slipped one), k1 pass the first st on the needle over the second st on the needle; continue binding off as usual up to last 3 sts; k1, pass the previous st over the slipped stitch, sl 1 wyif, pass the previous st over the slipped stitch, p1, pass the previous st over the slipped stitch.

        I hope it makes sense to you 🙂 It looks way more complicated than it is actually is in knitting 🙂

  31. Hi, thank you for sharing this technique! I would like to use it instead of i-cord selvedge on my garter stitch shawl, because I think it will be stretchier, and I’m wondering if you know of a bind-off that gives a similar look. Thanks in advance 🙂

  32. Elisabeth Huellstrung

    I want to thank you ever so much for sharing this post!!!! I can do skilled projects but my awful edges hold me back. I can’t wait to try this!

    Blessing Liz

  33. Thank you so much for sharing this technique. I am using it for the button band of my Honeycomb Aran Cardigan. I find that it is for some odd reason shorter than it is supposed to be. (although these are technically selvage stitches, double height). And I wonder if it is possible to make a 4stitch or 5 stitch “i-cord” as well?
    Find me on Ravelry

    • Thank YOU for visiting! Yes! It is possible! I am using 4-st I-cord right now for a cardigan. Once you understand the principle, you can experiment with the number. Also the number of sts will depend on the yarn you use, some yarns will look great with 2 sts, some need 4 or even 6 sts. I will find you on Ravelry!!

      • My Honeycomb Aran Cardigan is finished and is looking GREAT with the i-Cord border.
        I would recommend using 5 or 6 stitches for larger projects.

        • I actually changed the instructions a bit 🙂
          k, s1purwise,k,s1purwise TURN k,s1purwise, purl
          for more stitches that would be
          (pattern) s1purwise, k, s1purwise, k, s1purwise TURN k, s1purwise, k, s1purwise, k (pattern)
          I used this technique to make a proper i-cord for the little hat for my son (also on my ravelry profile).

          • Thank you so much for this extra info!! I just took a look at your cardi – it’s really beautiful and so well-documented! I hope you will use this technique in many of your projects!

  34. I am new to knitting and am very interested in learning this technique so thank you for sharing. I have a basic question. Do you replace the first and end stitches of the pattern with your pattern or do you add stitches on both the beginning and end of the project?

    • Hello, Johanne! Thank you for visiting! That’s a great question. It depends on the pattern. In 90% cases I do add stitches to my stitch count, because an i-cord looks good with almost all stitch patterns. But if the pattern has its own “border”/edge, I don’t want to “overload” it and would substitute it with the i-cord edge – in this case make sure that the width of the piece won’t be affected dramatically. Hope it helped!

    • I see you said that you cast on extra stitches, so does that mean you add 2 extra or 4 extra?

    • I see that you said you add stitches to the stitch count for the icord, my question is how many? Do you add 2 extra or 4 extra?

  35. I came across your tutorial and it is perfect! I am making a blanket for my daughter and thought i would use the triple, but I wanted to ask first if you thought it would work since the blanket has several color changes?
    thanks! love your work.

    • Thank you so much for the feedback! You can use this technique with colors, but the i-cord will end up covered in stripes. It’s the personal preference, of course, but usually I-cord is used to visually “frame” the work and stand out. When covered in stripes, it will get “lost” a little bit, if you know what I mean… But! It will still do the job of keeping your work from rolling in. Try it on a small swatch and you can decide whether you like it or not.
      A little note: Change the color AFTER the first slipped stitch.
      Hope it helped 🙂

  36. Thanks so much for sharing your technique. I am always looking for ways to make my edges look nicer and this is perfect.
    I read all the comments to see if you addressed this but could not find any so my question is, since i knit a lot of dishcloths is there any way to work the cast on and cast off rows to duplicate the i cord look or do i just have to go back and do an I cord after completed so that all 4 edges match?

  37. At last I’ve found the correct method! Just spent 48hrs trying to get my 2 edging stiches right. Thank you!

  38. I really like how you show people how to knit, would you mind sharing my blog with other people please?

  39. HI Alina,
    I was so excited by this technique that looks so lovely. I have tried and tried to follow the instructions, and my swatch does show the I-cord on the front, but not the back! Don’t know what I’m doing wrong. I always slip the first stitch straight off but can’t get the yarn to the back until after it is slipped off. So I don’t understand that part. I’m really stumped. Can you help me? I’d love to be able to do this. Thanks a lot.

    • Hi Elly! Do you mind telling me, please, which stitch pattern you are using next to it and what yarn weight? Sometimes the i-cord doesn’t stand out that much against the main stitch pattern, if the yarn is too thin or doesn’t have enough stitch definition.

      As for slipping the stitch – the yarn position for the first slipped stitch of the row is not that important, the only thing you should be careful is – not to twist the slipped stitch. Also try to knit the i-cord stitch pretty tight to “pull” them together. Also for how many rows have you tried it? The i-cord starts showing after several rows in knitting.

      Please, let me know how it worked out – you can also send me the photos of your work at alina@giftofknitting.com – this way it will be easier to see what is wrong!

      Hope it helped!!

      • Hi Alina, Garter Stitch, Worsted Weight, stitches very evident. Slip stitch not twisted. I will carry on with swatch, trying to pull the i-cord stitch tighter. Right now the cord works on the front, but nothing shows at the back. If still not successful, I’ll send you photos. Thanks for working with me!

      • Still trying. Not sure about one instruction.
        At the end of row 2 [sl 1 wyif, p1] do I slip 1 (note, my working yarn is at back) then bring yarn forward and purl 1? Or do I bring yarn forward, slip 1, and purl 1?

        • Hi Elly,

          maybe a little diagram will help:
          s – slip K – knit
          sKsKsK are the last 6 stitches on your needle from right to left.
          turn
          now knit: KsKsKs from left to right (or knit the upper diagram from right to left).
          You are basically knitting a lot of salvage stitches, so keep them very loose!

          I hope this helps. You can of course remove or add any number of sK combinations.

          • Thank you so much for joining! But I am confused a little bit, haha 🙂 As far as I understand Elly is using the double selvedge, so there are just two stitches for an i-cord on each side.
            “sKsKsK are the last 6 stitches” – why there are 6? Sorry if I misunderstood 🙂

        • Hi Elly! Sorry for a tardy reply. Sl 1 wyif means “slip one stitch with yarn in FRONT”, which means that you bring yarn forward, then slip 1, and then purl . Try to open the photos in full size in the new tab – there you should see all the details. And again, feel free to write me an email with photos.

  40. Thank you! This is wonderful!

  41. Would love to receive your posts.

  42. This looks great! I am relatively new to knitting, and I expect I will find d this very helpful! Very clear instructions and images.

  43. Rosa helena arango

    Gracias lo podrían traducir al espanol

  44. Thank you, Alina! What a beautiful edge! I am soon starting a shawl project, so I found you just in time! I was even more lucky to see your answer to someone else, on how to make it four-sided!
    I have one question though, in your example pieces the work seem to be purled on both sides. How is that done?

  45. Sandra Drouin

    Exactly what I was looking for!!!! Thank you for all your wonderful work.

  46. Erin Ambrose

    Hi there! I’m wondering if you think this would work with Linen stitch & this may be a stupid question – but do you add the 2 extra stitches on each side to your cast on quantity?

  47. Love this tutorial! Thank you!

  48. Hi Alina. Wonderful tutorial and thank you so much. Currently I’m working the button band of a cardi and I was wondering how I would make a buttonhole. It would be a matter of maybe knitting a couple of rows of the i cord and then re-attaching it to the side. But I was wondering if you had any tips for doing it?

    Once again thank you so much for the tutorial. Your pictures are so clear and you explain it perfectly! I’ve bookmarked your site, it’s just lovely.

  49. Phyllis Smith

    I have knitted an 18″ doll evening gown with train. If I pick up stitches on the bottom of the gown and train, would you suggest using your finishing stitches to keep the bottom from rolling?

  50. I came across your knitting page this morning whilst searching the net for info to help me with my knitting due to a medical problem that has developed. I have arthritis and my tension has changed (its looser than usual), its been so frustrating to have my knitting looking droopy and messy, this method has certainly helped me with the edging of my garments. Thank you very much.

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