How to easily pick up stitches in knitting

image of knitting with stitches being picked up

One of my least favourite parts of knitting is when you have to pick up a gazillion stitches. No matter how well intentioned I am, I find that I am either way short or have way too many. I can’t even tell you how many times this has forced me to the frog pond (ripit ripit).

In my advancing age, I have finally become smarter less lazy more efficient, and infinitely more logical with my knitting. Are you scared yet?

What I now know (as I’m sure countless knitters before me do) is the divide and conquer method. We’ll use the current sweater I am knitting as an example.

The cable is done although I didn’t block it. I always leave that to the end – once the whole back/side combo (it’s a cardigan knit in one piece), then I’ll block it.  Here’s my method for evenly picking up stitches – it works on necks, arms, bottoms, sides, any part that requires the addition of stitches.

Get the longest crochet hook you can find. It is important to have a long one with as little a throat bump as possible. My particular favourite is an 8″ hook from Annie’s Attic (I don’t think that they sell them anymore – check ebay) that I cut off of a double ended crochet hook – I never used the thing when it was whole, but now that it’s in pieces, it totally rocks. It should be close to the width of the knitting needle you are using so as not to stretch or shrink the stitches. Luckily mine is a 4.5, same as my needle.

Unfortunately my cable is too long for a nice picture of this, so you’ll have to use your imagination

  1. Take your piece and put a coiless safety pin or a marker of some sort at the half way.
  2. Divide and mark the first half into two sections
  3. Divide and mark the second half into two sections
  4. Divide those sections into half
  5. Repeat as many times as you think you’ll need.

For my example, I had to pick up 192 stitches across my band. This meant I ended up with 8 sections marked off. In each of these 8 sections, I knew I had to pick up 24 stitches (8X24=192). You may have to fuss the stitch amounts so that you get a manageable amount of stitches in each section. If you’re working with weird indivisible numbers, well, don’t call me, I got 52 in math in high school.

So here’s how it’s done:

Step 1: Stick your crochet hook in the top of the first stitch. Wrap yarn over the hook and pull back through – you have 2 stitches now. Repeat across your first section until you have all of the stitches picked up. You don’t have to knit them, just pick them up.

Step 2: Transfer them oh so gently onto the knitting needle. Circulars are best because they’ll bend with you as you move along the row.


Step 3: Move onto the next section and repeat Step 1. You may choose to remove your marker because it generally takes up the room of a stitch, but it’s up to you.

Repeat steps 2 and 3 across. If you’re paranoid like me, you’ll want to stop and count every once and a while, even though you’re sure that you’ve got the right numbers. Remember: Arrogance goes before a frog.

4 -final-step

Once you have all of your stitches cast on (and counted!), you’ll purl back. Now there’s one important thing to note. You will have to purl through the back of the stitch to turn the stitches around. If you purl through the front, they’ll be twisted.

Here’s the final result. All 192 cast on and knitted happily.