tutorials: making a basic knit in hem

As noted in a previous post, one of the techniques I’m using on the revamped Samantha pattern is a knit in hem. A knit hem allows you to create a non-rolling edge on your piece in cases where ribbing, seed stitch, garter stitch, and other usual edging options aren’t quite what you’re looking for.

Today, I’ll be walking through the steps required for a basic knit in hem. Next week, I’ll be posting additional information on the variation used in Samantha, a knit in hem with a mock picot edge.

To knit in a hem, you’ll need:
-scrap yarn, in a color that contrasts well from your main yarn
-yarn you actually intend to knit with
-needles in the size you are using to get gauge
-needles one size smaller than those you are using to get gauge

Start by using scrap yarn and the smaller needles to cast on the number of stitches required. Beginning with a RS row, switch to your main yarn and work an even number of rows in stockinette stitch, still using the smaller needles. Here, I’ve cast on 20 stitches and knit 6 rows with a size 7 (US) needle:


Switch to your larger needles (here, an 8 US) and knit the same number of rows as you knit with the smaller needles, ending with a WS row:


Now, it’s time to pick up stitches from the bottom and knit in your hem. If you look at the wrong side of your knitting, you’ll notice that there is a row of bumps at the bottom where you switched from the scrap yarn to the main yarn:


These bumps are the stitches you’ll be picking up.

You should about to knit a RS row. With the RS facing you, use the left needle to pick up the first bump from the cast-on edge. This action should result in the hem beginning to fold so that the WS of the knitting faces in on itself, while the RS faces out on both the front and the back of the knitting:


Knit the picked up stitch together with the first live stitch on the left needle. Pick up the next stitch from the cast-on edge and knit it together with the next live stitch. Repeat to the end of the piece so that you have picked up all cast on stitches and knit each one together with one live stitch. The back of your piece should now look like this:


While the front looks like this:


Unravel your scrap yarn and continue knitting. After a few rows, you’ll notice the back of your knitting looking like so:


Once you’ve mastered the basic hem, you can try out variations to add some extra details to your knitting. There’s the mock picot edge I’ll be showing later, or you can knit the hem in a contrast color (the contrast color creates a particularly neat effect if you make a deep hem on flared sleeves). Leave a comment if you’ve done something interesting with knit in hems!

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9 Responses to tutorials: making a basic knit in hem

  1. Sarah says:

    Neat! I had tried a knit-in hem on a hat but it rolled terribly. But you use a smaller needle size for the back side, which I assume is what prevents it from rolling? Now I need to go cast on another hat to try this out!

    • catherine says:

      When you say “rolling”, do you mean the piece curled up on itself like a piece of stockinette with no edging would? If so, I’d guess part of the problem may have been that your hem was simply not long enough (although using smaller needles for the first half of the rows does help to keep things in place as well to some extent). If the hem is only a couple of rows deep it will not be very effective at preventing rolling.

      • Sarah says:

        Yes. That’s exactly what it did. It was very frustrating! It was about 5 rows deep – ten in total if you count the rows in the back. I’ll try going longer next time, as I think this is a potentially under-appreciated hem for hats.

  2. Milly says:

    That is awesome, I have never tried a knit hem before but am eager to find a project to use it.

  3. Sarah says:

    I do a purl row on the hem fold, I think it makes a neater fold

  4. Pingback: hemlines part two: making a mock picot edge |

  5. BPucks says:

    Thanks! I am a beginner and the directions in my books didn’t do the trick – sort of a visual girl and this was great! Looking at the dates I am a year late on this – haha! Super helpful! Thanks Studio Marlowe! Hats for all my Captains and Anglers with beautiful hems that will eventually have fish guts and marsh pluff mudd on them!

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