Tutorial: Knitted-on Border

A knitted-on border is a great way to add an interesting edge to a shawl or wrap, or to add some decoration to the edge of a sweater or tank. I’ve used this technique many times, including the hem of the Demeter Camisole, in garter stitch as the edging for my second Pi Shawl, and most recently the border for the Foliage Shawl, which will be released tomorrow.

The most wonderful thing about a knitted-on border is that it gives you an edge that is not only decorative, but elastic enough to withstand severe blocking. Quite often, the stretch and openness of lace will be too much for a traditional bound off edge and an alternative must be found. There are many bind-offs specifically for lace, but none of them give quite the same decorative touch as a knitted-on border.

The basic premise behind a knitted-on border is that the border stitches are worked at a 90 degree angle to the body stitches. The border is joined to the body as you work border rows by a joining decrease. This joining decrease can be any kind of decrease, but I prefer a k2tog tbl because it gives a nice firm join without any sloppy open stitches.

So let’s start with the pictures, shall we?

Begin by casting on the number of stitches needed for the border. As you can see I have just attached the body yarn (mauve) to the border yarn (gray) by way of a simple overhand knot. I usually undo my knots later and weave in the ends. But if you were doing the border in the same yarn as the body, then you wouldn’t even need to attach anything, just continue with the same yarn. For ease of demonstration though, we will use 2 different colors of yarn. I used a cable cast on here because I like the nice firm edge.

Work in border pattern until you have one stitch left from the border and one stitch left from the body. Here you can clearly see them – one gray, one mauve. And work a joining decrease using one border and one body stitch. This joining decrease has 2 purposes. 1. It attaches the border-in-progress to the body, and 2. It anchors the body stitch so that it will not unravel. It’s like binding it off, but without involving any other body stitches.

After working a joining decrease, you will turn the piece and work the next border row. But in order to give a flat join and minimize bulk, I like to slip the first border stitch (which is incidentally, the stitch that you just created by working the joining decrease). The stitch to be slipped is the first border stitch closest to the body stitches.

If you continue in this fashion, joining every other border row to the body via a joining decrease, you will begin to see how the border is attached. It can be difficult to see this after only a few rows, but persevere! Here you can clearly see the right angle at which the border is knitted on to the body.

This is an alternate view of the same point, where you can see the way the body and the border stitches twist together to form the joining decrease.

Here you can see the back view of the same point. The knitted on border is clean and even on both right and wrong sides.

A knitted-on border can be worked with a variety of needle preferences. I like to use the same circular needle that is holding my live body stitches to work the border, and if I weren’t using a different color completely, I would place a stitch marker before the final border stitch next to the body so that I would slip the marker and then know to work the joining decrease.

Continue with the border rows until all of the body stitches are used up. I like to finish with a joining row. I work the final row, binding off as I go, until I have one body and one border stitch left, then work my joining decrease and bind off the final stitch. As you can see, the edge lies flat and even this way.

Here you can see how the finished border rows and body stitches meet. There is a tiny bit of mauve peeking out from the border rows where the joining decrease stitches intertwine.

In this close-up you can see how the body rows (mauve) are worked horizontally, and the border rows (gray) are worked vertically.

I hope you found this tutorial useful and clear. If you’ve got any questions, please leave them in the comments and I will answer them in the comments.

Come back tomorrow for the release of the Foliage Shawl pattern.

M

Comments 53

  1. Leslie wrote:

    This is a fantastic tutorial. I have a really hard time reading something like this and understanding it, I am more of a visual person. You have made this for me, with the use of your pictures, extremely easy and clear in a way that makes sense.
    Thank you.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 10:16 AM
  2. Tina wrote:

    Do you slip the stitch purl wise or knit wise after the turn? Great pictures. Pretty knitted on border, looks like the foliage shawl will be a fun knit.

    Added by Mim: I slipped it purlwise with the yarn in back.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 12:17 PM
  3. Jen wrote:

    Thanks for the great tutorial, it was very clear and I have a question, if you’re doing the decreasing join on the WS of the border why k2tog rather than p2tog? is is just the border pattern or for a structural reason?

    Added by Mim: I knitted it because I like a garter stitch look where the border joins the body. I think it gives a nice textural transition. It doesn’t HAVE to be knitted, but you will get a different look (clearly). What I mean to say is that there is no STRUCTURAL reason why it HAS to be a knitted decrease

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 12:19 PM
  4. AmyP wrote:

    Great tutorial – I could have done with this a few years ago when I first came across this technique – it would have made it a heck of a lot less scary!

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 12:44 PM
  5. Judy wrote:

    thanks for a great tutorial.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 2:53 PM
  6. Mary Jane wrote:

    Thank you for this pictorial! After several weeks of biting my nails trying to figure out how this works, I took a leap of faith and used a fairly simple lace edging pattern to bind-off the live edge of a center start shawl. It worked! I proudly wore this to my knitting guild dinner last week and was telling all who asked about knitted on edges. The books ” A Gathering of Lace” and “Victorian Lace Today” have wonderful patterns for this. VLT has very good pictures/description of how to turn corners doing this. I highly recommend both.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 3:49 PM
  7. Angie wrote:

    Great tutorial, thanks! This is one of those techniques where I always thought, “oh sure, I could do that,” but I never really took the time to think out exactly HOW I could do it. Your simple and clear instructions and photos really helped me to see it all clearly!

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 4:53 PM
  8. Anne wrote:

    I have a question… Gauge. How carefully to you have to plan your border gauge to match your main piece gauge? When I seam things that are perpendicular (you know what I mean–like sleeves), I figure 4 rows for every 3 sts. If I just knitted on a border, would it pucker?

    Added by Mim: I find that with lace it’s not such an issue. Since there is a lot of extra room in lace and you’re not really blocking it to a specific measurement (for a garment like a shawl or something similarly one-sized). If there is a bit of extra in the border, I just pull the border a bit farther out. If there is not enough, I pull the border a bit closer in. When working with lace it’s really forgiving. But if you were going to work a knitted-on border to something where gauge IS an issue, you would want to adjust the size of needle used for the border so that you get a ratio of 2:1 (2 border rows to 1 body stitch) after blocking.

    Posted 20 May 2008 at 7:04 PM
  9. Michelle wrote:

    Excellent tutorial. I will most definitely be bookmarking this for future reference. Thanks for taking the time to pull this together!

    Posted 22 May 2008 at 8:09 AM
  10. Shirley wrote:

    This is great. I have been thinking about trying a knit on border now thanks to you I know I will. You made it very clear.

    Posted 23 May 2008 at 6:33 AM
  11. Diana wrote:

    Great job helping those of us who are visual learners! Thanks so much.

    Posted 23 May 2008 at 2:34 PM
  12. mai wrote:

    thanks for writing up this tutorial! i’ve never knit anything with a knitted-on border, but i might have to now!

    Posted 29 May 2008 at 10:26 AM
  13. Yarnzie wrote:

    I’ve been struggling with knitting the border onto a stole from Victorian Lace Today all week – your tutorial just made it all drop into place! Thank you!

    Posted 07 Jun 2008 at 10:42 AM
  14. Anne Kaelber wrote:

    Excellent tutorial—and beautiful work! Do you have a good source of edgings you could suggest/recommend?

    What about borders which must turn corners on rectangular shawls? How does that work?

    Anne.

    Posted 13 Sep 2008 at 4:53 AM
  15. kicki wrote:

    Thanks!

    I was going mental at my pattern which didn’t give enough clues at all…

    excellently clear tutorial!
    :)

    Posted 08 Jan 2009 at 1:42 PM
  16. Laura H wrote:

    Thank you for this tutorial! The border of my first shawl is coming up quickly, and I’ve been having an awful time trying to visualize whether I was supposed to use two needles for this or three, and what was happening to all of the stitches while I decreased the border to the shawl.

    It is much clearer now!
    -Laura

    Posted 23 Mar 2009 at 2:26 PM
  17. J Bisha wrote:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial. I am knitting the Bridal Sachet Bag from Interweave and got up to the border, but could not for the life of me figure out how to accomplish it. Tried many things and then decided to try the net. It worked! Thank you for your clear instructions.

    Posted 29 May 2009 at 1:19 PM
  18. Moz wrote:

    Fabulous visuals! I linked you to a post in Ravelry to explain what a knitted-on border was. When you’ve never done one explaining the technique is very hard without some photos. Thank you!

    Posted 24 Jul 2009 at 2:47 PM
  19. Esther wrote:

    How would you turn a corner in a lace edging?

    Posted 04 Oct 2009 at 1:18 PM
  20. Mim wrote:

    You turn the corner with a series of short rows that make the edge of the border longer than the part that attaches to the body, so that you have a bunch of rows that all only feed back in to one corner stitch.

    Posted 04 Oct 2009 at 4:40 PM
  21. Cecelia wrote:

    This is a wonderful tutorial on knitted on borders. And I hate to sound new but I am very new to this part of knitting, having never attached a border to anything I’ve knitted. Sooooo… exactly how do you work a joining decrease? Do knit either stitch on the needle or do you simply slip the right hand stitch over the left hand stitch?

    Posted 06 Oct 2009 at 7:55 PM
  22. Mim wrote:

    The joining decrease is just a decrease, which one you use will change the effect. For the tutorial I used a k2tog tbl, as stated. But you could use a k2tog, an ssk, or ANY decrease.

    Posted 10 Oct 2009 at 5:05 AM
  23. Cathy wrote:

    Is it possible to attach this border to a finished edge? I have a completed shawl that I’d like to add a border to.

    Posted 26 Oct 2009 at 4:59 PM
  24. Mim wrote:

    Cathy:
    Yes, you could attach it to a completed border, but you would need to pick up stitches along the finished edge in order to attach the border. I would suggest using this method and picking up stitches at a rate that will accomodate the blocked row gauge of the border pattern to ensure that it will block without puckering.

    Posted 26 Oct 2009 at 6:26 PM
  25. Linda wrote:

    Thanks for the tutorial. I was wondering how to attach an edge lace to an already bound off shawl to make it larger without having to undo about 300 bound off sts.

    Posted 01 Nov 2009 at 9:23 PM
  26. Mim wrote:

    Linda, check out my response to Cathy directly above your comment.

    Posted 02 Nov 2009 at 7:08 AM
  27. Kendall wrote:

    Thank you so much for posting this tutorial. I’ve been wondering how to do this for so long, and now I can!
    ^_^

    Posted 20 Nov 2009 at 1:59 PM
  28. Saundra wrote:

    Very clear instructions and perfect visuals. Thank you.

    Posted 03 Dec 2009 at 8:55 PM
  29. Janet wrote:

    Can you please post pictures of the short rows you use to turn a corner?

    Also, this is great. I, too, am a visual learner and reading about what to do just wasn’t helping.

    Posted 27 Jan 2010 at 9:34 AM
  30. Mim wrote:

    Hi Janet. Each short row border is different, so a tutorial wouldn’t help very much. If you need a tutorial on short rows, knittinghelp.com has a video on this page titled “Short Row with wrap” that should help you.

    Posted 28 Jan 2010 at 7:45 AM
  31. diann wrote:

    Hello Mim,

    Great tutorial. The border pattern is beautiful. Where could I find.

    Thank You
    Diann

    Posted 31 Jan 2010 at 6:58 PM
  32. Mim wrote:

    Diann, the border pattern is the border from the Foliage Shawl.

    Posted 31 Jan 2010 at 8:37 PM
  33. MaryjoO wrote:

    my sanity is saved, and thank goodness for the internet as I am not sure when you posted this.

    I’m at the stage on a shawl that I need to start this and spatially speaking, unfortunately I am hopeless. So thank you SO much for posting this … I will not proceed!!

    Posted 23 Aug 2010 at 11:21 AM
  34. Melissa wrote:

    Love your work, Mim. It’s so delicate, intricate and inspiring – thank you for your really clear tutorials.

    Posted 27 Jan 2011 at 5:13 PM
  35. Victoria wrote:

    Thank you for your excellent tutorial with great photos. Now I know I can join an edging to a knitted piece. In the case of bordering the edge of a square, how does one do the corners? The border almost needs to be shaped like a trapazoid.

    Posted 29 Jan 2011 at 8:42 AM
  36. Mim wrote:

    Corners are usually done with a set of short (meaning not complete) rows. that make the outside border edge longer than the inside border edge. But where the turning points of these short rows lies is a matter of aesthetics and depends very much on the lace pattern that you’re working with. It’s also dependent on how much of an angle you have to work around. Sorry there’s not a quick or easy answer on how to do it.

    Posted 31 Jan 2011 at 2:17 PM
  37. Susan wrote:

    Thanks you so much! for sharing this with us. I can’t wait to try it.

    Posted 25 Sep 2012 at 5:09 AM
  38. Fulay wrote:

    Thank you for this great tutorial. May I link to it on ravelry or on our blog? Please do let me know.

    Posted 07 Jul 2013 at 11:47 AM
  39. Mim wrote:

    Thank you! And you may definitely link to it either place. I’m mimknits on Ravlery if you want to ear-burn me :)

    Posted 08 Jul 2013 at 1:13 PM
  40. Debi wrote:

    Hi Mim, THANK YOU for this great tutorial! Am knitting from a pattern that was so vague about adding the border to a baby sweater, and you have saved the day. Your pictures were perfect!

    Posted 08 Sep 2013 at 5:11 AM
  41. Deb wrote:

    Good to know how stretchy this join is.

    How would you join a perpendicular border like this to a cast-on or selvedge edge? For example, if I was adding a button band, or joining as-I-go a second vertical strip of an afghan?

    Do you pick up a stitch through the edge stitch, and do the joining decrease with the picked-up stitch?

    Or maybe you do the joining decrease with the last border stitch and the edge stitch?

    Thank you.

    Posted 21 Oct 2013 at 5:34 PM
  42. Mim wrote:

    Deb, either way would work. You can either just catch the edge stitch up on your needle and join the border by knitting the last border stitch together with the caught edge stitch, or you can pick up stitches THROUGH the edge stitches and use those like live body stitches to join to as instructed in the tutorial.

    If you are joining to an edge like this though (either selvedge edge with catch stitches or cast on or bound off edge) it’s a static edge. The live body stitches in the original tutorial are not static. They stretch and ease in the border, so the 2 border rows to 1 body stitch ratio can work. With a static edge I would do a bit of swatching and calculation to ensure that you pick up or catch the right number of stitches from the body to ensure that the border doesn’t ruffle. And if you are picking up stitches rather than catching stitches, I would also recommend picking them all up at once like you would if you were knitting on a button band. That way they are there, live, with one piece of yarn that can shift and tension to ensure that the picked up stitches turn out even.

    Posted 22 Oct 2013 at 8:09 AM
  43. carolsacks53@yahoo.c wrote:

    Thank you for this terrific and very clear tutorial!

    Posted 07 Feb 2014 at 12:55 PM
  44. carolsacks53@yahoo.c wrote:

    Thank you for this terrific tutorial! Very clear and understandable.

    Posted 07 Feb 2014 at 12:56 PM
  45. diane wrote:

    How do I knit a border on a sweater using circular needles? I JUST CAN’T SEE HOW IT WOULD WORK.
    Regards
    Diane

    Posted 14 Feb 2014 at 5:39 AM
  46. mary wrote:

    What is the lace edging pattern you used in this tutorial–it is beautiful. Thanks for the explanation.

    Posted 02 Mar 2014 at 3:38 PM
  47. Mim wrote:

    Hi Diane, it works the same with circular needles as with straight needles. Right after you’ve worked the joining decrease, both needle points are at the join between body and border, then you flip your work over, and using the needle tip that’s now on the right you will work across the back of the border. All the body stitches can hang out on the cable of the circular needle until they’re needed for the join.

    Posted 15 Mar 2014 at 4:18 PM
  48. Mim wrote:

    It’s the Fancy Leaf Edging from The Ultimate Sourcebook of Knitting & Crochet Stitches that I used in my Foliage Shawl. I’m glad you enjoyed the tutorial!

    Posted 15 Mar 2014 at 4:22 PM
  49. Kat wrote:

    Thanks so much for this tutorial! I was completely lost on this method.

    Posted 24 May 2014 at 9:06 PM
  50. Cheryl wrote:

    I have been having trouble trying to understand how to knit a border onto a rectangle baby shawl. The pattern that I have didn’t explain it properly, your tutorial has really cleared things up for me.

    Thank You.

    Posted 24 Aug 2014 at 12:22 AM
  51. Hollycat wrote:

    Is there any chance you might be planning to make a YouTube video of this technique?

    Posted 27 Aug 2014 at 10:57 AM
  52. Mim wrote:

    That’s great! Thanks Cheryl!

    Posted 28 Aug 2014 at 7:39 AM
  53. Mim wrote:

    I’ll see what I can do. Next time I’m doing a video technique I’ll add it to the list :D

    Posted 28 Aug 2014 at 7:39 AM

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