The 10 best edge stitch knitting techniques

How to knit an edge stitch – 10 neat selvage techniques for different projects and use cases.

Do your edges look wonky? Or does your knitting pattern require you to add “selvage stitches” and you have no idea what it means? Well, don’t worry! This tutorial is all about it and I will show you altogether 10 different edge stitch knitting techniques.

Why so many? Because not every knitting pattern behaves in the same way. Some are stretchier than others. Also, there are many different use cases, and of course, different people may find different edge stitches more beautiful than others. I would like to give you the choice.

Let’s take a look, eh?

Tip: Make sure to read my details on how to knit edges neatly if you are struggling with your tension. And here’s a post with 10 knitting tips that will make your knitting instantly look better.

What is an edge stitch?

comparing different selvage knitting techniques

The edge stitch, often called selvedge or selvage (self-finished edge), refers to the stitches on the left and right sides of a flat knitting project. A selvage can be one or more stitches wide. Typically, these stitches are added to the border of a knitting stitch pattern to create a neater edge, to make it easier to seam or pick up stitches, or to keep your knitting from curling.

The term originally came from weaving and sewing and referred to special edges that do not unravel. A lot of knitting patterns don’t specify which edge stitch you should pick. Often, you just read something like “cast on 20 stitches + selvage”. It’s up to the knitter to decide. It is, however, important to note that these are extra stitches you need to cast on.

The 10 best selvedges

A selvedge can be that little something that turns your finished projects from looking self-made into handcrafted. Not all of the 10 edge stitches I present you in this post are perfect for every project. Besides the pictures and the knitting instructions, you will find additional information on the suitability below every entry.

Also, kindly refer to my knitting terms glossary in case you stumble across an abbreviation you are unfamiliar with. And here’s how to read knitting patterns in case you need to catch up.

#1 Chain Stitch selvage

a swatch with a standard german chain stitch selvage

This is by far the most versatile and easiest selvage stitch. You will find it in many small variations and under different names. It’s sometimes called “chain edge” or “slip stitch edge” – and sometimes with regional variations like German slip stitch selvage, French or English slip stitch selvage.

wrong side of a standard german chain stitch selvage
The wrong side of the classic chain stitch selvage

Instead of getting confused by the different names and ways to knit it, you should rather try to understand the fundamental principle: You add one extra stitch on each side of your project. And then you slip that stitch in every second row.

Here’s the most common way to knit it:

  • Right side (RS): Slip the first stitch knitwise with yarn in back (sl1kwyib), … and knit the last stitch
  • Wrong side (WS): Sl first st purlwise with yarn in front (sl1pwyif), … and purl last stitch

However, since a purl stitch will appear exactly like a knit stitch from the other side, you can knit it in many different ways for the exact same outcome:

  • RS: Sl1kwyib, and purl the last stitch.
  • WS: Sl1kwyib, and purl the last stitch.

Or you could knit:

  • RS: K1….sl1kwyib
  • WS: P1….sl1pwyif

Where’s the difference? Theoretically speaking there is no meaningful difference. But every knitter struggles with different stitches. For example, if you struggle with keeping your last stitch neat, then the last option might be best since you only have to slip it. But if it’s the first stitch you are having trouble with, well then pick the first option. Or knit some swatches to check which version produces the best results for you and your yarn/style of knitting.

garter stitch chain stitch selvage

Now, this edge will look quite charming on stockinette stitch. There is one thing you do have to know, however. The final appearance of this edge stitch is defined by the adjacent stitch. So, if you want to knit a chain stitch selvage for garter stitch, you would have to change the repeat to:

  • Every row: Sl1pwyif, knit to end
close up of a garter stitch chain stitch selvage

What’s it good for: Creates a nice chain on both sides. Can be a bit harder to knit consistently but otherwise quite easy to remember. Not suitable for seaming, does not prevent curling, and only limited usability for picking up stitches.

Chain stitch edge – matching edges:

wrong side of the matched chain stitch selvage
If you look closely, you can see how the left leg is longer on both sides.

There is one technical geekery I have to share, though. The instructions for the standard chain stitch selvage will create mirrored edge stitches (like, for example, in SSK and K2tog). If you want edge stitches that look identical on both sides you have to knit it like this – or any permutation of it.

  • RS: Sl1pwyib….k1
  • WS: Sl1wyif as if to ptbl….purl

If you scroll back a bit, then you will see how the standard chain stitch selvage from above creates edges where the left leg is longer on the left side and the right leg is longer on the right side. As a result, both edges will behave in the same way. If you want them to LOOK identically, the last repeat might be better.

#2 Twisted slip stitch selvage

twisted chain stitch selvage - a variation of the a classic edge stitch

A simple twist (excuse the pun) of the classic chain stitch selvage is the twisted slip stitch selvage. Here, the legs of the edge stitches cross. A lot of shawl patterns seem to prefer this edge stitch.

close up of a standard twisted chain stitch selvage edge
The chains cross from left to right

Right leg crossing over the longer left leg:

  • Every row: Sl1kwyif, and knit the last stitch
close up of a twisted chain stitch selvage ptbl
The chains cross from right to left.

Left leg crossing over the longer right leg:

  • Every row: Sl1wyib as if to p1tbl, and purl the last stitch.

What’s it good for: Ornamental edge that can look a bit firmer. It’s not all that suitable for picking up stitches and less than ideal for seaming. I often find that the two edges look a bit mismatched, though.

#3 Garter stitch selvage (also knotted or beaded selvage)

a swatch with a simple garter stitch selvage

This is probably the most versatile edge ever. It’s super easy to remember, it works for almost all projects and it will even help a bit against the curling of stockinette stitch. For the right kind of project, garter stitch edges can be quite decorative.

  • Every Row: Knit the first and last stitch of every row
joining two garter stitch edges together with mattress stitch for an invisible seam
Joining two garter stitch edges together.

What’s it good for: Decorative and slightly firm border. Can be a smart choice for seaming if you want a purl ridge (like when you join ribbing or half-brioche stitch) or you need a flat seam (here’s how to seam garter stitch in an invisible way).

a twisted a swatch with garter stitch selvage (edge stitch)

For an even firmer edge, you can also knit it like this:

  • Every row: KTBL, …, ktbl

#4 Double or Triple Garter stitch selvage

a triple garter stitch selvage helping against curling of knitting
A triple garter stitch edge.

This is the easiest selvage option if you want to keep your stockinette stitch from curling. It adds quite a decorative border that lays perfectly flat.

  • Every row: Knit the first two (or three) and last two stitches (or three)

Depending on the size of your project, you may want to knit the first and last 3, 4, or even 5 of your project to get a more balanced look.

wrong side of a triple garter stitch selvage
Wrong side of the gater stitch edge

What’s it good for: Purely decorative border with quite a lot of give; not especially suitable for (invisible) seaming or picking up stitches.

#5 Double twist selvage

close-up of a double twisted selvage

If you are seeking a firm edge that creates one stitch for every two rows, then look no further. The double-twist selvage is probably your best choice in these cases:

  • Every Row: Sl1kwib, …, ktbl

What’s it good for: Super tight edge. Very difficult to pick up stitches. Can be quite hard to knit uniformly on both sides.

#6 Double seed stitch selvage

a swatch with a double seed stitch selvage to prevent knitting from curling

The classic seed stitch is a very pleasing knitting stitch pattern that can add a lot of structure to your edges. It will also help against curling in stockinette stitch. I personally feel it’s a bit prettier than the garter stitch option from above, yet behaves – in many ways – the same.

  • Every row: K1, p1,…. p1, k1

Of course, you can multiply the repeat as many times as you want. You could also do k1, p1, k1, p1…p1, k1, p1, k1 (and so on) for a much wider edge. In fact, I think this is where this edge truly shines – especially when you are knitting a blanket or similar projects.

What’s it good for: Purely decorative border for larger projects (like blankets, etc.); Not suitable for seaming or picking up stitches.

#7 Double stockinette stitch selvage

a swatch with a double stockinette stitch selvage

One of my personal favorite edge stitches uses the double stockinette stitch pattern. It may be a bit more difficult to knit but it does have so many interesting and smart use cases. Plus, it creates just such a beautiful round edge.

  • RS: K1, Sl1pwif, k1, …, k1, Sl1pwif, k1
  • WS: Sl1pwif, k1, sl1pwif, …, Sl1pwif, k1, sl1pwif
wrong side of a double stockinette stitch edge
The wrong side of the double stockinette stitch edge.

Of course, you can also knit the edge as wide as you like. You do have to be careful that double stockinette stitch has a slightly different gauge. So, I wouldn’t go too wide.

What’s it good for: Highly decorative border that may be used to prevent curling or even add drawstrings (as it creates a pocket); perfect also for smooth edges in brioche stitches. Not suitable for seaming or picking up stitches.

#8 I-cord edge

a knitted swatch with an icord edge

If you’ve ever knit a shawl, then you know how popular i-cords are. The basic knitting technique can be transferred to your edges as well. You’ll end up with a super round border that has a nice grip.

  • RS: Sl1pwyib, sl1pwyif, k1, …, k1, sl1pwyif, p1
  • WS: Sl1pwyib, k1, sl1wyif, …, sl1pwyif, k1, p1
close up of the classic icord edge selvage

What’s it good for: Highly decorative border that will mirror the look and feel of your i-cord bind-off and cast-on edges. Not really suitable for seaming or picking up stitches. Will curl a bit.

#9 Seam edge

a seam edge stitch also called stockinette stitch edge with a cable swatch

This should be your preferred method whenever you want to join two pieces together using mattress stitch. When done right, you will be able to create utterly invisible seams.

  • RS: K2, …, k2
  • WS: P2, …, p2

Depending on your knitting stitch pattern, you may consider knitting the first and last two or three stitches. This will give you a smoother transition toward your seam.

Also, unlike many other selvages, it doesn’t skip rows. While slip stitches may look pretty, they don’t allow you to account for the differences in gauge. Say you want to pick up stitches to knit in the other direction. Then you typically will have to skip every 3rd stitch (a typical gauge for stockinette stitch is something like 10 st x 14 rows).

What’s it good for: Perfect base for standard vertical seams or when you need to pick up stitches. Otherwise rather unspectacular edge that may curl.

#10 Brioche Stitch Selvage

a brioche stitch edge as shown on a swatch

This selvage is inspired by a reader who commented on one of my last posts. I couldn’t find any reference for this edge, though I heard a version of it is popular in Russian knitting. I call it brioche stitch selvage because it’s a very similar technique.

  • Row 1 (setup): Sl1pwyif, yo…
  • Row 2: Sl1pwyif, yo, …, p2tog
  • Row 3: Sl1pwyif, yo, …, k2tog
  • Repeat rows 2+3
wrong side and the edge of a brioche stitch selvage
The wrong side and a close-up shot of the edge.

What’s it good for: It creates a very balanced edge that is quite fluffy. Not for seaming, but I feel it can look perfect for a scarf.

How to find the perfect selvage for your project – things to consider

With all these alternatives, you are probably wondering which edge stitch will be the right one for your project. While looks are important, I really urge you to consider a couple of further tips:

The best edges for seaming

There’s a fundamental difference between an ornamental edge and an edge for seaming. The former only needs to be pretty, and maybe stretchy enough so you don’t mess up your gauge. But if you want to do any serious seaming, you want an edge that is firm enough to support your stitches, but not so bulky you are creating any big ridges on the wrong side.

In my opinion, the garter stitch edge and a stockinette stitch selvage are your best options here. Both can be joined quite effortlessly with mattress stitch.

Shaped edges

Not every object you knit will be rectangular (like a scarf, etc). Sometimes you end up with sloped shapes and curves. And while some selvages might be ideal to add a little bit of extra structure to a seam, those might be too tight for – say – the armpits of a sweater. Another example could be a triangular shawl, where you might need a little bit of extra stretchiness.

The reason? The distance between two stitches that are on top of each other is shorter than a diagonal (It’s simple geometry: Think of it as a square – the sides are shorter than the diagonal)

Edges for picking up stitches

picking up stitches from a seam edge stitch

When you want to pick up stitches from an edge, you should consider that your row gauge will probably differ from your stitch gauge. What do I mean? If you count the stitches you need to cover a 2×2 inch (5×5 cm) piece of fabric, the numbers won’t match. So, maybe it will be something like 20 stitches and 25 rows (just one example).

As a result, you would have to pick up three stitches for every 4 rows – at least if you don’t want your edges to flare (or pucker). And this means you often cannot use a selvage where you end up with only 1 edge stitch for every two rows. The only exception is the gusset of a sock, where the fabric will get narrower anyway. Here a slipped stitch selvage can be a great choice.

The best selvage for Lace Shawls, etc

When you block your knitting, you usually don’t overstretch it. But when you are knitting lace, you often want those eyelets to pop wide open, those picots to turn into nice little spikes, and so on. And in these cases, your edge stitches might end up constricting your shawl because they are not stretchy enough.

There’s an easy way to avoid that. Just add a yarn over before the edge stitch and drop it in the next round, or pull out the (slipped) stitch quite a bit after you knit the second stitch (don’t do it right after slipping). Normally, you wouldn’t do this as it will result in somewhat frilly edges. But in these cases, it will get you the extra bit of stretchiness that will look quite neat once you’ve blocked things to perfection.

Anyways, these are 10 edge stitch knitting techniques you should be aware of. comment below in case you still have any questions.

the 10 best edge stitch knitting techniques

39 thoughts on “The 10 best edge stitch knitting techniques”

  1. Hi Norman thanks for these ideas to try but I do have a question with regards as to decrease and increase rows? When the pattern calls for the inc/dec in the first and last stitch what do you do to keep the consistent look of the selvage?

    • Hey Sandra,

      quite honestly, I don’t know. I would never increase through the edge stitch because this will always look a bit weird. I always increase one or better two stitches in. The only possible exception would be doing a backward loop or knitted increase. but that will leave a little stair and may or may not be what you are looking for.

      • Norman, the tutorial on edge stitches is really helpful. I would love to see one about picking up stitches for a blanket border after the piece is finished. I am struggling because the blanket alternates several garter rows followed by several stockinette rows so I don’t know how to make an even, finished edge. Crochet does not work and I’m not sure if I should try to learn i-cord on a project this large. I love your tutorials and I wish I’d found you years ago!

  2. Hello, there’s a typo in the double stockinette stitch:

    WS as in the desciption above is
    WS: Sl1pwif, p1, sl1wif, …, Sl1pwif, p1, sl1pwif

    But should be:
    WS: Sl1pwif, k1, sl1wif, …, Sl1pwif, k1, sl1pwif

    Thanks a lot for the tutorials, best wishes.

    • Thx for catching that. you are absolutely right..or well..the answer is a bit more difficult but yes, it’s much better that way 🙂

  3. Hello Norman,
    Just starting a honeycomb scarf and the pattern starts with row 1:
    k to last 2sts, slip 2 wyif
    I would love you to explain what this means
    Thank you in anticipation

      • Sorry Norman not very good at explaining myself
        If I slip two stitches from one needle to the other then turn around to work the second row my yarn is two stitches in.
        Thank you for your advice.

        • I think that’s probably the whole point and it will create an icord edge or so. I don’t know what the goal is I can only help you with general questions 🙂

    • Yes, sure. Do understand, however, that every icord is basically stockinette stitch as well. So, you are adding stockinette stitch to stockinette stitch and this typically curls a lot.

  4. Thank you so much for your blog and you tube tutorials!! I’m obsessed.

    I’d like you advice: I’m making a large poncho with moss stitch along the bottom and up the edges. But I was thinking of adding two extra selvedge stitches to make a neater edge. Which stitch would you recommend or would you just leave moss stitch edge? Thanks so much!

    • that is nothing I can comment on. Where some people love an i-cord edge, others hate it, etc. It really boils down to preferences. My lace shawl#1 pattern has seed stitch and I did pick a neat selvage for it (in my opinion).

  5. Dear Norman, excellent list of options, examples, and pros & cons. A question on Option 7, are all the slip stitches purlwise? You specify in all but one:
    RS: K1, Sl1pwif, k1, …, k1, Sl1pwif, k1
    WS: Sl1pwif, k1, sl1wif, …, Sl1pwif, k1, sl1pwif << 3rd stitch here does not have direction to slip

    Thank you. Green Gal

  6. Hi Norman, I’ve only worked with one pattern that included the step of adding a selvedge stitch. The other projects I’ve completed didn’t include that – not all required but some would have been better if they’d had a nice, finished edge. Do you recommend automatically adding selvedge stitches even if the pattern doesn’t call for it?

    • no, I don’t recommend that – espcially if it’s seamed. That being said, I do feel knitting is about making your own choices. So if you don’t like a certain edge, sure why not. But there are many projects I could think of where adding one would actually be not a good idea.

  7. Hi Norman.
    I’m trying to do a scalloped crochet border on a large stockinette piece. It always seems to look a little wonky on the vertical edges in comparison to the neater cast on and bind off rows. Do you have a recommendation for a good selvedge for adding crochet borders?

    • not really. I mean your crochet border is bound to have a different gauge. So any selvage that slips stitches is probably a bad idea…except you go up a hook size or two.
      So for it to really look perfect you would have to knit quite a couple of swatches an experiment around.

  8. Just a quick comment. I now know how to make a great right side (knit)edge because of your tutorial. I am going to assume that the wrong side (purl) is also a matter of not stretching the yarn and don’t tighten until after the second stitch? Love your tutorials!

  9. Hi Norman!
    I am looking for a selvedge for the linen stitch. I am making a table runner with the linen stitch and bulky yarn. I want an edge that will lay flat like the linen stitch. Do you have any suggestions? I tried the I cord but the stitches look really big compared to the linen stitches.
    Thank you so much if you have time to help me.

  10. I think there is still a typo remaining in the double stockinette stitch selvage pattern. viz.

    RS: k1, sl1pwif, k1, …, k1, sl1pwif, k1
    WS: sl1pwif, k1, sl1pwif, …, sl1pwif, k1, sl1pwif

    If you have a video of knitting with this selvage then please provide a link.

    The problem is that after finishing a WS row with (k1, sl1pwif) it is _not_ possible to start the very next RS row with a (k1)! The yarn is already at back due to the sl1pwif from the prior row but the yarn is not in any way entangled with that purl-wise slipped stitch. Attempting to start the subsequent RS row with a k1 _necessarily_ fails to entangle!

    After trying numerous variations on the ending of each WS row and the start of each RS row, I think you will find that the nicest appearance is achieved by starting every RS row with a p1 (_not_ a k1). viz.

    RS: p1, sl1pwif, k1, …, k1, sl1pwif, k1
    WS: sl1pwif, k1, sl1pwif, …, sl1pwif, k1, sl1pwif

    • I am sorry Najevi, but the instructions are correct. The yarn does not need to be twisted/entangled. In fact, it shouldn’t.
      However, if you prefer your version, go ahead. That’s what this article is all about.

  11. Double stockinette triple selvage stitch

    Addendum to earlier comment (still in moderation)

    I can’t believe I missed the forrest for the tree! A far easier (and better looking) remedy is to not alternate the selvage stitches betwen RS row and WS row. viz.

    RS: sl1pwif, k1, sl1pwif, …, k1, sl1pwif, k1
    WS: sl1pwif, k1, sl1pwif, …, k1, sl1pwif, k1

    • i am not quite sure what you are up to Najevi. Again, if you like the way this looks go ahead. But it will NOT produce double stockinette stitch.


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