garter stitch on the needles with a big loose edge stitch

Big loop on the final stitch of the row and uneven edges

This is a problem most of you will be very familiar with – if not now, then in the past: Your knitwork has uneven edges, and no matter how much you pull on your working yarn, the final stitch of every row is a gigantic loop that you don’t know what to do with. It’s frustrating because you don’t understand what you are doing wrong, and if you are not careful, you may accidentally knit into that big loop when you turn your work over, rather than the stitch on the needle that you are supposed to be knitting.

Well, I’m here to tell you, not to worry…

Front and back view of the problem: A super big loop on the final stitch of the row. Loose edge stitches are very common for new knitters.

Reasons for loose edge tension in knitting

First, let’s take a look at why it happens. The problem is not simply with that final stitch of the row, rather it’s a little bit of yarn slack that happens with every stitch, and the slack accumulates at the end of the knitted row. There are two major reasons why you end up with excess yarn in the last stitch of every knitted row:

  • Tension issues, uneven tension or loose tension
  • Repeatedly pulling the needles too far apart

If your problem is loose tension, rather than uneven tension, there are a few tricks you can do. You can tension the yarn by wrapping it around one or more fingers or maybe even wrap it double around a finger. You can also try giving the working yarn a tug after finishing every stitch. However, if you are a new knitter, you are more likely to be a tight knitter than a loose one (- That’s a whole separate problem, and I will try to help tight knitters in a future post…). A generally uneven tension is a more likely cause of the problem.

There are no quick fixes when it comes to tension issues. You can watch YouTube videos to see how other people hold their needles and their yarn, but there is no substitute for practicing for hours on end. Eventually, your tension will become consistent, your stitches will be even, and your edges will look pretty and smooth. I promise.

The other possible reason for your loose edge stitches is that you repeatedly pull the needle tips apart from each other. Each time, you stretch the yarn between the two neighboring stitches closest to the needle tips and create a small excess of yarn. Eventually, all that extra yarn travel right up to the last stitch of the row, leaving you with the giant loop and causing a random size of the edge stitches from row to row. The result is uneven edges. Pulling the needle tips apart is a bad habit that is pretty easy to beat. Pay attention to keep your needle tips close together at all times, and soon you will do so automatically.

garter stitch on the needles with the needles held too far apart
One reason for loose edge stitches can be that the needle tips are repeatedly pulled too far apart, stretching the yarn between the neighboring stitches. The yarn slack accumulates at the last stitch of the row. Keep your tips close together while knitting.

Ignore the problem till it goes away

When you first notice a giant end-of-row stitch it’s confusing and it looks like something is really wrong. The truth is, it’s not really a big problem at all. Once you have knit the first two stitches of the next row, the excess yarn is pulled tight, and you will hardly notice it. Admittedly, the edge will look less than perfect, but you are still learning so give yourself a break (or keep reading to learn tricks to use until your tension sorts itself out).

three part illustration that loose edge stitches doesn't matter much
You can simply ignore the giant loop and keep knitting. Be careful not to knit into the big loop, but as always the stitch on the needle. The excess yarn is pulled tight when you knit the first couple of stitches of the next row. The edge will look a bit wobbly, but it will get better with practice.

You do have to be a little careful, because a giant end stitch, can lead to another problem – accidentally creating a new stitch by knitting into the giant loop that is the stitch below. Don’t do that! Simply turn your work over, pull the working yarn below the needle and to the back, pull it tight, and knit into the stitch which is ON the needle, ignoring the giant loop. Keep knitting. With every knitted project you complete, the edge stitches will look nicer, and eventually, this problem will be a thing of the past.

A Trick for neater edges – slip the first stitch

There are several tricks to create neater, more even edges, even when your general tension is still all over the place. The different types of edges you can knit are in one word called selvedges. I am writing a post to showcase several of the more common selvedges, but here I will give you one of the simpler ones:

You slip the first stitch of every row knitwise, except on the first and the last row.

You slip the stitch by inserting the right needle tip into the stitch on the left needle as if to knit, and then you slip that stitch from the left to the right needle without involving the working yarn. Then you knit the next stitch as normal. What this does, is that the last stitch of the previous row, takes the place of the first stitch of the current row, and the stitch is pulled tight as it stretches over the space of two rows. The excess yarn becomes much less noticeable.

You may hear some people suggest instead that you slip the last stitch of every row, purlwise. The two methods are equivalent, and you can do whichever you prefer for the same result.

Here’s a video from iknitwithcatfur showcasing how you slip a stitch, both knitwise and purlwise:

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