A hem or facing is an edge that folds under to keep the knitting from curling or stretching. It is usually made to replace ribbing and can be made horizontally or vertically. It allows pieces to hang properly and is ideal for edges that do not hug the body. Hems can be used for lower edges of knit garments or necklines and front edges of cardigans and coats.

A hem can also be used to form a casing for elastic, such as at the top of a skirt. It can be worked at the same time as the piece or picked up after it is complete.

The edge of the hem can be distinct (turning ridge) or rounded (without turning ridge). The folded part of the hem should be made in a smooth stitch such as stockinette, regardless of the stitch pattern used for the piece, and should be worked on a needle at least one size smaller—possibly even two or three sizes smaller—than the needles used for the main body. You may have to increase or decrease stitches once the hem is complete, depending on the gauge of the stitch pattern above the hem. Try a small sample before you begin. Hems are not ideal to use with openwork patterns, since the folded area will show through.

The folded edge should be sewn to the garment as invisibly as possible with whipstitch or blindstitch or sewn, stitch by stitch, from the knitting needle.

turning ridges

A turning ridge is used to create a clean line that makes a neat edge when the hem is sewn in place. All ridges are made after the hem is the desired depth, whether they are at the lower or the upper edge. The piece worked before (at the lower edge) or after (at the upper edge) is the hem.

purl ridge picot ridge slip stitch ridge

Purl A ridge is formed by knitting the stitches through the back loops on the wrong side, thus forming a purl ridge on the right side of the work. On the following (right-side) row, begin the body pattern.

Picot This ridge is worked over an even number of stitches. Work the picot row on the right side as follows: Knit one stitch, *knit two stitches together, yarn over; repeat from the *, ending with a knit one. Slip stitch This turning ridge is worked over an odd number of stitches. Work the slip stitch row on the right side as follows: *Knit one. With the yarn at the front, slip one stitch, knit one; repeat from the * to the end.
knit-in hem

To reduce bulk, the cast-on edge is worked together with stitches on the needle so that sewing is not necessary.

knit-in hem knit-in hem knit-in hem
This knit-in hem was worked using a regular cast-on. Stitches were picked up along the cast-on row and placed on a spare needle. It should be noted that a knit-in hem is not easy to unravel if corrections must be made. 1. Work the hem to the desired depth and then make a turning ridge. Work the main piece until it is the same depth as the hem, end with a wrong-side row. Using a spare needle and separate yarn, pick up one loop from the cast-on edge for each stitch on the main needle. 2. Cut the extra yarn. Then fold up the hem and knit one stitch from the spare needle together with one stitch from the main piece as shown. Continue in pattern, beginning with a wrong-side row.

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