Adding a No-Roll Hem to a Stockinette Sweater

The Gathered Pullover, like many stockinette sweaters, has a simple "rolled" hemline–you cast on at the bottom, and just start knitting in stockinette stitch. The stockinette causes the edge of the hem to gently roll upwards, providing an attractive, simple finish. A "curling" hem such as this does not pull in, as a ribbed hem might; it doesn't add another design element to an elegantly simple design, as another stitch pattern at the hem might. Plus: It's easy.

A plain folded hem on the Venezia

However, there are times when you do not want a rolled hem, but you do want something simple that compliments the rest of the sweater. Also, for some of us, a rolled hem adds visual bulk at a point in our silhouette where perhaps we don't need any extra bulk: hips, waist, etc.

When I was casting on for my second, skinnier version of the Gathered Pullover, I decided to do a knitted, folded hem rather than the rolled edge called for in the pattern. Yes, a folded hem adds a teensy bit of bulk at the hips, but it lays flat, it does not distract from the overall design of the sweater, and it is pretty easy to do.

There are several ways to do a knitted, folded hem. Eunny Jang used a plain folded hem on her Venezia Pullover; I used a picot version on my Gathered Pullover. Both work the same way:

Step 1: Casting on for a folded hem

I wanted my hem to be as neat and flat as possible, so I started off right at the beginning: I cast on all the stitches for the bottom of the sweater using a provisional cast-on. (I used the crochet provisional cast-on, but you can use the one you like best.)

Step 2: Working the first half of the hem

This part is easy—simply knit upwards for the "length" you want your hem to be. I knit for six rounds. This is going to be the part of the hem which is folded to the wrong side of your fabric.

A picot hem on my Gathered Pullover

Step 3: The turning, or fold-over, round

You can choose whether you want a plain edge, like Eunny used on the Venezia, or a picot edge, like I used on my Gathered Pullover. For a plain edge, simply work another knit round and continue to the next step. For a picot pattern, where you end up with little points along the edge where you fold the fabric over, work the fold-over round as follows: [k2tog, yo] all the way around.

Step 4: Working the second half of the hem

Same as the first: Knit. BE SURE that you knit EXACTLY the same number of rounds here as you did for the first half so the hem lays flat. I knit another six rounds.

Step 5: The hemming round

First, undo whatever you used to hold the provisional stitches down at the cast-on and carefully put all the live stitches onto a second needle.

See how neat and flat this is? Beautiful.

Bring this second needle with the live cast-on stitches to the wrong side of the fabric, folding at the fold-over round, and holding this second needle in back of your main (first) working needle. (Got all that?)

Now, knit your next round like this: Knit together one stitch from the front needle and one from the back, working this like a k2tog. Do this all the way around.

And that's all there is to it! Once that round is done, just keep on knitting as the pattern calls for. Once you've learned this technique, you can also apply it to sleeve hems, or even knitted-on button bands. In fact, this hem is so tidy on the wrong side of the fabric that you can even use it at either end of a stockinette scarf!

Join in the community discussion! Leave a comment!

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? A bit past the hem of the New Skinnier Gathered Pullover.

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74 thoughts on “Adding a No-Roll Hem to a Stockinette Sweater

  1. When I made the Tilted Duster I didn’t like the way the stockinette bits curled so I opted for a hem like Elizabeth Zimmerman talks about in Knitting Workshop. It’s more or less an afterthought hem in that you pick up stitches from the cast on edge and put the hem on after the fact instead of planning for it ahead of time.

  2. That’s all fine for a bottom up sweater, but what about a top down? I’d love to do a picot hem like that but don’t want to sew much of anything. Have any tips?

  3. I would add one modification to your excellent directions on a knitted hem that is plain. Cast on 90 percent of the stitches that you want your hem to be (that is, subtract 10 percent from the total), the row before you turn, add in those 10 percent of the stitches using an invisible increase (it ain’t gonna show anyway). Then do the turning row. Knit the rounds with the now 100% of the stitches, then at the knitting together, 1 in 10 of the “front” stitches will be knit alone, the other 9 in 10 as you indicate.

    This prevents the knitted hem from flaring out — more important the bulkier the yarn is.

  4. Tammy: I’ve done a picot cuff to my toe-up socks a few times. You knit until it’s as long as you want, then k2tog, yo etc. Then you knit 5-6 rows in stockinette. Instead of casting off and then sewing the edge down, I like to sew the live stitches to the wrong side of the fabric. It keeps it nice and stretchy. I hope that makes sense 🙂

  5. Ooops, I think Adriana and I were posting at the same time. Will her method work for something like a scarf where both hems could be visible at the same time? I mean, will there be a visible difference in the bottom-up hem and the top-down hem?

  6. To make it a bit less cumbersome when you get to the point of turning up the hem and knitting 2 together off two needles, I go round first and just slip one off each needle alternately. This means that all the stitches are on the same needle, and then you can just go round and K2tog.
    Thanks for all the fantastic posts and patterns!!

  7. I like to do the picot hem at the top of socks sometimes. (I always do socks toe-up.) It’s nice, neat, lays flat and adds a little feminine touch at the top of my ankles.

  8. Thank you for the simple instructions for a folded hem! I love the look of folded hems, but was always intimidated by sewing it down afterwards. Now, is there an easy way to do it knitting top down (as opposed to bottom up, in your example)that doesn’t include hours of finicky sewing? Example: how could you add the same folded picot detail to the neckline that you have at the hem and sleeves, knitting a sweater bottom up, or add the detail to the hem and sleeves of a sweater you are knitting top down?

  9. I love simple knitted hems, but I do two things not mentioned in this article: a) I make the turning row a “ridge” of purls by purling that row — it makes the fold lie nice and flat; b) I knit the part that’s on the inside on needles one size smaller than the rest of the garment — it keeps the hem from flaring and makes it “tidier”, in my opinion.

  10. As a machine as well as a hand knitter, I would strongly recommend Susan H’s method. It is used regularly in machine knitting and works really well. Mildred D.

  11. I for one would like to THANK YOU! for the “Share your comment” spot on the newsletter, ever since last Nov. it has been missing and
    made it very hard to respond
    to the letter and see the posts:)

  12. Ooooo, I like it! I have a handknit Fair Isle that I bought at LL Bean that has a similar hem, and I’ve always envied it’s clean line. Thanks Sandi!!

  13. Very cool! I am still so in love with the Venezia pullover, but I am working my way up to being Fearless with my stranded knitting; steeks scare the bejeezus out of me!

    I love the hemmed edge because it looks so neat and professional. I’ve used it on the brims of hats before, too, and it’s splendid! My favourite hat (a beret) has it as a design feature, and it’s very snug and comfy. 🙂

  14. If you P2 tog instead of K2 tog, the picot edge will be sharper, more dramatic, and turn easier.

    If you think you will be short of yarn, or you just want the surprise, you can do the middle rows of the inside hem in a complementary yarn. Just make the sure the end rows of the inside hem is in the yarn of the outside of the garment. If your yarn is bulky, using a lighter weight yarn for the hem works nicely.

  15. Sandi, Question…I have always found it beneficial to do the hem facing (the part that will be on the inside) on a size smaller needle. Since the circumference is less than the body, this smaller needle makes up that difference.

  16. I would very much like the pattern featured at the top right hand side of today’s ‘Knitting Daily’ (17th April) under “Lion Brand” I would like to knit it for myself. Hope you can help.Many thanks. Helen

  17. I always do a knitted cast-on instead of a provisional cast-on when working this sort of hem — is there a difference in the final appearance of the seam, in your opinion?

  18. Sandi,
    You’re right, that rolled edge adds bulk and thats why I haven’t worn my sweater 🙁 Is there any way to change the finished edge on a sweater that is already finished with the simple rolled hemline. Would there be a way to pick up stitches (around the waist area) and then rip back to the cast on and reknit a new edge from the top down…Maybe it would be easier to just knit another sweater.

  19. Hmmm … I was always taught that the “inside” part of the hem needs to be done on a slightly smaller needle, so as to reduce the bulk and keep it from flaring, and that an all knit hem should have one turning purl row. Why is it that neither of those are used here? Clearly, your way works as the hem looks lovely. But would it be less bulky with these employed?

  20. Love that flat hem and have used it several times. On a couple of occasions, I reduced the bulk further by using needles that were one size smaller for knitting the first, or “inside” portion of the hem.

  21. Hi there,
    thank you very much for this very handy explanation of the folded hem. A slight variation I sometimes use: The “middle” row (in this example the 7th row) can also be purled, so the hem “folds” better.
    Thank you very much for those step-by-step-explanations of very useful techniques !!
    All the best,

  22. I thought this hemming idea really interesting and I enjoyed all the comments. As my memory is not all that wonderful (and I keep losing notes – by the way I am over 80!) I will knit a little sample instead of copying laboriously.
    Thank you.

  23. The bottom up directions are great – crystal clear. But I agree with some of the other posts. Would like to see some top down directions for doing this hem as well.

  24. Did you use the same size needle for both the “inside” and “outside” of the hem?
    I read somewhere that using a smaller needle for the inside helped the hem to lay flat. Yours looks just fine.

  25. Cat Bordi has a wonderful suggestion in her latest sock book (New Pathways) that could be adapted to a sweater hem:

    Cast on double the number of stitches on two circular needles using Judy’s Magic Cast-on

    see <>

    And knit in the round for the length of the hem.

    Then turn the knitting so the stockinette side is face out, and proceed to step 5 in Sandy’s directions. (In Cat Bordi’s book, this is described under the Cobblestone Cuff)

    jmtcw, Avery

  26. Don’t be afraid of steeks. I was until I had the joy of repairing a family heirloom of my boyfriends. It is a child’s Norwegian stranded knit cardigan with fabric faced edges that are embroidered. It was handed down to the “next” in the family (sweater is probably about 40 or 50 years old). It has been worn by LOTS of kids and damaged and mended by people who didn’t know how to deal with yarn. I saw a couple of moth holes and volunteered to darn it. While I had it, I examined its construction in much detail and took lots of pictures. It had been knitted with steeks, machine sewn before cuttting the steeks and stitches picked up and knitted afterwards. All machine thread at steeks was perfectly fine, in place, and nothing had raveled after years and years and generations of hard wear by children. Now I don’t fear steeks. Give it a try if you like doing stranded color-work.

  27. The other choice is that you can purl a row and that will create a really flat turn edge. You then knit the same number of rows before attaching the hem or you can sew it in to place later on.

  28. I added this style of edge to a baby cardi but it is flipping up. Showed it to a more experienced knitter who thought the problem might be that I needed to cast on about 5% fewer stitches for the hem than for the body. I did use smaller needles but that seems to not have been enough. I will do surgery on the cardi to correct it but I have to make another. Any advice? Also i did one row of purl to create the edge.

  29. Sandi, I am totally jealous that you get to look at the Original Venezia. Jealous. Do you guys ever go into your vault and fondle the knits? Someone should make a badge (I fondle Yarn)

  30. Please can you do an article/tutorial on how to do the hem at the end of a garment instead of the beginning? It’s the finishing attachment on the inside of the piece I can’t picture. Thanks!

  31. Could there be more photos of the hem knitting/making in progress? With knitting I need words and pictures … and in this case, I could use more pictures? Can anyone point to such images elsewhere on the net or in a book? Thanks

  32. Love the picot edge to your sweater! Much prettier than the rolled hem. In the past I’ve used a smaller yarn, say sportweight, to worsted in the same or similar color to reduce bulk in the hem. This has the added advantage of pulling the hem in slightly to prevent flare.

  33. Thanks for the tip on creating a folded hem. I once read that it is helpful to knit a row of purl for the turning row which would ease folding the hemline. I think it was Elizabeth Zimmermann who offered this helpful hint.
    Deedle Whitcher, San Luis Obispo. CA

  34. I like your directions for the hem. Being an old machine knitter and hand knitter, I just have one suggestion. Sometimes a hem done this way will flip up. Just knit the first part of the hem on a smaller needle and it will lay down nice and flat.

  35. Maybe for a hem on a top-down sweater you could double the stitches, (yo, k1) all the way around, at the point where you want the hem to start, then do an inch and a half or so of double knitting, and bind off either using kitchener stitch, or by k2tog (a front st and a back st).

    I suppose that if you didn’t want to do the double knitting, you could slip all the yo’s onto an needle and hold them on the inside of the work, knit the inside and outside separately, and then bind them off together at the end…

    I’ve done something similar on some small projects and it worked out pretty well for me…never tried it on a sweater though…

  36. I’ve used this folded hem before – but through try-and-error I discovered it’s better to make the first (internal) part of the hem with thinner needles, so to avoid the whole hem flipping up – as it usually do.

  37. To knit down a hem at the end of a top-down garment, sleeves, sweater fronts (e.g. Sunrise Circle Jacket), etc: knit as usual till you’ve got the length you like; purl one row (or knit one wrong-side row) for a turning row; knit for depth of hem, on a smaller needle, if you like; finish your hem by turning up the hem so the live stitches are even with the inside of the garmet and knit one live hem stitch together with one purl bump inside the body. So if your hem is 6 rows deep after the turning row, you’ll pick up one purl bump on the 6th row up from your turning row for each live stitch on your needle. On a curved or long hem like the Sunrise Circle jacket, it helps to mark the wrong side row you’re hemming to with some scrap yarn. This worked really well for the Sunrise Circle and for the Ram’s Horn jacket from Knitting Nature, and really reduces the amount of sewing up you have to do.

  38. Like Susan H, Carol H, and Lynne S, I too knit the inside of the hem on smaller needles, sometimes two sizes smaller. I also purl my turning row so it folds easily. I pick up the “live” cast-on stitches and k2tog as the article suggests to finish the hem. This is stretchy and works well. Especially as I hate to come back later for “finish” work.

    For Top-Down hems, when I have reached my sweater/arm length minus 3/4″, I knit in a life-line, pushing it to the back into the purl bumps. I knit my 6 (or so) rows of hem, knit my purl row, switch to smaller needles and knit my inside hem rows, then pick up the purl bumps that are hanging out on my life-line with a much smaller needle and do a 3 needle bind-off. No sewing! :o) Deb H

  39. Hooray! I’m so glad to see this tutorial. I thought I was the only knitter who didn’t like the rolling edge. I HATE it. Always have. I’ve been searching for edgings, but this is so simple that I’m going to try it on my next project.

  40. Two thoughts on the knitted hem:
    1) I often use a smaller needles size for the “private” side of the hem to minimize the splaying that can happen due to the bulk.

    2) For a straight-edge hem I purl the turning round for a nice neat edge that lays very flat.

  41. I’ve used this technique before, but without the provisional cast on. I just pick up each stitch from the cast on edge and knit 2 together. Works great!

  42. great site! I’m a starter and have 1,000,000 questions! Is there any way I can post a question on this site? It’s within a book (_Bag Style_) that you sell.

  43. Are you Guys mindreaders or something? It’s kind of scary everytime I start a new project. With new techs or stitches, etc. You seem to be posting it that day. SCARRRY Thanks Charlene

  44. Oh those hems are awesome! I love how you knit the straight hem together without having to use a needle and thread to tack it down. Plus this gives me some options for sweaters I want to make but don’t like the bottom edges they came with. Thank you, Sandi!

  45. Thank you for your very helpful tips on a knitted hem. I have never done a hem, but have read that it should be about 10% fewer stitches or knot on a samller needle than the body. Is this correct?

  46. I would suggest knitting the rows that are going to be on the wrong side of the garment on a smaller needle than those that will be on the right side; this will help keep the hem from flaring.

  47. I have just finished reading through four [4 ] months postings on Knitting Daily. I learned so many helpful tricks.The shaping info has me working on a top without a pattern, just a gage nd measurements. I liked the Top Five picks. I made the Swallow tail Shawl for my grand daughter to wear at her wedding. She and it were beautiful I am a fearless knitter and feel trying new ideas and tips. Thanks Sandy. You,re doing us knitters a great service. Pat

  48. VivianB, if you go to Step 1 in the tutorial above and click on the highlighted words “crochet provisional cast-on” that’s one example. Eunny Jang also has a video on this site that teaches several provisional cast-on techniques, some using scrap yarn and even using circular needles, in addition to the crochet technique. A provisional cast-on leaves the first row of stitches in your project “live” so that, when you take the scrap yarn or circular needles out, you can knit from the beginning point DOWN. It’s handy for lots of reasons: making Estonian lace items, making a sweater longer if it’s too short for the intended wearer, or just adding something else to the bottom, instead of being stuck with whatever you cast on first. It’s easy to do and gives you so many options for “add-ons” to the bottom of your work. ☺