Four Collars, Three Ways
By Beth Whiteside
Want to learn some new techniques that will leave you with more than a swatch in the end? The following tutorial not only teaches new skills but leaves you with wearable art!
Circular collars are small projects, good for learning new techniques while adding a little pizzazz to your wardrobe. We can construct them by working from the bottom up, the neck down, or from side to side, taking advantage of each method to add interest. For example, picking up stitches in an eyelet or picot chain can embellish the top, bottom or side edges of a piece, depending on which way the collar is knit. Let’s look at the constraints of each method with some examples.
A collar is basically two concentric circles: an inner circle, which sits close to the neck, and an outer circle, somewhere closer to the shoulders. As such, the inner circle has to have fewer stitches (or rows) than the outer circle. If we begin at the outer edge and work inward, we must decrease stitches; if we begin at the inner edge and work outward, we must add stitches; and if we work sideways, the outer edge must have more rows than the inner edge. Collars worked from the bottom up illustrate the effect of two options for decreasing stitches. In the Understated Simplicity collar (page 100), the pairs of decreases worked every other row are stacked on either side of the shoulder. Stacking the decreases keeps them from affecting the stitch pattern while also creating the squared-off shape of this collar.
The stitch pattern alone adds a nice scalloped edge to the collar. Stacked yarn overs are worked on either side of a knit stitch, and a compensating double decrease a few stitches away keeps the stitch count constant. Wrong-side rows contain only knits and purls; the shaping decreases of the collar are worked on these rows, via p2tog and ssp (slip, slip, purl). The p2tog is the k2tog’s complement, and is just as simple. The ssp requires a little more juggling, similar to that of an ssk.
The baby cable in the Pretty in Picot collar (page 102) takes a different approach to decreasing away stitches. Instead of decreasing two stitches in the same four places every other row, 22 evenly spaced stitches are decreased every six rows. These decreases are tucked behind the cable crossings to disguise their presence. Distributing the decreases in this manner keeps the collar circular.
This collar also features a picot chain edging along the bottom and sides. Live stitches picked up along the edging are joined via decreases to the selvage stitches as the rows of the collar are worked. This gives a nice curve to the collar fronts; a picot bind-off completes the look of the edging.
The She’s So Edgy top-down collar (on page 104) is shaped by adding eight stitches via KOK double increases (knit 1, yarn over, k1 into the same stitch) every few rows. Once four new stitches have been added, they are incorporated into the four-stitch pattern repeat. Additional circumference is created by changing to larger needles every few rows.
Like the Pretty in Picot baby cable collar, this collar begins with picked-up stitches in a decorative chain. The eyelets provide a pretty edge at the top of this collar; the same technique gives the side-to-side collar loops for its buttons.
When picking up stitches in picots or eyelets, first count the number of picots/ eyelets and determine how many “extra” stitches you need. Spacing them evenly, work yarn overs between picked-up stitches to add your extras; work yarn overs through the back loops on the following row to prevent holes.
Like many shawls, the top-down collar has an applied lace edging worked perpendicularly to the collar body. The technique is similar to that used on the Pretty in Picot collar: as the rows of edging are being worked, the edge stitch is worked together with a live collar stitch to join the two pieces. Joins are worked every other row; the joined stitch is slipped to begin the next row.
Side to Side
Working side to side requires one edge of the collar to be much longer than the other. Short rows on the longer side are the means to this end. Several garter short rows have been inserted into the basic lace pattern to add this length. The lace pattern itself adds to the outer circumference, the crossed elongated stitches adding length to one side of the work.
Elongated stitches are created in two steps: first, by wrapping the yarn multiple times around the right-hand needle, either between or within a stitch; and second, by working those stitches on the following row. The lace pattern wraps are worked between stitches, with the extra length distributed to the stitches by slipping them back and forth before working them.
Once the elongated stitches are back on the left-hand needle, a group of four stitches are over the other set of four stitches, changing the order of stitches before they are knit. Working the stitches on this row can be a bit of a challenge; the extra length and reordering make it feel awkward. However, the net effect is worth the time it takes to figure it out!
When working collars side to side, another consideration must be stitch pattern directionality, i.e, does it look different bottom up from top down? While the lace pattern is not strongly directional, adding the eyelet chain edging makes the collar itself directional. With that in mind, the two fronts are worked separately as mirror images, and grafted together at the back neck.
The examples above illustrate the constraints and opportunities of basic collar construction methods, as well as, hopefully, add some new tools to your knitting toolbox. Make them as is, or use them as jumping off points for your own collars!
For the picot chain, *work a knit stitch, but don’t slide off; put a new stitch back on the left-hand needle by taking it under the stitch; repeat from * once. Bind off two stitches; slip the remaining stitch back to the left-hand needle. Repeat to...
To work an ssp: Slip 2 kwise, consecutively to turn them; slip them back to the left-hand needle. Insert the right-hand needle from left to right through the stitches, and purl them together through both loops.
Picked-up stitches along the picot-point chain are worked together with edge stitches: ssp on right-side rows, k2tog on wrong-side rows.
Notice the yarn overs on either side of the knit stitch; the k3tog creates the scallop by drawing three stitches together on right-side rows.
Pick up stitches by working through reverse yarn overs (or bind-offs on picot). Add necessary stitches by working yarn overs in between picked-up stitches.
Wrap yarn three times around the needle between stitches. On the following row, slip stitches allowing extra length to unravel. Slip back to left-hand needle and pull to straighten.
Begin with two stitches. Work a reverse yarn over, then k2tog through both loops, wrapping yarn backward. Wrapping backward while working through the back loop keeps stitches open.
Slip edging stitch and collar stitch knitwise and join them together with an ssk. Turn; slip the joined stitch purlwise to begin next edging row.
Lift stitches 5–8 over 1–4; hold stitches in order with left index finger, knit across all eight sts.