It is very possible that you’ve never heard of knitted tucks. Even though this technique offers a great way to add texture and structure to a knitted project, it is considered to be fiddly and often confusing.
But it doesn’t have to be complicated. With just a few small adjustments to the classic tuck knitting, we can easily add tuck folds (also called welts in some sources) whenever we want to divide elements of a garment, add three-dimensional texture, create a casing for a drawstring or make certain parts of a project more rigid.
It is the search for that added rigidity that got me into exploring tuck knitting. As I was designing the Brigitte Beret, I was looking for a way to make the bottom of the beret fairly stiff but flexible. Finishing the brim with a tuck fold was an ideal solution, but I had to find a way to do it without complicating anyone’s life too much.
The book “Dimensional Tuck Knitting” by Tracy Purtscher was a great help. By combining the technique described in that book with the classic way of making tucks, we can simplify the process quite a bit.
Let’s see how this simplified method works step by step. If you prefer to learn from a video, click here. Or, simply scroll to the bottom of this page to watch the embedded version of the video.
A tuck is essentially a fold in the fabric. We make it by picking up a stitch from a few rows below and knitting it together with the live stitch that is sitting on the needle.
The instructions are the same for working in the round and for working flat, so when I mention rows, I mean rows or rounds.
The tricky part is to pick up stitches that are in the same row. If we are not careful, the fold will be shifted between rows and won’t look right. To make sure we recognize these stitches, we’ll work them as purls in the set-up row.
SET-UP ROW (right side of the work): [knit 1, purl 1], repeat the brackets to the end.
If you have an odd number of stitches on your needles, work in the “knit 1, purl 1” pattern to the last stitch, then knit the last stitch.
The next part is an easy one – work in stockinette stitch for several rows. The more rows you work, the more prominent the fold will be. In most cases, tucks are about 3 to 5 rows high, but if you plan to use the fold as a casing for a drawstring or a ribbon, work 7 or even 9 rows.
When we work in the round, we would knit all stitches in every round and we can make any number of rounds. When we work back and forth, we knit all stitches in every right-side row and purl all stitches in every wrong side row, but we should work only an odd number of rows because we need to finish with a purl row.
To make a tuck in my swatch, I worked in stockinette stitch for 3 rows.
Now it is time to transform all those rows of stockinette stitch into a neat tuck fold. We’ll do it by knitting every other stitch together with the stitch that is several rows down. The stitches that were purled in the set-up row, will help us locate the “right” strands without any issues.
To make the process easier, I’ll break the instructions in this step into micro-steps. You can also watch them in this part of the video.
3.1. Knit 1 stitch.
Now, when you trace the first stitch from the tip of the left needle down, you will see a bump formed by a purl stitch. We’ll use that purl stitch in a moment.
3.2. Move the fabric up so that you can see the wrong side of the work.
3.3. Find a knit stitch that is a few rows down the first stitch from the tip of the left needle. It is the same stitch that formed the purl bump on the right side of the work.
3.4. Insert the tip of the left needle from the top down under the strand that is at the bottom of that knit stitch.
3.5. Knit the first stitch from the tip of the left needle together with the picked strand.
The strand stretches and forms an elongated stitch on the wrong side of the work.
Repeat steps 3.1 through 3.5 to the end of the row and watch how the fabric instantly becomes three-dimensional.
Work the next row in stockinette stitch. Purl all stitches if you are working flat, or knit all stitches if you are working in the round.
Work steps 1 through 4 any time you want to add a horizontal tuck fold to your project or repeat these steps several times to decorate a whole section of your project with tucks.
Because we pick up stitches every other stitch (not every stitch as it is recommended in the classic way of making tucks), the width of the tuck is almost the same as the width of the fabric. That means that we can easily add tucks to any part of the project without making any special adjustments to the pattern.
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.