Drop-needle stitching is a commercial knitting technique which is used to create a specific look in a garment. A garment which features drop-needle stitching has a slightly ribbed effect, with thin parallel lines, dots, or other designs formed in a material at set intervals. The technique is similar to a dropped or slipped stitch in hand knitting, and the end results look very similar. Drop-needle stitching is used in garments to create openwork designs, areas in which the tight knit gives way to a lacy pattern, or to make a particular style of knitted ribbing.
The term refers to using an industrial knitting machine, which has a row of needles knitting simultaneously, rather than a single pair of knitting needles. Knitting machines have been used to produce affordable commercial knits for hundreds of years, with early models producing basic stitches as early as the 1500s. On an industrial knitting machine, yarn is loaded onto a bed of needles, which can be used to create a wide variety of patterns. To accomplish drop-needle stitching, a single needle is disengaged so that it will not knit a stitch. Depending on the model, drop-needle stitching can be programmed into the knitting machine, or accomplished through hand manipulation.
The needle is usually re-engaged after the single dropped stitch, which gives drop-needle stitching a ladder-like look, and ensures that the integrity of the garment will not be compromised by too many skipped stitches. Drop-needle stitching is highly versatile, and it can be used to make all sorts of openwork patterns ranging from single points of missed stitches, creating a dot pattern, to regular ribbing. In the area of the garment with drop-needle stitching, the skin or underlying garment of the wearer will be visible.
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In hand knitting, a similar effect is achieved through a slipped stitch or yarnover. To do a yarnover, a knitter slips a loop of yarn from the needle being worked to the needle holding the finished work. For right handed knitters, this means that a loop is passed from the left needle to the right needle. The end result is a small hole in the knit. More complex yarnovers involve twisting the yarn to create a plaited or braided look. A yarnover can also be used to work an increase into a knitting project, by knitting a stitch normally and slipping it over as well, leaving two stitches where there was one before.