Sunday, April 3, 2016

Sweater Seams

I didn't post on Saturday because I thought I had nothing to say. I have actually caught the blog up with all of my finished objects. Last night a friend and fellow blogger came over for dinner and I was lamenting my lack of post ideas. She astutely observed that I can talk about projects before they are finished. She even pointed out that people might be more interested in how I make things rather than just seeing what I've made.

And so, without further ado, I present a sweater in progress.

My sweater only needs one more sleeve. Tragically that half a ball of yarn where the other sleeve should be is all that I have left, and it's not going to be enough to finish the sleeve, so now I am sort of on hold until I can get another ball. 

But in the mean time I thought I could talk about seaming a sweater. I firmly believe that the finishing work on a sweater is what makes the difference between being hand-made versus home-made.

I like to do the finishing work as I go for a variety of reasons. 1) weaving in the ends of one sleeve isn't nearly as arduous and weaving in the ends on an entire sweater. (Let's be real, we all know at least one knitter who could have a beautiful finished object who just never bothered to weave in the ends.) 2) Sewing together the peices of the sweater as I go allows me to check fit before everything is done. Before I knit this sleeve I knew my sweater would fit because I had already sewed together the front and back and tried it on. 3) If it doesn't fit it allows me to make changes without having to frog the whole thing.

So, after I weave in the ends of my sleeve I start sewing up the long straight seam. Most tutorials on seaming recommend sewing the shoulder seams of a sweater, then sewing the sleeve cap, and finally treating the side seam and sleeve as one long seam. I don't like doing that because it means I have to have everything done before I can do any seaming. 

When I sew my seams I work with the right side visible, that way I can see what my finished seam will look like and fix any icky spots. 

Use your needle to pick up two of the bars between stitches on one side of the fabric. 

Then pick up two bars on the other side of the fabric. This is easier to do if you use both hands, instead of taking a picture with one hand. 

Pull your thread tight between stitches.This is where working from the right side really helps because you can control the tension of your seam more easily when you can see it. You really don't want to pull the seam too tight or leave it too loose; just like when you are trying to get a good, even, tension while knitting.

Because I'm sewing the side seam before doing the sleeve cap I don't want to sew it up all the way, instead I stop a couple inches before the sleeve cap shaping, then I jump to my sleeve cap. When working the cap always start in the middle of the cap and work your way down to the armpit, then go back up and do the other side. This helps keep everything nice and even. 

Sewing the sleeve cap is a little trickier than the side seams because you don't have the same directionality on all your stitches. Instead of picking up the bars between stitches on your sleeve you will be inserting your needle underneath a stitch.

On the body of the sweater you are still picking up the bars.

And once again, just keep sewing. This is really the place that you want to be patient. Don't work on seaming if you are in a hurry.

Sew all the way down to the armpit join.

Then go back to the top and work your way down the other side. When it's all done you won't be able to tell that your seam was done in pieces. In the picture below my needle is pointing to my starting spot.

Once your sleeve cap is done, go back and finish your side seam. Everything should line up nice and neatly, but sometimes you end up having to ease in a couple of stitches. If you are off by a stitch or two, I wouldn't worry, but if you end up off by inches I would take the seam apart and start again.

And this is what your seams should look like on the inside. Aren't they nice and neat?

Some sweater patterns will use a two stitch selvedge, the pattern I'm working with here only used one. Some don't include one at all and you will need to add it yourself. Make sure that you check your pattern before your begin, especially if your pattern includes ribbing because you want your ribbing to line up correctly like mine does on the sleeve.

I love nice neat seams. I think learning to seam my sweaters correctly made the single biggest difference in my knitting. If finishing is something that you struggle with I would highly recommend Deborah Newton's book Finishing School: A Masterclass for Knitters

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