Monday, May 5, 2014


If you are a knitter and spend any time talking about it with other knitters, you know that "finishing" garments is / can be a big thing. Some folks are easy going about it. Others have strict rules and will judge your knitting accordingly (you will be able to identify these folks by their reaction to learning you're wearing something handmade; they will grab an edge where seams meet and flip it over to inspect the underside). Yet others are middle-of-the-road and dream of the perfection of fine finishing. And then there are those that patronize a specific LYS enough that they actually just bring their various knitted pieces in and drop them off for a staff member to finish for them. (I get my yarn all over the place, so that's not going to happen. Especially if there's a cost involved. That's yarn money!)

For those who don't knit, "finishing" is the part where we clean up the knitted pieces, sew it together if necessary, attach buttons, and so forth. Much of this is invisible to the outside once it is done, especially if done well. Sometimes even side seams can be made to disappear. I'm a process knitter, so the actual part where I just get to sit and knit makes me the happiest. Stopping to sew it all together when I never learned to sew was, when I first began this knitting adventure, a bit stressful. There are patterns for whole sweaters that require barely any sewing, and I like those. They are knitted in the round and usually have raglan sleeves. Dropped shoulder sleeves are OK, but not the most flattering. They require picking up and knitting stitches along gapping holes left just for the purpose of creating a sleeve. I can pick up and knit till the cows come home. But...for some devilish reason, I am drawn to beautiful patterns with set-in or in-set sleeves. (You can't see me, but I just had to stop and take a deep, settling breath at the very thought.) This is not an easy finishing technique for me. It took me weeks, yep, weeks, to finish the sleeves on my mother's birthday cardigan. But it is done. Hallelujah.

In my defense, the sleeves were normal stockinette and the body was that complicated lace and twisted stitch cable combo. Plus, the front sides angled to create the asymmetrical effect, so even sewing up the sides was wacko. Oh, and I felt it necessary to take it upon myself to re-write part of the pattern and made the sleeves a different size than what was given. 

I don't think I did such a bad job. And Mom now has a Mother's Day present, since her birthday was way back in January.

On a wonderful shiny note, here are the handmade buttons she made for it. They go on one shoulder, as you can see the closed cardigan above in the second photo.

She's a genius. Aren't they beautiful?

Here's the Ravelry link to the original pattern, "A Touch of Luxe Cardigan" by Anna Cohen, which appeared in Creative Knitting magazine, Winter 2013. None of the issues I whined about were due to the designer's hard work and vision. You can see more of Anna Cohen's designs on this Ravelry page. On the other hand, my whining says volumes about my ability to follow instructions (lack thereof) and lack of patience. I could look at it this way: my patience is actually impressive, because despite over five months' of work, I still finished it!

I also finished the Norah Gaughan's Moshup, all but the blocking, that is. Again, I couldn't stop myself. I altered the pattern just a wee bit. Just the back where there was a pointy bit with yarn-overs. This one is for me. It's just chunky, over-sized, and meant for comfy warmth on cold days. I haven't picked out buttons yet for the cross-over front flaps. 

No sweaters today, though. It is beautiful and sunny! Keep on knitting and don't fear the finishing. If I can do it, you can, too!

P.S. Alison gave me a very nice compliment in her comment below, but I decided I needed to explain better what it was that unsettled me so much about finishing. (By the way, "unsettling" is the perfect word; thank you, Alison.) When I sit down to seam flat pieces together, I don't have as much trouble, as long as we're dealing with stockinette and / or garter stitch fabric. I just think about it as a visit to the Bar-V Ranch. Bars: just look for the bars between vertical rows of knit stitches and slip your tapestry needle beneath them. Vs: just slip your tapestry needle under two legs of a horizontal row of knit stitch "V"s. With garter stitch, pick a purl bump (you can think of it as a "bar" to keep with the "Bar-V Ranch" theme) row and make sure you keep using the same one all the way up. If the garter stitch is horizontal, you can poke at it until you find a row of stockinette legs and use the "V" legs to guide your tapestry needle. The unsettling bits? Fuzzy yarn and un-even selvedge edges. (Where in the world did the bars and Vs go?) In-set sleeves that require seaming in a circle. A circle. Stair-step shaped selvedges. Lacy patterns, angled selvedges due to increases and decreases...yes, even when the increase or decrease is made one-stitch into the row. The two sweaters you see above had almost all these issues. 

The one thing I highly recommend is to block before you seam. Especially if you're working with lots of pieces of plain stockinette stitch fabric because it curls at the edges. 

I hate to admit it, but I am pretty satisfied and happy once I've finished a project with seams that marry so nicely that I would let my mother or myself wear it to our monthly knitting guild meeting. That requires confidence. 

Again, thank you, Alison. Knitters need to check out Alison's blog. This "Fifty Fifty" top she knit is gorgeous.


  1. Ya know, for someone who seems so unsettled by the thought of seaming up a sweater, you did a fabulous job with it. Both of these look great!

  2. Aww! Thank you, but that's only after sometimes sitting and actually looking at two sides to be seamed and just...looking at them. I think I'll add a "P.S." with some of the real issues I run into. Also, I do suffer from anxiety, so I get "unsettled" easily. Sometimes ridiculously easily.

    1. Aww - now it's my turn! Thanks for the endorsement and kind words. :)
      I was thinking - I don't know if you know about this or not but something that might make seaming sweaters easier for the next time is to slip the first stitch of each row as you knit each piece. This first stitch is going to be hidden in the seam anyway so it doesn't matter if its "in pattern" or not. But what it does do is provide the classic stockinette 'bar' so it's a snap to sew up regardless of what comes after - even if it's on a bias like that fabulous cardigan you did. I don't remember who told me about this - I think I've heard it from a few people now but it really does help.

  3. Another process knitter here ... in fact so much so that I mostly knit things like shawls that don't require finishing. Unless it's something I need or really want to wear, at which point product becomes all and the finishing doesn't bother me so much after all.

    That said I designed a baby cardigan with three needle bind off seams and a few people have suggested I did so to avoid stitching where in fact I tried both and the bound off seams draped better. Sometimes avoiding stitching is a good thing :)

    Loving your Mum's cardigan, and those buttons ... wow!

  4. Thank took a while, just over four months actually. And then Mom whipped those beautiful buttons up at her workbench in a couple of hours (it took longer for the polishing and sealing processes, but that's part of the process). She's amazing. BTW, I'm a big fan of the three-needle bind off myself. I add /sub those whenever I can get away with it.


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