Anyone else struggling to finish all their handmade gifts for the holidays? No? Just me? I have serious project commitment problems this time of year. I keep thinking of things that one person or another would like, and I pull out all the yarn and fabric and patterns that I own and lay it everywhere brainstorming until I don’t have any room left to actually work. And then when I finally do start picking up projects, I end up in the middle of too many to finish. Fleece jammies cut out but in need of a zipper, flannel pajamas pinned to paper, a holiday skirt for Miss Cakes that just needs buttons, a dress stalled out at neckline binding conundrums, knitting that needs blocking and finishing work, and more yarn in bags designated for projects I’m not even going to get to cast on. Sound familiar?
Here’s a question for the ages: I love sewing. I love knitting. So why in the world do I hate sewing up my knitting with a fiery passion? It’s something I have to psyche myself up to do. Get a good cup of coffee, no distractions, take the kids, I’m gonna be here for awhile kind of situation. I think for me, the enjoyable part of knitting is the actual knitting. And when that’s done, I want my project done too. (I should really only knit seamless things, I know.) For those staring down a pile of knitting to finish, this one’s for you.
Invisible horizontal seaming
Whenever possible, I use this technique for horizontal seams. I looked in every stitch dictionary I own and on the interwebs, and I cannot find an actual name for it, but it appears that a lot of other people love it too. I just like how it looks better than sewing a seam with a backstitch, overcast stitch, or other traditional sewing stitch. Plus it has the added benefit of being slightly stretchy along with your knitting. It’s kind of like doing Kitchner stitch, without the scary prospect of live stitches.
- Bring your needle and yarn up through a stitch in your lower piece of knitting.
- Going left to right, or right to left (the same direction as your seam is going), take your needle around the base of the stitch in your upper piece of knitting.
- Go back down into the same location in your lower piece of knitting.
- Come up in the middle of the next stitch in your lower piece.
- Repeat until done.
- Go back and tighten up the stitches with your needle until they match the same gauge as your knitting.
Now for horizontal seaming, you do always have the option of a 3-needle bind off, but I rarely find an actual use for this. Only when making a tube of a Dale of Norway sweater did I have straight shoulder seams where it applied.
I love this for vertical seams. It’s pure magic. It makes your work look seamless if you do it right. I like to leave a tail long enough when I cast on so that when I get to the side seam in a sweater or sleeve, back seam in a hat, or whatever your seam, I can just thread my needle and go without attaching a new piece of yarn. More secure and less weaving in later, which you already know I hate too.
- Looking at your pieces with the right sides up, bring your needle and yarn to the right side of the fabric.
- Pick the channel you’re going to sew in, whether it’s half a stitch, a full stitch, or more inside from the edge. Locate the horizontal strands of yarn, sometimes called bars or ladders, that you see on the backside of the work between the front side stitches- these are what we’ll use to sew the pieces together.
- Take your needle to the opposite piece and pick up one of the ladders in the same direction you’re working (if you’re going from the bottom to the top of a piece, pick up the ladder from the bottom to the top, as in a running stitch in sewing).
- Going back to the original piece, pick up the corresponding ladder from the same stitches.
- Continue going back and forth. Leave the stitch thread loose as you work. Every inch or two inches or so, go back and tighten up the stitches. When you get to the top, weave in ends to finish.
A note of caution: When I tighten my stitching, I never pull from the needle thread, but go in with my needle and pull only on the stitch itself. If you pull from the working yarn you risk overtightening and stressing the yarn, which can snap your yarn (and give you a headache as you now need to weave that in and join in a new working yarn). It can also make the stitching yarn way too tight for wear in the garment. I always snug up only a few stitches and then give the seam a tug, which puts a bit of slack back into the seam and mimics the amount of stretch you’ll want there for movement while wearing.
Weaving in your ends
I made a quick reference to this in the post I wrote about mending knits, but I really just snake up and down along a line of bumps on the back side of stockinette.
For areas like ribbing, I tend to make an overcast loop around a side of the V stitch, changing direction once or twice to help the yarn from pulling out in case the yarn is ever caught and pulled.
Occasionally the yarn is slippy or just feels like it needs a bit of extra reinforcement, and then I’ll actually thread my yarn through a sharp needle and splice the knitting yarns at an angle. I remember gasping in horror when I first saw Elizabeth Zimmerman doing this in one of her old PBS episodes. But if EZ does it, that’s enough for me to consider it acceptable technique.
And in some cases, you just go for it all. This fair isle hat changed color so frequently, I wove the ends up or down as needed at the round join to help the row even out from the outside. Then I went back and forth and spliced the backs sometimes where there was just so much yarn already, I didn’t have the space!
Vertical to horizontal seams
This is where what you’re doing will play a part in which stitch to use. I’m working on finishing the Kim Hargreaves sweater I started last fall, and in attaching the mohair ruffles in vertical rows to my sweater, I chose an overcast stitch. I pinned both ends in place and since I couldn’t go with any particular rate of stitch to stitch, I just made sure it seemed evenly distributed before I started and continued that way. I would stitch from back to front in the middle of a V stitch in the ruffle, and then pick up a ladder or a few from the sweater. Repeat until done. And then weave in the bajillion ends since it had contrast yarn too.
Sleeves have a special place in hell for me, which is why I’m still staring at these. They take a combination of all of the above techniques, changing from one to one horizontal seaming at the top and bottom, some faux-kitchner as you change to a vertical to horizontal, and the rate at which you grab stitches changes with the angle. I get the best results if I pin before I start in a couple places, marking off the areas top and bottom I want to have a one to one stitch ratio. And then just go for it!
I’m really excited to finish up the sleeves on the new sweater for Miss Cakes featured in most of this post, as she hasn’t had a new sweater in a couple years. Maybe in time for Christmas. 😉 Til then, tackle your knits! Finish those UFO’s! You can do it! (Can you hear me saying this just as much to psyche myself up? I hope that works.)
Happy holidays! I wish you all get some good craft time in between visiting loved ones and endless cookie baking and eating. Show me what you’ve got going on over on the Facebook page!
Stay warm out there! Love from the frozen tundra that is Wisconsin,