I recently took a commission to finish a sweater. Finishing a sweater involves seaming the pieces, weaving in ends, knitting the button bands, sewing on buttons, and blocking the finished garment. Basically doing all those things that make your hard work look good.
I've made a few sweaters over the years. I also spent 15 years sewing. Not just sewing but real tailoring and seamstress work. I learned how to finish my work, make it look professional, not like the finishing instructions on a Simplicity pattern but really finished, like when you look inside a Versace suit or a Chanel blouse.
I learned a lot doing this commission job. I learned so much that I made a list.
Things You Need to Know When Knitting a Sweater
1. A strong CO makes a good base for seaming.
I had to stitch the hood to the neckline. The person who had knit the hood used a backward loop CO. When I went into the stitch on the hood to make my seam it pulled on the CO edge. This made a little hole at EVERY stitch I made. I had to make my stitches one row further into the hood to make it look neat. Because I had to do this it made a thicker seam at the neck line. And it made the inside of the sweater look sloppy. Long tail CO and Knitted CO are two examples of what I consider a strong CO.
2. Three Needle BO is Your Friend.
A three needle BO makes an almost invisible seam. It is less bulky than a sewn seam and it usually has more give. It is perfect for shoulder seams, underarm seams, sock toes, the fold of a hood, and really, anywhere you would think to use Kitchener or grafting. Not that I'm dissing Kitchener, it's just something I rarely bother with. Using a three needle BO at the shoulder is easy. Just put your shoulder sts on waste yarn or a stitch holder until you finish its mate. Then put the sts back on a needle and with right sides together k the first st from each needle together. K the next sts in line then BO by passing the second st on the RHN over the first.
3. Selvage Stitch, ALWAYS.
Whether the edge is going to show or not, just do it. A selvage stitch makes a neat and clean edge. It lets you see very easily where your seaming stitches go. It can even make sloppy seaming look somewhat neater. It's so simple to do that there's really no excuse, JUST DO IT. Here's how: Slip the first OR last st of every row as if to purl. That's all there is to it. As a general rule, if your next st is knit then slip with yarn in back, if purl then slip with yarn in front.
4. Ends, Leave them.
There are two kinds of ends, the kind that result from your CO and BO, and the kind that are from joining new balls or new colors.
When you CO or BO, leave at least 12 inches or 1.5 times the side seam or sleeve seam. Do not weave in these ends and do not trim them. They are the best kind of ends to use when seaming. They are already attached to your garment making it easier to sew up your seams. If they are in your way while knitting, just make a little butterfly or tie them up with some waste yarn.
It's okay to weave in the ends that result from starting a new ball or color, but DO NOT trim them shorter than 8", unwoven or 2" woven. This rule is especially true for superwash yarns. They slip and slide during seaming and blocking. And really, whatever you do, Please Don't Knot Them. The sweater I was finishing was knit from superwash yarn, all the ends that had been knotted were trimmed right against the knot. The ends that had been woven in were trimmed against the garment with no wiggle room. When I went to block the sweater pieces They All Came Undone! I had to practically re-knit the sweater from scratch.
5. Join New Yarn in the Selvage.
Unless you have a good reason not to, always start a new ball of yarn in your selvage. If you can't finish a row with the yarn you have then stop, undo what you've knit, and start your new ball at the selvage. Honestly, the only reason I can think of, off the top of my head, for not starting a new ball at the selvage, is if you're not sure you're going to have enough yarn to finish your project.
There are other ways to join yarn that involve using a Russian join, or a spit-n-splice, and a few other ways of joining two ends. These are all awesome, if you know how to do them. It will mean less ends to weave in at the end. I'm not going to go into them right now, perhaps at a later time.
I'll stop here. There are more items on my list but these struck me as the most blatant infractions. Mostly because I did every single one of these things when I started knitting 15 years ago.
I have started making tutorials for all of these techniques and more. I am also in the process of building a New and (somewhat) Improved blog.
On top of that, there are a few Super Secret projects in the works that I am just plotzing to share! I'm told I can let the cat out of the bag soon.