Plus some tips for finishing hand knits.
First things first: stop press! I finished the sweater which I started knitting in Me-Made-May this year! Between times when I made a real effort to work on it at least an hour a day while on the road, and times when I was back at home and pretty much ignoring it completely, it averaged out to just about 6 months start to finish. And I’m fine with that, I mean, it’s hand-knitting an entire sweater.
An entire sweater which I’m pretty much totally in love with. This is the Talamh pattern by Carol Feller. I wanted a pattern with some lace, but also some edgyness, some modernity, and I thought the lace pattern she used really fit the bill. I added the wide lace section to the center back (it looks awesome, right?) but otherwise actually made fewer changes than I normally do when I’m knitting someone else’s pattern. If you’re interested, I decided to keep those notes on Ravelry this time, feel free to check them out!
In this space, aside from how pleased I am with this project, I thought I’d share a bit about finishing, specifically sewing in a ribbon for stabilization around the neck (which totally saved this sweater!) and how I “weave in” yarn ends.
Adding grosgrain ribbon
As I was blocking this sweater (basically just getting it wet, stretching the lace out a bit, and smoothing out bumps before letting it dry) I decided to try putting it over my dress form (if it’s good enough for Kate Davies, it’s good enough for me!). But the sweater kept slipping down, and, rather than pin it up every inch or so, I decided to let it dry flat. Well, after it was dry and I tried it on in front of the mirror, the same thing happened. The join between the body and the sleeves is a bit low anyway (my fault, and one of only two things I’d probably change if I make a sweater like this again). As the neckline stretched wider, the underarms and the whole rest of the sweater sagged downward until it looked fairly ridiculous, at which point I’d tug the neck up again. Clearly, the loose-ish ribbing at the top was not enough to hold the rest of the sweater in place.
I had stabilized various parts of other sweaters with ribbon before, and it occurred to me that I could try it here. I opened the drawer where I keep bits of ribbon, and there were two lovely grosgrain sections, probably salvaged from recycled sweaters, that both almost matched perfectly! And each was a width to fit under part of the ribbing on the sweater. Call it good karma for using up this yarn I’ve had for ages, or proof that if you save the good stuff, it does actually come in handy later.
Pinning the sweater inside out on my dress form to hold it in place, I shaped the ribbon around the curves and steamed it lightly to match them.
Note that in order to curve nicely like this, you need authentic grosgrain ribbon, the kind with the bumpy edges, where the thick yarns in it are free to move a bit. “Grosgrain” ribbon from your local big box store often has tight edges, which are fine for straight sections, but won’t curve worth a darn.
I bought sewing thread to match my yarn as closely as possible, and sewed the ribbon on with tiny whip stitches, at the edge where the ribbing meets the first plain knitting section. After trying on the sweater to check that it was working, I put it back on the dress form inside out, and sewed around the top edge of the ribbon as well. If you do this, don’t pull the sewing stitches too tight, just try to keep the ribbon softly snug to the sweater, and not to distort the knitting.
This worked so well! Like magic, my sweater now stays in place, just where I want it, and the ribbon is basically invisible from the outside.
Finishing yarn ends
There were quite a lot of ends in this sweater, mostly because I’ve had this yarn for over a decade (!). Part of that time was before I knew how to deal with moths, and the outside of a few of the skeins got rather munched early on, leading to extra breaks in the yarn, and weak places that I decided to treat the same as breaks (ie, not use them, and leave the tails to work in later). I usually tie the ends or the break/place I don’t want to use into a slipknot, just to keep a little tension on the yarn as I’m knitting around it.
I’m sure there are other good methods for burying yarn ends, this is mine. Keeping the tail going in the direction it was headed, I take a short stitch, then a tiny back stitch to anchor the thread, followed by a tunneling of the yarn along the back of the existing stitches.
Don’t pull tightly, or you’ll pucker the knitted fabric. Leave enough yarn tail so that as the sweater stretches, the tail can move without catching or distorting anything.
Maybe my best tip is to use a needle with a big enough eye to hold the yarn, but a very sharp tip, making it easy to pierce just the backs of stitches, and keep the yarn tails out of sight. My absolute favorite are “Chenille” needles from John James, available at fine sewing and embroidery stores.
With each end, take one short stitch, catching just the back of the knitting stitches:
Followed by a tiny backstitch, which functions like a knot to keep the yarn in place. I start just behind where the last stitch ended, and then continue skimming along the backs of the knitting stitches for the length of the needle. In a stockinette fabric like this, the purl “bumps” make handy diagonals, good directions to hide yarn without it showing on the outside.
If you’re particularly worried about this part of the knitting getting stress or pulling out, (or your yarn is slippery) you could take another short stitch and back stitch, then the long burying stitch. That should hold it!
If at any point you’re unsure if a stitch might be showing on the public side, just check. One good thing about stitches is that they’re reversible.
Note that the ends should go in opposite directions, at least with the first short stitch. Take them in the direction they’d pull from if you kept knitting, so that the two ends cross, rather than pull away from each other.
On garment edges, a good place to bury ends is often along columns of ribbing.
When you’re finished, trim the ends so that enough remains on the back for the end to stay there, and not poke through to the front.
That’s about it for now. Just in case you’re wondering, I did make those matching buttons, and I’ll post about them soon too. I hope this is helpful, and just let me know if you have more knitting/finishing questions!