Unless you are one of the whiz kid knitters I hang out with on Ravelry, you are probably a lot more like me – someone who cobbles together a few minutes here and there in a busy day full of work, family or both to get in some quality time with your knitting. I'm inspired by watching my friends who put together a sweater in a week or two, but that's just not me. The Arlo sweater I'm working on at the moment is the quickest sweater I've ever knit. It has been on my needles for 52 days and counting, although it did get set aside to knit several hats and I worked on a few other projects when it was in time out after my first disastrous effort at putting on button bands.
This is the first sweater I can remember doing in a very long time that was knit in pieces and required finishing. I did several in high school, but I really don't remember the finishing. My guess is that with a full family of knitters, there was a lot of support around. And although I've knit a few baby sweaters in pieces, there was always plenty of support in my local yarn store. I never really focused on the finishing process.
Arlo has been a different story. For one thing, I'm knitting it on airplanes and late at night, so there isn't any in-person help around. And, I'm a braver knitter than I have been in the past. I'm also less willing to accept bad results, and have become more likely to rip them out and redo them so I'm happy with them.
I wanted to share some of my favorite finishing tips with you, in hopes they might make your life easier and your knitting happier, too.
The first part of finishing Arlo was shoulder seams. I looked at them and was mystified. I could have winged it — we all get that basic idea of matching up like to like — but I wanted to find "the right way." Although I often like to look at words and charts, and find TechKnitting to be incredibly helpful in general, for seaming I wanted video. I found help on Craftsy. (One tip here — they frequently have a free coupon or a half off sale. Look around, there's a lot to like here and plenty of opportunity to purchase at less than full price).
For the shoulder seams, I really liked Chris Bylsma's Seaming Hand Knits. She made it easy and promised it would work like magic. It did! I can't wait to do it again, and I love my beautiful, worked-with-no-problem-on-the-first-try shoulder seams. Seaming Hand Knits seems like it should be in every knitters arsenal, with great tips on all kinds of seams as well.
After my first debacle with the button bands and collar, I decided to pick up Anne Hanson's The Essential Guide to Finishing Hand Knits and see if watching her process would help. It turned out that my problem had more to do with misreading the pattern than technique, and the second go round was much better. I liked Anne's tips though, and she has a great cast off for button bands and collars that makes the ribbing behave very nicely. I'm forever indebted for that one! I pinned all the pieces together and it looks like my knitting math held up and I've got a good fit (the largest size in the pattern was a bit too small, so I had to size up).
Next, I'll be on to seaming. I'm going to set in the sleeves first, and then do the sleeve and side seams. For that, I watched both Chris and Anne's classes, and also, referred to the construction section of Amy Herzog's Sweater Modifications for a Custom Fit. Even though watching videos consumed most of my knitting time today, I liked seeing the different approaches and felt like I got a lot of insight watching different people explain the same concept. Even though I would like to finish up tonight — I've done the first few inches on the right sleeve — I'm going to wait for good natural light tomorrow so I can make sure the seams match up and I'm seaming in the right place on each piece of fabric. Arlo is going to have to wait a little bit longer. But at least the knitting, the easy part, is done.