Seaming a sweater

I’m on day two of putting together that blue cabled sweater I posted about. This reminds me: good seams on sweaters take lots of patience and time.

It’s taking me this long to sew up the seams because I take lots of breaks and also because I’m not a huge fan of sewing. Why did I choose to knit the sweater flat instead of in the round? The sweater has lots of reverse stockinette stitch and purling is not my favorite thing to do, either. Why am I taking so much time for this? I worked hard on my knitting and I want it to look good when the pieces are put together.

Before I even cast on any sweater I prepare for good seams. Here are some ways to knit the parts of a sweater in preparation for neater and easier sewing:

1) Use a selvedge edge: I cast on an extra stitch for each end of my fabric so that they can be used for the seam. Here are some of the most used selvedge edges and how to make them.

2) Count the rows: When I start a sweater I usually begin with the back (as most patterns start there). When I knit the back I use a row counter to count the number of rows for the ribbing, the total number of rows for the rest of the piece, and the row where the armhole begins. I jot these numbers down so I remember how many rows I should allow for the front and exactly where the armhole begins. I also count the rows for my sleeves. Working this way the front and back have the same number of ribbing and pattern rows and the sleeves also have identical row counts. The side and armhole seams match up precisely. The ribbing lines up perfectly.

3) Mark where the armholes begin: I place a marker on each end of the front and back pieces for the armholes. Combined with counting rows it makes it much easier to ensure that the sleeves meet up with the front and the back in exactly the same places.

This all may seem fussy or “OCD” but it’s worth it to me. I remember the first time I made a sweater and only measured. I wasn’t satisfied with my seams.

Counting rows, marking armholes, and using selvedge stitches are just the beginning. Here are some ways to get really fine seams before sewing:

1) Block the pieces as you go: When I finish a piece of a sweater I block it right away, making sure my selvedge edges are neat and lie as flat as possible. I also record the dimensions of the back and those of my first sleeve so that when it’s time to block the front and the second sleeve I can be sure that they have the correct dimensions. This makes all the difference in the world! Blocking the pieces all at once takes up space and is time consuming. Waiting to block the pieces when they are all completed could actually overwhelm a person enough for him or her to not bother with this step at all. The “block-as-you-go” method means: when it’s time to sew, presto! There are all the parts of your sweater dressed up and ready to take on some good seams.

2) Take lots of breaks as you sew: When I get frustrated or tired of sewing I stop, put the sweater away, and do something else. A grumpy sewer makes messy seams.

What are some of your tricks for neatly sewn seams?

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