How many times do you hear knitters say “it’s knitted, just not finished” or “I hate sewing it together”? If you dread turning your knitted masterpiece into sewing spaghetti, then you probably feel like you’d need a PhD in needlework to get it right. Actually, there are some simple and easy rules that will take you a long way.
Look for Help! There are some excellent tutorials on finishing, which can offer you step by step instructions. My favourite book for this is the original Stitch n Bitch by Debbie Stoller. And my favourite website is Knitting Help. Don’t be afraid to seek out this help. You might even learn something.
Do you really need to sew it? The pattern may say, “sew shoulders together”, but could this be done with a 3 needle bind off? Also, sometimes sewn on pieces can be made by picking up stitches though existing fabric, even in the middle of the piece. Look carefully at the construction before you launch into a tapestry needle free zone though. It may be harder than it looks.
Choose your Poison…I mean Method. There are specific sewing methods to make an invisible seam for stockinette edges, there are methods for sewing garter stitch pieces and sock toes and shoulders and a dozen others that I probably don’t even know about. It’s important to remember that if your knitted stitch changes in the middle of a seam, you should change your sewing method accordingly.
Preparation is Key. First of all if you’re knitting anything in two-dimensions, block it. It’s time consuming and annoying, but it’s really worth it. I knit in 3D so I have to find other ways to get those pieces to match up and stop curling under when I sew them. Pinning knitted pieces is counterproductive, so I often use scrap yarn stitch markers in my patterns so I know which part attaches to which other part.
Follow the knitting. I don’t mean this in a zen sense, although I could see how you might form a philosophy around those three words.
If you are sewing together two pieces of knitting, don’t split the yarn or sew through one part of a loop for one stitch and then another for the next. Use the pattern of the stitches to form a pattern with your sewing. It will make the seam even and straight and once you get used to it, it can take a lot of the pain out of the sewing.
Here’s an example. When I sew the beak onto a knit chick, I use the cast on edge around the bottom of the beak as a sewing guide, I sew running stitch over those cast on stitches, so you can’t even see the join:
Watch out for bulky cast offs. When you learn basic sewing, your cast off is sewing the same small stitch multiple times. Obviously this doesn’t work for seams sewn in yarn. It becomes very bulky very quickly. When I cast off a knitted seam I sew a final stitch, but don’t pull it tight, I thread the needle through the loop and then pull tight. Finally I weave the yarn into the knitting (as you would with loose ends) before I cut it.
And, if at first you don’t succeed? Take a deep breath and don’t be frightened to undo it. We’re all desperate to get that cardigan finished so we can show it off, but another hour of work after several weeks of knitting is actually a small price to pay.