How to Design Your First Hand-Knit Sweater: Part 3
Garter Stitch Sweater
If you've made it this far, congratulations! You've got the bulk of the project behind you! You should be left with four pieces, and now all that's left is the construction, which in my opinion, is the easiest part of the project! Some people will disagree, and I've been told that there are even yarn shops that offer a service where you can drop off your pieces and they'll assemble them for you. But it's so easy to do yourself I can't imagine why anybody would take advantage of that service.
First, we're going to tackle the body. Lay your front and back, wrong sides out, on a surface, and line them up, armhole to armhole. Stretch them until they're also lined up seam to seam on the bottom. A lot of people will take strait or safety pins and pin every three or four inches to keep the project strait. I never do this, but I certainly recommend it, especially for a first project. I just kind of readjust as I go along, and I've found that it seems to work fairly well, but I also have enough experience under my belt that I've developed a kind of knitters sense; which is like a spider sense but in a much more narrow, less useful parameter.
When you've got the project lined up properly, take your yarn needle, thread it, and work a simple strait stitch along the side to create the side seam. I like to go in again, after I've created the basic stitch, with a finishing stitch called a blanket stitch, because this just makes it less likely that your seam will unravel. After all, these projects are meant to be worn, and everything that is worn frequently experiences wear and tear. Everything that we can do to prevent this is something that I feel we should do. After all, there's that old saying, “A stitch in time saves 9”. Doing this step now may prevent having to redo the seam years from now when the strait stitch wears out.
Now, that we have both side seams finished, it's time to tackle the top. I like to pull the half finished part that I have on over my head to check the fit. It makes the neckline easier. Take two safety pins and put them through the fabric on your shoulder at the point you'd like your neckline to start. If you do this on both sides of your head, you should be able to pull the project over your head. If you can't, adjust the safety pins until you can. The point here is to get a hole big enough to get your head through, without being so big that it's going to fall off your shoulders.
Once you've established where you want your neckhole to be, take the sweater off and lay it flat again. Pin the top of the armholes just as you did the bottom, and, if desired, pin the shoulder seam every few inches just like you did the side seam. You'll sew this one the exact same way, from the top of the armhole to the beginning of the neckhole; strait stitch first, then blanket stitch. Do this for both shoulders. Now, if you hold up the project, you'll see that you've essentially created a vest! So if you ever want a sweater-vest, you now know how to create one!
The sleeves are just as simple as the body. Take one sleeve and fold it in half widthwise. Line up the top (armhole) seam, and pin it in place, then move on to do the same thing to the bottom (wristhole) seam. If you want to pin the length of the sleeve seam every few inches, go ahead and do that now as well. Then, go ahead and sew them together; strait seam first, then blanket seam. When you're finished, you should be able to pull it up your arm like an armwarmer and check the fit. I find this particularly satisfying.
After you've finished both sleeve seams, you have to move on to the armhole seam, which I find to be the most difficult, because it's worked in more than two dimensions. Don't worry, tho, after a little practice, you won't have a bit of trouble! It's all in the setup. Take the arm seam that you've just sewn and line it up with the side seam at the bottom of the armhole, and pin it. Make sure that the sleeve is folded evenly, because you're going to want to get exactly halfway around the top of the sleeve to connect to the shoulder seam. Pin it in place.
If you don't get the halfway point, one side of your armhole is going to be baggy and the other will be stretched, which looks and feels strange while it's being worn. For this reason, I suggest sewing the strait seam, then trying the project on before you do the blanket stitch. The strait seam is easy to take out and rework.
Go ahead and pin every few inches, and if you want, try the project on and see how it fits, If the sleeve seems wrong, repin. Patience is a virtue. Don't get in a rush and wind up with an ill-fitting sweater. After you're satisfied, go ahead and sew the armhole sleeve.
Now you have a finished sweater! You have a lot to be proud of! You've made your first custom fit sweater, and have gained the right to lord your superior skills over all those insolent off-the-rackers! But we want to make sure that it will retain it's perfect fit, which means that we have to do a bit of finishing; a process known as blocking.
Confession time: I almost never block my projects, and don't consider it necessary. But I will include it here because some knitters absolutely swear by it, and if you don't do it, sometimes machine washing a project can mess it up. Some yarns take to blocking better than others, but some, like wool, will felt if you put too much agitation into the blocking process. So look at the label and don't do anything that the manufacturer doesn't want you to do.
-rust proof pins
-measuring tape (optional)
Basically, blocking is a form of sculpting. You'll take your finished project and work it until it's the exact shape and size you want it.
Take your finished project and dip it in the water. You want it moist; damp, but not soaking wet. Lay the towels out somewhere they won't be disturbed, like a spare bed or a table. They, lay out the sweater on top of them, and adjust it until it's the size and shape you want. If one of the sleeves is too short, stretch it out so they're the same length. Things like that. When you've got your sweater the way you want it, place a pin every few inches, attaching it to the towel. Then, leave it to dry. You can set up a fan to expedite the process, but it's optional. When it does finally dry, the fibers of the yarn will have fused together, so like magic, it will retain the shape you molded!
Congratulations! You've finished your sweater!
© 2015 blargablarga