Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Finishing Mariah: Part 1 of 2

Get comfortable...this is a long one. So long, in fact, that I split it in two. But I guess a sweater that was 4+ years in the making deserves a long post to finish it up!

This first post will describe the finishing details and the second will give pictures of the final project and sum things up.

In an earlier post I promised some more details about the hood.
I ended up knitting it up to about 4" short of what I thought should be the final length. (That's all in green.) I took the middle 4" from the back (starting on the right side of the above pic) and knit those stitches from back to front. At the end of each row I would knit the last stitch together with one of the stitches from the side. That way I avoided having to sew a seam and it makes for a nice ratio of rows to stitches as you go.

Then, since I wanted the cable to continue around the front edge, I stopped knitting when I got up to the cable and changed directions again. I took the stitches from the cable on the right side and continued to knit it until I met the cable on the left side, now knitting the last stitch with the live stitches from the top panel.

Finally I had to finish the seam where the cable met itself and used the Kitchener stitch. The close up pic shows the seam and I think it came out pretty well. (Of course the black will hide any flaws anyway.)

In general the hood came out a little long and a little boxy. But boxy is better than pointy in my book. And I guess I'd say long is better than too short and tight. So if I had to err I think I leaned the right direction in both cases.

And now for the zipper. You may recall that I was worried about how the zipper would go in. It's very easy for the sweater to get all stretched out during the insertion process. Then the zipper doesn't lie flat but instead travels in valleys and mounds. Not very flattering. It's also easy for the two halves not to be level, or for the zipper not to be centered. In other words, there are lots of ways for a zipper to go wrong, and only one way for it to be right.

Shortly before needing to do the zipper I fortunately read this post from the Yarn Harlot where she succinctly summarizes the steps to putting in a zipper:

1. Baste the fronts together, making sure the top and bottom edges match. This may sound obvious but sometimes these things get overlooked. Especially when you are almost done and just have one measly zipper holding you back.
I went ahead and basted right where the sweater was laid out from blocking.

And use a contrasting yarn that you can easily see to pull out later.

2. Lay one half of the zipper on the sweater matching the edge of the zipper teeth with the center seam you just sewed. Baste with thread, once again in a highly contrasting colour.
(Some people just pin but I am a firm believer in sewing zippers. Zippers shift as you pull out the pins. They can't shift if you've got them sewn down within an inch of their lives.)

3. Zip the other half onto the part that's sewn down and baste it too. See, now the two halves have to match perfectly on your sweater. No shifting or lumps or anything. Perfect!

4. Now you'll have to remove the first basting. Hopefully you've not only used a contrasting yarn, but also a smooth slippery one that will pull out easily without leaving a lot of fuzz etc. (Oh, should I have mentioned that earlier?) Then unzip the two parts of the zipper.

5. Next up is the actual sewing. Some may do it by hand, but unless it's really fine or fancy, I'm going to use my machine.

Here's a little tip that helps whenever you have to sew along an edge: do not place your foot so that it hangs over the edge of your fabric and only half the foot is guiding the fabric. Rather, place it so it can run entirely on top of the fabric and just move your needle position to the side (to the right in the above pic) so that the stitches are close to the edge, but the foot can still move evenly over the fabric. I also used my walking foot which helps a lot.

You can sew from the top or from the bottom, but whatever you do, sew both sides from the same direction. So if the zipper or fabric shift at all, they will shift in the same direction and still match. This will mean, however, that one side is easy to sew with all the fabric to the left of the machine and the other side is not.

Below is the left half being sewn, and you can see most of the fabric is in the way.
However, since my machine has a wide throat (and I know I've bragged about it before, but it really is wonderful) it was not a problem in the slightest.

Once the zipper is sewn in, you can then take out the basting threads. Et voila, a zipper is installed and I could call my Mariah finished!!

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