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Fine finishes make great endings

Published Sep. 13, 2005

I have received a number of letters requesting finishing help. When it comes to making afghans, mittens, socks _ anything that doesn't require seaming _ there is no problem. But correct seaming and finishing techniques seem to puzzle even the most experienced needleworker. Does this sound familiar? Here are some helpful tips.

First let's talk about the mysterious technique of blocking. Do you block before seaming, after or not at all? Do you wet pieces, steam them or pin them out dry and then spray them?

Often, blocking is not necessary. Whatever you do, work on pieces before seaming, and be gentle. The aim is to have pieces lie flat, making them easier to join.

The fiber you use will dictate how you prepare sections for joining. For pure wool or wool blends, steam or water works well. Take care not to use too much heat, which will cause the pieces to felt. Use steam or water on cotton fibers. With acrylic fibers, avoid pressing directly on the fabric.

If you want to use steam from an iron for most fibers, use a medium setting and cover the piece with a damp cloth rather than steaming directly onto your knit or crocheted fabric. If you have any doubts, experiment with a swatch.

Whatever method you use to prepare your project, allow the pieces to dry completely before you begin to seam.

In looking at many finished garments over the years, I think that seaming creates the most difficulty for needleworkers. You should aim to have even, neat seams that are not too bulky.

To eliminate bulk if you are using a thick yarn, you might want to join a half stitch from each side rather than a whole stitch. When making the pieces, it helps to make an edge stitch that is worked into the seam. The measurements of the garment will not include this "selvage" stitch.

My favorite seaming method is called an invisible seam, which is worked holding the pieces from the right side of the work. When working on side seams, line up the rows, edge to edge. Attach the yarn at one edge or use a piece left over from the cast-on or first row of chains. Work alternately from side to side by inserting the needle into the horizontal bar (or ladder) of a stitch as you go. As you work, the seam will fall to the inside of the piece. When you join seams such as shoulders, you'll align stitches rather than rows.

On knit pieces, work inside the bound-off edge. Insert the needle alternately into each stitch on either side. Again, the seam will fall to the inside of the piece.

Many books show illustrations of these two techniques. It is helpful to look at a diagram.

Before seaming, you should pin or baste pieces in place. This helps you carefully align the sections. When pinning, use large T-pins, large-headed pins or plastic picks that are especially designed for finishing. These pins stay in place and don't become lost in the knitted or crocheted fabric.

Begin by joining the shoulders. Work from the outer edge in to the neck. If you plan to add a neckband with a straight knitting needle, it is necessary to leave one shoulder seam open until the neckband is complete.

The next step is to set in the sleeves. Pin the center of the sleeve cap (or bound-off top on a drop-shouldered sweater) to the shoulder seam. Baste or pin in either direction from this center point to the underarm. Again, seam from the right side.

Now you can seam the side and sleeve seams together. Again, pin or baste the right sides together, carefully matching the underarm point as well as the cuff edges and lower edges. Begin at the lower edge and work up and down to the sleeve cuff.

Work in the ends. Seams are a good place to bury ends.

For the final touch, lightly steam seams and allow to dry completely.

Pullover project

The focal point of this beauty is a central cable panel set off by sides of easy moss stitch. A smaller panel is worked on the sleeves.

For outstanding stitches, we've used fashionable coral or natural colors. This is an ideal project for an intermediate knitter.

It comes in high-quality Bernat "Berella 4" in 100 percent acrylic with Bounce-Back fibers and uses sizes 6 and 7 (4 and 4{ mm) knitting needles.

The pullover is available in sizes small, medium and large with a finished chest size of 40, 44 and 48 inches and length of 23{, 25{ and 27{ inches, respectively.

Refer to kit HM890426. For the pattern only: Send $2 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Herrschners, 2800 Hoover Road, Dept. M, Stevens Point, WI 54492.

To order a kit for all sizes for $34.99 (postage included), call (800) 441-0838 or send to above address.

Hints or questions of general interest will be used in the column when possible. Please send them to Nancy J. Thomas, in care of the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.

1998, Universal Press Syndicate