For those who have joined me in making an Elizabeth Zimmermann seamless sweater, we are coming to the end. Which may be a relief to those who did not!
This post covers how to finish your sweater; we will discuss hems and underarm seams. Unlike a seamed sweater we are nearly there. Once you have done these processes, which are pretty fast, you will be able to wear your jersey! There is a final stage involving wetting and drying your garment and I will come to that too.
Your average hand knit starts with the finish – either ribbing at the base (or the neckline for top-down sweaters). But Zimmermann leaves this decision to the end. It’s up to you, (many of the knitalong team started with ribbing or similar). That is fine. But me? I enjoy thinking about the finishes (and the colours) while I am knitting mindlessly. I feel, a bit like a naming a baby, each item has its own personality and the right finishes present themselves during the construction, or more usually when it is tried on.
You will have (or you should have) tried on your sweater. It’s easier once you have finished the neckline, but you can try on with the needles still in if you are careful and your circular needles are on the long side. Or you can pull some waste wool through, or use a piece of hat elastic. Looking at these photos I am thinking do I want ribbing or hems? I decided I like the rolling (unfinished) hems and, although I plan to do folded up hems on this jersey – to emphasise the vintage look, I will try the unfinished hems on a future knitted garment.
So today decide how you want it to end. Think through all the openings – neck, sleeves and hem. You can have different finishes. Your options, (to stabilise the stocking stitch that likes to roll in, given the face is slightly shorter than the back), according to Elizabeth are:
- garter stitch
- 1×1 ribbing
- stocking stitch with a hem
We can add, without much trouble
- 2×2 ribbing as I did on my ombre sweater
- moss stitch (as used by Helene)
- just leave the edge and let it roll
OK. We left your sweater, last week, with additional back neck shaping, if you wanted it. The shaping can be done as part of the neckline finishing and I covered this already. I will summarise the ribbing version as it is probably the simplest.
Start at the left shoulder, turn your work and K1 P1 until you get to the right shoulder, slipping the first stitch every time. Add two stitches from the remainder at the end of each row, then turn, slipping the first stitch again, and keep the ribbing pattern all the way back to where you started (left shoulder), adding two more stitches. You are adding two stitches on each row, knitting back and forth, until you have done six rows. Now continue right round the whole neckline, knitting up the stitches from the front of the sweater, adding about one inch to the ribbing depth. The ribbing on the front is much shorter than the back, but it is barely noticeable in wear
Sleeves and Hem finishes
With the sleeves and hem you need to pick up one stitch for every stitch at the base of the sleeves and sweater – then rib it, or make a hem. I will describe the hemming process which I had not tried before I met Mrs Zimmermann, and I like it. The hems make a sweater very comfy to wear and look old-fashioned which pleased me. Also as a dressmaker they are more similar to what we are used to.
Knit up the stitches on the lower edge, taking them from behind the cast on stitches so that you have a neat finish.
Knit one round, then reduce the stitches by 10 per cent, by knitting the 9th and 10th stitch together. This just pulls it in a bit and stops it being bulky. Then knit a hem the depth that you want – one to two inches. Instead of casting off -you stitch, loosely and with a blunt yarn needle the stitches to the sweater. This means minimum bulk and smooth wearing. Nice!
If you want a hem at the neckline then do one round of purl stitches around the neckline, then continue as above. This makes the hem turn in OK. Mrs Z didn’t tell me this – this is my contribution. I hope it works for you, but do share if you have a better idea.
Underarm seam – weaving/grafting/Kitchener stitch
Use a blunt darning needle and a long piece of yarn to make the join look almost invisible. It’s a great finish.
Here’s how. Pick up the stitches you have on waste yarn loops, say 13 from the sleeve and 13 from the body. Arrange on needles so that the wrong sides face each other so you have a front and back needle. Keep the loops loose and do this exactly as it says even if you have to do it more than once.
*Pull wool through the first stitch on front needle as if to knit. Take stitch off. Pull wool through second stitch on front needle as if to purl. Leave stitch on. Pull wool through 2nd stitch on back needles as if to purl. Take stitch off. Pull wool through the 2nd stitch on the back needle as if to knit. Leave stitch on. Repeat from *
After doing this pull up the stitches carefully and it will look like it is knitted together. The long yarn ends are used to sew up the little hole that still remains. Do this as neatly as you can.
Soaking, blocking etc
I haven’t got much experience of this so can’t give great advice. My seamless sweaters have been made in Merino yarn or cashmere. I just wash them on a cold wash in the washing machine, then lay them out flat on a towel on the floor, and make sure they were even and shaped well. This is how I wash knitwear any way. Works for me. Please comment below if you have any better ideas.