Posts Tagged ‘finishing’


June 28, 2012

I generally avoid those, “If you were on a desert island …” sort of exercises.  Being asked to make choices in a vacuum seems a pointless use of time.

Then I started clearing out chez Owl to make the little box presentable for market.  In so doing, I reduced an entire bookcase of knitting texts and pattern leaflets down to bare necessities.  I didn’t like packing away old friends.  Maybe they’ll really like new digs if they don’t have to share space with anything as pedestrian as ~ fiction.

The former library

How did these end up staying shelved?  They are either go-to texts and reference manuals, or books I’m reasonably likely to need to put my hands on over the next three months.  Or they wouldn’t fit in the two three four boxes (and counting) that went to storage.

I am less than nervous about this one short shelf.  That’s probably because my vast electronic pattern collection is stored on The Cloud.  If there’s something I need, I can get it anywhere, anytime.

That said, the bare essentials are a trio:

  • I don’t go far without access to Nancie Wiseman’s Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques ~ still the most useful book of knitting choices I know.  Why use SSK vs SKP?  Find out here.  And do yourself a favor – do buy the hardcover with the spiral spine.  You’ll be glad you did.
  • EZ’s Knitting Without Tears always has a little nugget when I am in need.  (Funny, I have three copies of it and they all look different.  That’s staying power.)
  • Cool Knitters Finish in Style from Lucy Neatby has nice little details that make all the difference in a perfect finish – great gift from Luann.

I have a project going now (which seems to be going on indefinitely) from Melissa Morgan Oakes’ Two-at-a-Time Socks book, because if you really have to make socks (or anything else paired), you might as well make both simultaneously.  Others here hold current or likely little projects I could pick up.  You cannot live without at least one Barbara Walker.  Ann Budd’s Handy Book of Knitting Patterns will get you through anything in any size and any weight.  Kim Hargreaves’ Pipsqueaks (now out of print) is the single best children’s book I’ve ever seen.

And it never hurts to have a couple of skeins of a favorite yarn (Spirit Train Fiberworks Birte) ready to go for the next project.  As Luann puts it: “Break-glass-in-case-of-emergency knitting.”

Too many emergencies these days ~ not enough knitting, IYKWIM.

ETA:  Oh, and an update on our not-so-little Ravellenic kerfuffle.  Because it’s just bad form to denigrate people.  The USOC “apologized” to us.  Not really.  Hence the quotation marks.  They sent an intern to do a grown-up’s work.  Adding proverbial insult, etc.  Oh, you mean you invite us to spend our precious time and talent making things you clearly don’t want because you’ve already belittled the bejeebus out of them?

But did you really expect any more?  C’mon.



September 27, 2011

There has been much work of late, much mothering, too, and even knitting.  Not nearly enough writing about it, to be sure.  The digital pix are stacking up just as much as projects waiting to be blocked chez Owl!

My most-used knitting book

There are a few books in my knitting library that I use regularly.  The one that occupies the space between the cushion and arm of my knitting chair is The Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques by Nancie Wiseman.  There is far more to its contents than the title suggests, and would probably be more accurate if the word “finishing” were removed.  It’s my go-to when I am looking for an alternative technique ~ or just the right way to do something.  In this case, the issue was stretchy bind-offs for 1×1 ribbing for the neckline of the Wispy Cardi.

To idiot-proof: use different-colored needles

What I love about this book is that for every cast-on, edging or decrease, there’s a simple list of the pros and cons associated with the technique.  The instructions are clear as can be.  So I took up two circular needles and placed the knits on the front needle; the purls on the back ~ somewhat fiddly, but necessary ~ in preparation for the “Grafted or Kitchener Bind-off” aka Tubular Bind-off.


This technique is not for those who fear kitchener stitch.  But if you’ve learned that its rhythm is like a dance-step, there’s really nothing to it at all.  And it produces an utterly stretchy invisibly bound-off edge.  It’s as if the ribbing just stopped in its tracks.

I love learning new tricks and will definitely need to use that one again.  Time to get flying on the rest of this cardigan – Rhinebeck awaits!  Tick tock!

How about a little DB eye candy on Friday?  Would you like that?  Let’s see if I can make that happen.  ‘Til then …


May 11, 2011

Sorry to have virtually “checked out” on you for so long.  I’m dreadfully behind in posting, but this shall be rectified in the days ahead.  Thanks to all of you for your good wishes on the blogaversary.  Prize announcements forthcoming.

The last you heard about actual knitting from me was my desperate frantic owl-hours effort to turn 1200 yards of bunched-up beautiful Nona in Seaweed into a finished shawl, Phoenix Rising by the brilliant Sivia Harding.  Since I get a lot of questions about blocking, I figured I’d take you through the last steps that got me to my knitting destination: the Spirit Trail Fiberworks booth at Maryland Sheep & Wool.

A massive blocking job

A good blocking job takes time.  Serious time.  It is not a process to be embarked on in a hurry.  In fact, for a large piece of lace, I budget at least 90 minutes just to pin out.  There are a few tricks I’ve incorporated that make a big difference to the end product.  It matters not whether you use wires or thread – I have both and mix them to achieve the structure I need.

The yarn-overs mark this for me

Mark what matters in advance:  I use locking stitch markers to mark a piece up – key places where curves start or center stitches so I can find them easily when the piece is wet.  Wet lace is like wet tissue to handle.  You’ll be glad you did it.   If my shawl has “points” of any kind, before immersion, I take my trusty ball of crochet cotton thread and run a lifeline strand through every point, leaving a couple of yards of slack at each end.  (Keep reading to find out why.)

Following a warm Eucalan bath of at least an hour, and blotting excess moisture in a towel, my routine follows the same path.

The "T" intersection

Start with the T:  For anything triangular, I begin with the straight top edge.  I weave my wires through every other stitch to prevent pulling on longer distances.  I smooth the piece out with my hands starting at the midline and working outwards to maximize stretch and to keep things even.  It’s akin to sculpture.  Once I’ve pinned about six inches in both directions from the midline, I insert wire through the center spine.  Creating a 90-degree T helps me keep things straight and balance the stretch along width and depth.

See lifeline connecting points

Lifelines:    Once I have pinned the base of the T, where the center point hits the bottom of the shawl, I then smooth and stretch the thread to the place where it meets the top edge of the shawl and I pin it securely.  Repeat with other side.  This allows me to have the points “connected” in a relative sense, so that as I pin out each point, they continue to have a relationship to each other ~ one doesn’t stick out farther than the others.  The actual depth of the point can be measured with a yardstick off the center spine.  As you move these around, they stay connected, preventing any unwanted strange angles.

Every pin was moved at least once

Pins move:  Pinning out is a process ~ and nothing is irrevocable.  I try to go back and forth from side to side of a piece, rather than pinning one whole side first, which significantly helps keep things even.  Say there are 13 points on each side of the center spine.  I will pin out the 4th point on each side, then the 7th and the 10th, and so on, filling in the others as I go.  This allows for easy adjustment along the way and keeps things even.

It’s not dry ’til it’s dry:  48 hours, minimum.  Longer if it is humid or sticky outside.

Off the wires, in daylight

Now to the gratuitous photos, none of which adequately captures how this came out.  It was a hard colorway to photograph and neither light nor location was cooperating.  I used 2 full skeins of Nona with 41 g remaining, and one tube of 8/0 foil-lined beads.

Unblocked:  60″ wide by 22″ deep

Blocked:  80″ wide by 35″ deep

There are the beads!

Pattern modifications:  I used the Russian Lace bind-off rather than the simple knitted bind-off recommended.  I like the edge it gives, which is both stretchy and sturdy enough to handle a severe blocking.

Yarn observations:  The Nona (50% merino/25% cashmere/25% bombyx silk) was pleasantly fluffy while knitting. At times, the plies wanted to split when placing the beads.  I worked around this on  the few problem stitches by running a short piece of crochet thread through the stitch to be beaded, then using the crochet hook to drop bead onto the thread (and then sliding onto the stitch).  No separating then.

In blocking, quite a bit of fuzz followed my hands off the piece as I smoothed and stretched.  When finished, the fluff factor was gone; what remained was a cohesive soft and draping fabric.

On display - courtesy Bullwinkle

Project marriage score:  9.5

Bottom line:  Jennifer liked it!

Bonus:  Sivia liked it!

Rinse, repeat

November 10, 2010

… and repeat … and repeat … and repeat … and repeat.

You get the idea.

I realized the other night that I needed to get my Spring is in the Air shawl blocked if I was to take it with me to the Knitter’s Review Retreat.  No biggie – the blocking bed was clear, so it was just a matter of a Eucalan soak and pinning out.

The Yarn Goddess laughed out loud.  So did the writers of my cosmic sitcom.

See, I chose this Sundara Sock in Caribbean for its intense blue-green.  After a two-hour soak in what started as very warm water, the bath in the blocking bowl was a lovely shade of aquamarine.  Okay, we’ll need to rinse this a bit.

… Only problem was, every bowl of rinse water was a shade of swimming pool, starting with YMCA blue.  With each rinse, I thought about a pool I’d been in at some point in my life.

I gave that up around the 20th rinse.  And I stopped counting rinses.

I abandoned the rinse bowl and went straight to running water through it from the spigot, except for periodic checks in my snow-white bowl.  Checks that revealed more swimming-pool blue.

How ’bout another Eucalan bath?

Look: the same YMCA pool blue I started with.  Again. Every time I used woolwash, I went back to the beginning with intensely blue water.

This went on for an hour.

Because what would be the point of wearing a bright blue-green shawl over a white shirt that would presumably pick up transferred dye?

It was, of course, the owl hours when I gave up and tiptoed up two flights to pin it out. 

(Yes, I know there was some kind of an alternative involving vinegar, but my own dyeing experiments have shown that if the vinegar doesn’t strike right, your dye job is a mess.  And I could not contemplate going back online at that hour with my now-pruny fingers.  Feel free to enlighten me for future events …)

The Yarn Goddess or my dear St. Jude took pity then, because this was the. easiest. pinning. job. ever.

Spring is in the Air (and on pins)

My working theory is that the double decreases that make up the majority of the pattern were a great place for dye to hide, and it took a l-o-n-g time for the woolwash and water to penetrate.  Makes as much sense as anything else.

Pattern: Spring is in the Air by Kristi Holaas, large size, not beaded.

Needles: US 5 Addi Lace

Modifications: Alternated skeins along the garter-stitch border.  Worked the minimum bottom edge repeat for less pronounced points.  Dagger tips are more fussy-looking than I like.

Crescent shape achieved through lifeline

Blocking: To achieve a true crescent shape, I ran a strand of crochet cotton lifeline through the border prior to soaking.  I first pinned the corners; then located the center point on the bottom edge and pinned that.  Pinning then radiated from the bottom center with minimal readjustment and no additional pinning of neck edge.

Places for excess dye to hide

Finished size: Used 153 grams, blocked to 20.5 inches deep at deepest part of curve.

Observation: My wrists definitely did not like the very repetitive mesh pattern.  This is good to remember for future pattern selection.

You’ll get prettier pix another time.  Perhaps someone will volunteer to help me this weekend.

Finishing squared

October 18, 2010

I was thinking of you while you were squeezing and sniffing bales of skeins at Rhinebeck this weekend, but staved off my disappointment at missing it by trying to be virtuous.  Which is to say, taking inspiration from Glennae and attacking one of those too-many WIPs that’s been in time-out for far too long.

Finishing: (n.) the art of seaming and hiding ends in a  piece where the body of actual knitting has been completed.  A process that demands more time than the finisher will ever estimate, owing to the attention to detail required to do the rest of the knitting justice.  The critical process to making a garment look “handmade” vs. “homemade.”

I get a lot of questions about my preferred techniques for finishing, so I’ll walk you through my routine and rationale.  I won’t bore you with actual instructions – there are legion tutorials out there – just what I do and why.  In the case of this sweater for Darling Bebe, Action by Kim Hargreaves from her outstanding (now out of print) Pipsqueaks book, the texture IS the pattern, in the form of Charlie Brown zig-zags.  Thus, attention to detail where the patterns sync up is at a premium.  Begging your forgiveness for not having a tripod handy for the pix.

Disclaimer:  I hereby confess that almost never do I block pieces of a garment before seaming.  I prefer to use wet-blocking to pull a garment together in its whole form.  Feel free to disagree and call me a heretic as you will.

Shoulder: three-needle bind-off

Shoulders:  the three-needle bindoff

Unless a garment is very fitted, I opt for a three-needle bind-off.  The seam itself is invisible from the public side of the garment.  See  how the pattern matches up on the top and bottom?

Inside view - shoulder and sleeve seams

On the inside (the horizontal seam you see with the yarn I unfortunately had to join in the middle), it lays flat yet provides enough “give” that reaching over your head to stretch doesn’t make anything go “pop.”

Setting in sleeves

The vertical seam at left is the inside of the sleeve seam.  I single-crochet my sleeves into the garment.  To do so, you hold the work so that the right sides are

Crocheted sleeve seam

facing each other, and the wrong side of the sleeve is facing you.  This is because you are crocheting the sleeve into the garment, not vice-versa.  It matters in the way your finished piece lays.  I always mark the exact midpoint of the sleeve top and pin it to the shoulder seam, then use some locking pin-shaped stitch markers at a couple of intervals to hold the “ease” between the two.  There is ALWAYS ease involved.

The key to doing this well is to always crochet into the same row of the garment.  When you do it right, your sleeve-garment join is this beautiful straight line, especially visible in a drop-shoulder or square set-in sleeve like this one.

Set-in sleeve

You do not want to crochet into every single stitch. If you do that, you’ll get a bulky, bunchy seam.  Depending on the gauge of the knitting, I’ll crochet two stitches in a row then skip one, or go every other stitch for a bit.  It depends on the weight of the yarn and the shape of the sleeve.

Even when you’re good at it, this takes a while. You’ll want to be flipping the garment over to make sure your line is straight and you like how it lays – especially true with a shaped sleeve cap.  But when you get it right, does it ever look good.

Side/sleeve seams: Mattress stitch

I unabashedly love mattress stitch.  While I am uber-unskilled with a sewing needle, mattress stitch allows me to ease and fudge as needed to make two sides join together virtually invisibly – especially in stockinette.  In this sweater, it’s crucial to make the

Mattress-stitched side seam unblocked

patterned stitches match exactly.  While the technique calls for one to sew underneath two “bars” at a time, the fact is, sometimes you’ll need to alternate 3:1 or 2:1 in order to make things match.  Especially because we all know that the right edge and left edge of a piece of knitting are never identical, even when there are the exact same number of rows on each.

As a rule, I’ll go side to side four or five times before pulling through, then straighten the stitches out to remove puckering.  Tip: Twist your yarn a bit in the direction it is spun before pulling through.  This helps the yarn zip through more smoothly with less tugging.

I’ll often rip back a few stitches to change the ratio as noted.  But when you get it right, it looks good – and only looks better after blocking.

One cautionary note: Be sure that your yarn can handle mattress stitch.  Although I love Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, it snaps with mattress stitch.  It is no fun at all when you’re nearly finished an adult sweater side seam and the yarn breaks.  When in doubt, Paternayan needlepoint wool is a great alternative and comes in every shade on the color wheel.

One neckline left to go before I can say my finishing is finished.  Stay tuned.

Pride goeth …

July 9, 2009

… and one does fall hard sometimes.

So I heard from many pals that seaming the lap shoulders on Get Ziggy was a colossal bear.  With nephew’s arrival anytime in the next few weeks, I needed to get that done.  Brought in the MIL to babysit, and headed for my local B&N.

I opted for my usual preferred method of easing sleeves: crocheting them in.  There was definitely a lot of easing going on, as the sleeves seemed much too small for the hole.  Otherwise, however, the lap shoulders were not a big deal.  Managed to get both sleeves done in 2 hours, which wasn’t inordinately long for me.  I was in the mood to finish – and finishing takes time and focus.

Smooth seaming

Smooth seaming

Focus.  Yeah, that’s the word.  How about “macro focus” in this case?  I looked at those seams, and looked at them and was rather pleased with myself for nice smooth joins without seams that were too bulky.  An awful lot of ends to tie in, but I sacrificed precious knitting time had to get them done so I could block it. … One more inspection.  Showed it off to DH … and Laughed.  Out.  Loud.

With every end woven in … I noticed what I overlooked while studying those sleeve seams:  I lapped the shoulders backwards.  The back shoulder is supposed to be on top of the front, so that it crosses to the front and creates the crew neckline.

What's wrong with this picture?

What's wrong with this picture?


Unfixable.  Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t find all the ends to pull it out.

Thus, it shall stay.  My major design feature.

And I thought I was so clever.  I’m still laughing.  Beats crying and this project isn’t worth that.  Obligation Knitting completed.  Next!

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