Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Wednesday's Workbox - Sewing Together A Knitted Garment

In a couple of days' time, I shall be ready to stitch together the sweater that I have almost finished knitting.  Stitching it up usually takes me almost as long as knitting it does!  Well - if it is a baby garment that's certainly true.  In truth, I can't say I really enjoy the piecing together part of making a knitted garment.  It is hand sewing (you cannot machine sew knitwear, as the stitches are too close together to allow for the necessary elasticity of a knitted item and on most ordinary domestic machines, the knitted fabric is too thick to sew without using a special attachment, which my vintage 1950's sewing machine - a wedding gift for my own mother's wedding which she has passed on to me now - does not have) but knitted fabric, which is much more elastic and much thicker than dressmaking fabric, is a little harder to handle.  Because it must be hand sewn this can be, in the case of large adult garments, quite time consuming.

Today I am going to explain to you the very basics of sewing together a knitted garment - next week I shall focus on the specifics of setting a sleeve.  Hopefully by then we shall have some pictures too!

To start with, you need to press the separate pieces that you have knitted.  I do this by placing them beneath a dampened tea towel, and pressing with the lowest possible heat to smooth them out.  The band that came around the yarn you have used should have instructions for ironing or pressing it once it has been knitted, so check on these first.  With yarn that has a high percentage of wool, be careful when you press (and when you come to wash it too) - or you will fetch up with a felted garment that you didn't plan for!

Having pressed the pieces, I then pin them together as I would for a garment I am going to sew by machine.  For a sweater, this would mean initially joining together the two shoulder seams on the front to those on the back, unless (as in the case of the sweater I am currently knitting) you are then going to add the neck ribbing or other detailling after the shoulder seams have been joined - in which case just press the front/s and back, and proceed with your detailling.  Press in the same manner as you would for a finished garment.  Either way, place the pattern pieces right side to right side on a large flat surface (I use a table with a towel on it), and arrange them so that they are stretched out neatly as if you were about to fold them to put the garment away in a drawer after laundering it.  Now pin together the two shoulder seams on either side with dressmaker's pins or (my personal preference) longer craft pins - I prefer to use craft pins as with knitted fabrics, the smaller dressmaker's pins can get lost in the knitting, and this could be dangerous, especially if you are making a garment for a baby.  If the garment is really thick it may be easier to arrange one side first before placing the second side on top of it. 

Using a blunt ended tapestry needle, tack together the 2 sides of fabric at the shoulder seams with a running stitch, using a thread (floss) that is in a contrasted colour (so it is easy to see to remove when you are done).  Having done both sides, now remove the pins and restitch over the line of tacking with a backstitch, making the stitches quite small.  You may wish to use a slightly thinner needle, depending on the thickness of the garment you are working on.   Backstitch simply means bring the needle up through the fabric, then reinsert it 2 stitches behind the previous stitch at the point where it emerged for the previous stitch, then bring it out again 2 stitches ahead of the emerging thread (in other words, one step forwards, 2 steps back!).  You will find this holds the garment together well but with sufficient flexibility for the type of fabric you are working with.

Now put the garment back on the table or other wide surface, and arrange neatly to pin together the 2 side seams.  Do as before with the shoulder seams, using a straightforward running stitch to tack the seams together first, then remove the pins and restitch over the tacking with backstitch.  When you have done these 2 seams you can then remove all the tacking, and your garment is ready to turn the right way around to get your sleeves set in place - and that is next week's tutorial! 

Happy knitting everyone!