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4 finishing techniques that take your knitting from homemade to handcrafted

I hope my last post gave you the courage to embrace your body shape, and inspired you to knit up the perfectly fit Graphite Tank for yourself. Now that we have all the pieces knit up to size, let’s fit them together, and finish this top right.

 

My version of the Graphite Tank, knit up in Unity yarn, feels soft and cool.

 

The front and back are finally done. Time to celebrate, right? Nope. Now it’s time to get down to finishing my Graphite Tank with the remaining Fibra Natura Unity yarn, and a few special finishing techniques.

 

Fresh off the needles! Now it needs the perfect finish.

 

 

Everytime I get to this point in a project I’m so ready to gently place the completed pieces in a bag, hide it in my pile of UFO’s (UnFinished Objects), and run to a yarn store for a shiny, brand-spankin’ new knitting project. Discipline, Fiona, discipline! It’s time to grab that yarn needle by the eye, and get down to the business of finishing. A good finish can mean the difference between a top looking roughly “homemade,” and one that is lovingly handcrafted by a knitwear artist. Let’s reach down deep, take a steadying breath, and make that final push to the finish line.

Creating the perfect side seams

 

Use safety stitch markers to hold your side seams in place.

To create clean, well-seamed edges I use safety stitch markers to hold the sides in place then I use a mattress stitch to neatly sew them up. I always start the mattress stitch at the cast-on edge, and move up to the underarm. This way, if for some reason the sides don’t line up perfectly, any unevenness will be hidden under the arm. However, to make sure the sides line up as closely as possible, I attach the sides with a safety stitch marker ever 5″ – 6″ before I start sewing. With these in place, I can see if one side is not joining up in alignment with the other. I can adjust my mattress stitch to sew in an extra stitch or two on the longer side to get them back in sync.

In case you’re unsure about how to do a mattress stitch, I’ve included a slow-motion video to help you through it.

One last thing about the side seams, I used green yarn to sew up the green lace, purple to sew purple, and blue for the blue lace section. For the rest of the side I used the silver Windchime main color. Matching up the colors with the yarn used to sew them means you won’t have a peekaboo of the wrong color poking through.

 

Make a clean shoulder seam

 

This shoulder seam has been put together with a 3-needle bind off.

 

 

My favorite way to seam shoulders is a 3-needle Bind Off. If you want to do it, it’s important not to bind off the shoulder seams. Instead place your remaining shoulder stitches on stitch holders. When you are ready to sew up your shoulders place the stitches for the right shoulder – front & back – onto two separate double pointed needles (I used US 5 [3.75mm]). You’ll need a third needle to do this bind off. Place the shoulder seam together with the right sides facing each other, and wrong sides facing out. When you are ready you can click here to learn how to complete a 3-needle bind off. Once the right shoulder is done, you can finish the left shoulder the same way.

Going one step beyond with the Latvian Braid

 


A close-up of the blue and silver Latvian Braid neck edge detail for the Graphite Tank top.
The Latvian Braid – a perfect collar detail

I considered just going with the garter stitch border at the neck’s edge like the pattern suggested, but I like to add special finishes to my projects that take it one step beyond. In this case, that little special something was a Latvian Braid made combining some of the blue with the silver. Because of the thick and thin texture of Unity yarn, it’s harder to see the braid really clearly, but it looks like little arrows of alternating colors. I picked up my stitches at the neck in silver, then purled a row of blue before starting the Latvian Braid.

Although this technique is a little fiddly with all the twisting yarn (you’ll see what I mean if you try it), it’s not difficult to learn, and the results can be stunning! Check out the video below if you want to give it a try.

 

Blocking it to life

Blocking the Graphite Tank after it was all sewn up brought the lace to life! Although the pattern said to block the pieces before sewing, I decided to sew first then see how much blocking I really needed to do. I like to live dangerously! Honestly, I was just too impatient to block it twice – once before sewing and once after.

 

On the blocking pads, the lace has been stretched down to form scallops at the bottom.

Blocking is simple, but, oh so satisfying! Especially blocking lace. So, let’s bring that lace to life with a little blocking magic.

Fill a clean sink or bucket with cool water, add a drop of Soak Wool Wash, and place your top in it. Gently massage it until the top is damp. Squeeze out the water, but don’t wring it out hard. Roll it up in a thick towel to take out excess water. Place the damp top on a dry towel, or on blocking pads. Gently stretch it to the desired shape (I gently pulled down each lace leaf to make a scalloped edge), pin it if needed, and leave it to dry.

It may take a day or two to dry, but when it does, you can wear it out proudly:  “You like my top? Thank you! Where did I buy it? Oh no, I made it myself. I love it, too! What…Sorry, no, you’ll have to make your own. And if you do make your own, you must check out this awesome blog by Fiona Stevenson on KNITmuch.com”

Oh, you’re too kind!

 

I hope you love your Graphite Tank as much as I do mine!

 

 

Well, that’s it for this week’s blog! I hope you enjoyed learning about fiber by exploring the fiber content of Unity yarn by Fibra Natura. I look forward to seeing the colors you choose for your Graphite Tank, and reading the comments about knitting the lace, creating the perfect fit, and working to the finish line. It’s been lovely talking with you! Look for me to return in the fall with a new knitting adventure.

 

 

This is part 5 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 4: How to make lace fun to knit!

 

 

About Fiona Stevenson

At the age of 35, Fiona Stevenson fell into knitting like she was born to it. It started with a visit to a LYS for a Learn to Knit class. Within weeks she was working in the store, and within months she was teaching others how to knit. That was over a decade ago. Since then she has gone on to run knitting events and retreats including the Opinicon Knit Weekend. She has developed and taught classes in cabling, thrumming, hand-dyeing, lace, finishing, and many other knitting techniques. For the past few years she has turned her attention to knitwear design creating patterns for Ravelry, yarn stores, Fleece Artist and Handmaiden Yarns, and indie hand-dyers. Just for a bit of crazy fun she's also started designing and creating wardrobe for movies. Fiona is always happy to share her talent, imagination, and expertise with knitters, crocheters, and fiber enthusiasts of all kinds.

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