How To Put Your Cardigan Or Sweater Together

Putting Together Sweater With Set-in Sleeves
Putting Together Sweater With Set-in Sleeves

Assembling a hand knit garment is often the step in the finishing process that makes the garment look “homemade” or “handmade”. Make sure you have all the necessary tools: blocking board, spray bottle, tape measure, knitters pins and tapestry needles (these should be blunt tipped), scissors, and thread for sewing on buttons and attaching zippers. Any stitching should be done by hand, and not by a sewing machine. If you left a length of yarn after casting on, use this to seam. Do not use too long a strand of yarn, as continued friction from pulling through the seam will cause the yarn to twist and break. Yarns with a very low twist, novelty yarns such as boucle, chenille, mohair, and other textured yarns should not be used for seaming. Instead use a yarn that is firm, compatible in color and fiber content, and requires the same cleaning technique as the yarn used to knit the item.

Finishing Steps:

  1. Blocking is the first step in finishing a project. It is often considered tedious, just like making a gauge swatch, but it really is magic. Blocking is the process of wetting or steaming individual knit pieces to even stitches and fibers, and flatten the edges. Block all pieces prior to seaming. I like to block each piece immediately after I’ve completed knitting it.
  2. If the project requires any applied details such as embroidery, beads, duplicate stitch, pockets or applique, these should be done prior to seaming. It is easier to work details on pieces rather than a whole garment. Applied pockets should be attached using an overcast seam.
  3. Garment assembly often begins with seaming the shoulders. One or both shoulders are seamed, depending on the style of neckline. I prefer the Invisible Horizontal Seam for shoulders, perfect for joining two bound off edges.
  4. Necklines are typically finished after the shoulders are seamed. Stitches are picked up around the neck opening, and the edging is worked from the picked up stitches. Some designs knit the collar separately, and then it is sewn in place. The front borders of cardigans are also worked at this point. Collars and borders should be sewn with a whipstitch or overcast seam to form a neat join with no bulk.
  5. If a zipper is to be attached, now is a good time. Zippers should be sewn in by hand rather than by machine.
  6. It’s best to sew in sleeves after the neck and front borders are finished. Pin the right side of the sleeve cap to the right side of armhole. The first pin should be inserted at the shoulder seam, then pin to the cast off edges at the beginning of armhole shaping, easing the rest of the cap in so it is even on both the front and back of armhole. I prefer the Backstitch Seam for setting in the sleeve. It is worked on the wrong side, adding stability for a sturdy seam.
  7. Next the side and sleeve seams are sewn. I don’t like to sew the sleeve and side seams as one continuous seam. I sew the side seams first, then the sleeve seams. My seam of choice here is the Mattress Stitch worked from the right side of the fabric.
  8. At this point, I like to hand wash the project, laying it flat to dry, so it is clean before wearing. You can sew on buttons prior to washing or after. For sewing on buttons, use topstitching thread, thicker than regular sewing thread or embroidery floss. Note: My preferred buttonhole is the self-reinforcing One Row Buttonhole.

I hope these steps help you approach finishing with confidence.