22 September 2008

A Perfect Seam

In spite of the frenetic pace this month, I somehow managed to knock out a Baby Surprise Jacket for the shop. I'm not sure yet if I'll be teaching this as a class or as a knit-along. As this is my third time through the pattern, I'm to the point that I'm making refinements. Some of those I'll save for class, but I thought I'd share the seaming refinement with everybody.

Here's the trick -- in the initial cast-on, use a crochet cast-on. The crochet cast-on, when not used as a provisional cast-on, involves throwing the yarn around the left-hand knitting needle in between the formation of each crochet chain. The result is a chain edge that looks just like a bind-off.

Why is that such a great thing for this pattern? Because there are two unavoidable seams in this pattern. And to make matters even more interesting, those seams involve sewing a cast-on edge to a side-selvage of garter stitch. And those two seams sit on the top of the sleeve, not hidden underneath where they are less likely to be noticed.

On a previous baby surprise jacket, I got around this by using a provisional cast-on. I later picked-up stitches along the selvage edge and used all those live stitches to work i-cord all around, both as trim on the cuffs and bands, as well as the seam across the sleeve seam. But this time, I wanted to try something quieter.



So, use a crochet cast-on. When you fold the sweater together, you'll have a garter-stitch edge meeting a chain-stitch edge. Match each chain of the chain stitch to one ridge of the garter stitch. For me, the easiest way to do this was to take safety pins and pin every fifth pair together. This made it easier for me to keep track as I worked.






There will also be a nice chain-stitch border at the cuff. If you use your sewing needle to good advantage, you can neaten the join so that the cuff chain-stitch appears unbroken.



I worked a sort of mattress-stitch variant. I used the edge of the chain closest to the selvage and one bump of the garter-stitch ridge. I also tried it using the far edge of the chain on the fabric side rather than the edge side, but decided that I liked the other way better. The chain lying across the top looks nice -- at least to me. If you don't like the chain, you could try catching the far half of each chain to make the edge half disappear into the seam, but that might make the seam bulkier.


The end result is very pleasing. As you are just catching the chain, the seam has very little fabric thickness in it. It isn't bulky at all, yet this garment was knit and sewn together with Malabrigo. In many ways, this is very similar to an invisible mattress stitch in garter stitch. I also liked having as much chain edging as possible, because it is easy to pick up into it for edgings. On this particular jacket, I added contrasting crab stitch all around.

For more information, look at Nancie Wiseman The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques (Woodinville WA: Martingale & Co, 2002) pp. 18-19 for the crocheted chained cast-on and pp. 68-69 for garter stitch seams.

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