Saturday, June 30, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The sad truth is that excellence makes people nervous.—Shana Alexander

So if that’s the case, and I believe it is, let’s get over being nervous about finishing, OK?
Because if ever there is a part of knitting that demands excellence, it’s right there. In the end game.

I gave commenter Lynne’s suggestion about a 4-part series on finishing some thought. OK, I’ll do it. But it’ll cost ya a dollah-three-eighty. Heh.

Now, get inspired. Here’s a picture for those who need visual aids. Sewing up one of the Campanula's side seams.
We'll get to the seaming in another entry. Just remember this: I couldn't sew shit to begin with and it took me torturous sewing classes in junior high school, sewing clothes for me and my kids, and learning machine knitting before I understood the importance of finishing, in all aspects of needlework.

Part I—The Beginning of the End
[The End by the Doors playing in the background is a prerequisite for reading this. Or perhaps People Are Strange. Your choice.]

Getting into finishing a sweater is perhaps akin to steeling yourself for a long stint in the dentist’s chair à la Marathon Man. At least, it seems to be that way for many knitters. As it was for me, at one time. Until I got fucking Finishing Religion. Because finishing is a a religious experience.

Before you begin to think about finishing, you need to get yourself into a positive state of mind about it. Which means not “terriblizing” it.

Here are my 10 Rules for a Healthy Finishing ‘Tude, which include many absolutes:
  1. Always look at finishing as part of the process as a whole.
  2. Never consider starting another project until you’ve finished the garment that’s lying in pieces in your knitting basket/bag. (This is arguably the hardest thing to do.)

  3. Think about all the time you’ve put into knitting those pieces. Then think about rushing through the finishing, doing a shitty job, and how those pieces will end up looking like a church bazaar reject.

  4. Always do your finishing work when your brain is its sharpest. And your eyes.

  5. Never drink coffee, tea, cola, beer, or Jello shots when finishing. This I tell you from sad experience.

  6. Lock up your cat(s). Cats like dangly bits, such as ends of yarn. And sitting on blocked pieces as they are drying. Dogs seem to have more control.

  7. Lock up your kid(s) under 12. Or in lieu of that, if you are concerned about your local Child Welfare Board, palm them off on their Dad, doting grandmother, neighbor, daycare, whatever. The kids have got to go.

  8. Ponder the beauty of sewing things together so that they look impeccable. Translate that splendiferous feeling into your soul, if you still have one at this point.

  9. Make sure you have all your tools together before you start. Then use your measuring tape as a Rosary, because you’ll be praying to Our Lady of the Perpetual Piece.
  10. Keep this in mind: How would Jesus finish this?

You’ve got three major components to finishing: blocking, picking up and knitting edgings, and sewing seams. Now, obviously, a lot of people like to knit in the round because it decreases the finishing tasks. I’m certainly one of them. However, whether you knit flat or in the round, you’re going to have to do something to polish up your knitting. And there’s going to come a time when you see a design you love that’s loaded with finishing.

Finishing actually starts the minute you determine what garment you’re going to make. If you are working from someone else’s design, you can only hope that the designer has incorporated certain elements that will be critical to successful finishing. Read the instructions carefully and look for the following:

  • If not worked in the round, are selvedge stitches included? If not, add ‘em to the pattern. Immediately.

  • How are the decreases for the armholes and neckline handled? Are they decreased right on the edge? Make sure you don’t do that. Move decs in one stitch, at least. You’ll need a selvedge here too, for sleeve set-in and neckline pickup, if you have to do those.

  • What other potential finishing pitfalls are there? Zippers, ties, snaps, buttons? Will you bind off the shoulders or leave the stitches live for grafting? You don’t need to do any special preparation ahead of time for those, but be aware that they will demand certain decisions at the end. Like changing the way the buttonhole is constructed, that sort of thing. And if the fabric you’re knitting will have a lot of drape, you may or may not want to seam the shoulders to give it some structure. Ditto for phony seams. If you’re going to use them, you’ve got to decide NOW.

Once you have a basic game plan as to how you will be finishing—and of course, you’ve been notating your instructions, right?—you can start knitting, incorporating any finishing adjustments.

I am presuming that you have swatched. Swatching, besides for gauge, can be used to work out stitch patterns and potential finishing concerns. For example, if you want to see how an edging will work when picked up on a bound-off edge or along a side, do it on the swatch. You can resolve a lot of potential issues by working them out ahead of time.

Written like the tech writer I am, no? Except the readers of my manuals don’t get the benefit of humor. Although sometimes, I’m tempted to write something like:
  1. Enter your sort parameters.

  2. Separate each entry with a comma. Example: Albino Midgets, Address, Zip Code

  3. Click OK.

Knitting right off the needles seldom looks good enough for public viewing. So it has to be blocked. Read Blocking for Blockheads in the sidebar. That’ll do ya until Part II.

More Entries, Less Dead Air
Seeing as how I’m on vacation this week, I’ll be working on a couple of bloggish projects. One will be this series. The other, my bloggiversary spectacular.

I was very impressed with the quality of the responses to this week’s Open Mic topic. It’s good to get serious once in a while and truly think things over. So if you have a topic you’d like to see, give me a shout. My e-mail address is in my profile but for those too lazy to click, it’s If you submit a topic, please put TOPIC in your subject so that I can filter it into a folder.

I’m posting this today because tomorrow is our annual family barbecue extravaganza. So being lazy this morning, drinking coffee and writing this, I need to get off my can and get to the supermarket with Corinne. Two weeks of intensive manual writing now means I can float in the pool.

I’ll leave you with one picture. I’m not one for gratuitous kute kitty pictures but I swear, Buster is such a bizarre animal, this one’s worth putting up.

This is Buster’s house. An empty shrink-wrap that once contained water bottles. He truly believes he is invisible in his Fortress of Solitude. All the better to attack Buddy or Boo (Cleo doesn’t come downstairs, so he gets her where she lives, on my bed).

So don’t be buying those expensive kitty kondos. Shrink-wrap works just as well. And it’s not at all rare and handy.

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