Monday, 3 September 2012

Jumper Under Construction ...

I would like to say from the outset that I can usually sew.  I love tapestry, cross stitch and quilting.  I won’t say that I am fast or particularly skilled .. I started a quilt for my daughter when she was 2 and it was finished in time for her 12th birthday.  Heirlooms can take time.
A few years ago when our children were small and we were living down the road from each other, Deb and I spent many, many happy hours quilting together.  To this day they are still some of the merriest  hours we have ever spent in each others company.  The reason for this preamble though, is that when it comes to sewing up jumpers, all my skills seem to desert me.

Readers of this blog will know that I am knitting a jumper for my son (you can read about it here).  A beautiful Bergere de France Aran knit.  It has taken many years for him to ask me to knit him something and I know that he will not be partial to a ‘quick sew job’ at the end.  He keeps asking me for updates – Will the sleeves be ready by the end of the weekend?  You know that I don’t want the collar too big?  Are you sure you should be drinking a cup of tea around my jumper?  (he knows me too well – another knitting disaster from years ago).  
Due to the desertion of my sewing skills, I have been experimenting with a ‘no-sew’ construction method which I thought I would put into full force with this jumper.  The only time I want to see a sewing needle is to weave in any end pieces of thread.

The first step is easy.  I knit the back and front together using circular needles.  I use different coloured stitch markers to differentiate between the front and back and I must say, I love this method.  You know that the front and back are going to match perfectly.  Plus, as you are knitting it circularly, you don't get to knit the wrong side which is usually purl (not that there is anything wrong with Purl - where would we be without it?).   

When I reach the arms and have to knit the front separately, I leave the back stitches on the circular needle and continue on the front with normal needles.   When it comes to casting off for the neck, I keep these stitches ‘live’ by placing them on a stitch holder.  I repeat this for the back.

Where it gets a little tricky is the casting off for the shoulders.  Rather than cast off, I knit short rows ie. If the row calls for you to cast off 9 stitches, I knit them, place a stitch marker and continue knitting.  The next row is knitted back to the stitch marker, the knitting is then turned and this process is continued for as many cast off rows as the patterns requires.   I also keep these stitches live and it is around this time that I run out of stitch holders.  Double pointed needles are fine in an emergency.
At this point, I join the shoulder seams by turning the jumper inside out and casting off the stitches of both the front and back together.  This produces a very even and secure seam.  Miraculously, the patterns match up - surely it's not just me that has sewn up a jumper only to discover that the pattern has gone a bit wonky.   This method of construction also allows the jumper to be tried on .. albeit with a little difficulty and many anxious moments.

Nearly Needle-less

All was going well and it was time to knit the collar which was relatively simple as all the stitches were live. I had intended to pick up stitches along the shoulder and arm shaping and knit the sleeve using circular needles.  In fact I tried twice but the pattern zig zag along the arm edge made the stitching too loose so, in the end, I knitted the sleeve on circular needles from the cuff upwards and then ever-so-gently-and-carefully, attached them.  It appears to have worked.  The shoulders match up, the sleeves aren't puffed, the stitching is not loose.  I nearly did it.  I nearly made it without any sewing.  I'm happy but the final decison is my sons.  He is the perfectionist and I'm nervous.
Happy Knitting,


  1. GORGEOUS sweater! You are really lucky though. My teenager (daughter) saw a be-bobbled aran type sweater in a Mary Maxim catalogue and HAD to have it. I was delighted, until I saw which colour she'd chosen to show off my knitting skills ... dark charcoal. Unless you're in full daylight and at arm's length from it, all those fancy stitches are invisible. :( Oh, well. She liked it well enough to request I bring it to her after she moved to southern California - where it's never cold enough to need so warm a sweater.

    1. Thanks Jessica-Jean. Teenagers are a funny breed aren't they? :-) My son would not let me stray from the pattern at all. :-)


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