How To Put Your Cardigan Or Sweater Together

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

“How To Put Your Cardigan Or Sweater Together” is one of my most popular posts, so I wanted to update it and add some information that wasn’t included initially. I think this type of topic is an essential how-to, and is a basic topic that is often overlooked in books and even knitting classes.

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, T-pins, tape measure, knitters pins, tapestry needles (these should be blunt tipped), scissors, and thread for sewing on buttons and attaching zippers. Stitching should be done by hand, and not with a sewing machine. If you left lengths of yarn after casting on, use these ends to seam. Yarns with a very low twist or singles, novelty yarns such as boucle, chenille, mohair, and other textured yarns should not be used for seaming. Instead use a yarn that is smooth and firm, compatible in color and fiber content, and requires the same cleaning technique as the yarn used to knit the item. Do not use too long a strand of yarn, as continued friction from pulling it through the seam will cause the yarn to twist and break.

Finishing Steps:

  1. Often overlooked, blocking (check out the latest update to “Blocking is Magic)is the first step in finishing a project. Blocking is the process of wetting or steaming individual knit pieces to even stitches and fibers, and flatten the edges. Block all pieces, including pocket linings 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. Slip stitch pocket linings in place, and make sure stitching doesn’t show on right side. Patch pockets can be applied to the right side with an overcast stitch, duplicate stitch, or slip stitched in place. 

    Slip stitching two knit pieces
  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. The front borders of cardigans are often worked at this point. Necklines are typically finished after the shoulders are seamed, and after the front borders are made. Depending on the collar style, stitches are picked up around the neck opening, and the edging or collar is worked from these stitches. With some designs the collar is knit separately, and then it’s sewn in place. 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. Baste the zipper tape into place along one side, then whipstitch the tape on the wrong side. Turn the piece to the right side, and backstitch along the zipper teeth. Repeat these steps to the other side of zipper.
  6. No matter what style the sleeve, it must fit into the armhole. It’s best to sew in sleeves after the neck and front borders are finished, and before you sew the side and sleeve seams. Fold the sleeve in half lengthwise and mark the center top with a pin. Pin with the right side of the sleeve cap to the right side of armhole. The first pin should be inserted with the center top 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 the armhole. Except for bulky yarns, I prefer the Backstitch Seam for setting in a sleeve. It’s worked on the wrong side, and adds 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. When finished knitting, there will be yarn tails hanging on the wrong side of your work. Nothing looks worse than leaving a mass of yarn ends dangling on the inside of a project or knots used to join new yarn. The best way to hide yarn ends in projects like scarves, seamless items, or in the body of a garment, is by working them into the pattern stitches on the wrong side. Thread a tapestry needle with the yarn and weave it in and out of the stitches for approximately two inches, then go back into the last stitch splitting the yarn end; give the fabric a slight tug and cut the yarn close to the fabric. Note: Except for colorwork knitting, try to join all new yarn at the side edges. The yarn ends can then be woven through the seams or close to the edges. I weave each single yarn end along one side of the seam in and out of the stitches, in a similar way as mentioned above. Try not to distort stitches as you weave, and check that the yarn can’t be seen on the right side of the knitting.
  9. After all the yarn ends are woven in, 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 that’s thicker than regular sewing thread, or embroidery floss. Note: My preferred buttonhole is the self-reinforcing One Row Buttonhole.

These steps should help you approach finishing with confidence.