Perfect seams

Midweek Masterclass: Seaming for a perfect finish, part two

Welcome back to our seaming for a perfect finish Midweek Masterclass, part two!

28th September 2016

This week, we'll be looking at how to set in sleeves and work a matress stitch, as explained by Jen AJen Arnall-Culliford. For part one of this masterclass simply click here.

Setting in sleeves

This is the part of finishing a sweater that most people find daunting. The good news is that it’s far easier than most people think. It is helpful to pin or clip your sleeves into place before you start to sew. You can even baste the pieces into place with a wide running stitch, in order to try them on before committing yourself to careful final seaming.

Setting in sleeves

7 Match the centre of the final sleeve cast-off edge to the shoulder seam, and pin or clip in place with wrong sides facing. Match the initial sleevehead cast-off edges to the initial armhole shaping cast-off edges and pin or clip in place (Fig. B).

7

Fig B

8 Ease the remaining sleevehead into the armhole, first by pinning the mid-point between the joins you’ve already done, and then dividing them further if your armhole is large. Gently stretch the pieces, if required, to sew a seam with no gathers.

8

9 You should now have your sleeve pinned or clipped firmly in place to the armhole. At this point, you can baste the pieces with a running stitch to check the fit if you desire. Working from the right side, join the body and sleevehead using mattress stitch (see separate walk-through below). Adjust how you work the mattress stitch according to whether you are joining cast-off edges (at start and end) or row-end edges.

9

Joining side and sleeve seams in one

Once your shoulders are joined, and the sleeveheads are set in, the biggest job remaining is to sew the side and sleeve seams in one. This is my favourite seam - there’s something satisfying about working from the hem of the body right along to the cuff (Fig. C)!

Fig C

Joining side and sleeve seams in one

10 With wrong sides facing (and right side outermost) pin or clip the cuff edges together, then match the hems on front and back, again pinning them in place.

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11 Match the underarm/sleevehead seams and pin in place.

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12 Divide the sleeve length in two and pin the sides together. Divide the body between underarm and hem in two, and pin. Divide each section in two again, pinning or clipping the pieces together (see Fig. D for more detail).

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Fig D

13 Working from the right side, join the side and sleeve seam using mattress stitch (see separate walk-through below).

13

Mattress stitch for Joining row-end edges

  • Thread a tapestry needle with a length of yarn. Secure the end at one side of the seam to be sewn.
  • Pass the needle up through the same corner of the piece to be joined, from wrong side to right side.
  • Pass the needle up (from wrong side to right side) through the same corner on the first piece, thus making a figure of eight. Pull to tighten.
  • On the left-hand piece: Leaving the edge stitch as a seam allowance, pass the needle between stitches from right side to wrong side on the first row of knitting, and come back up on the second row of knitting. You should have caught one strand of yarn on your tapestry needle.
  • On the right-hand piece: Pass the needle from right side to wrong side on the first row of knitting (again leaving a stitch at the edge for selvedge), and come back up on the third row of knitting. You should have caught two strands of yarn on your tapestry needle.
  • On the left-hand piece: Pass the needle from right side to wrong side on the second row of knitting, and come back up on the fourth row of knitting, thus catching two strands of yarn on your tapestry needle.
  • Continue to alternate between the left and right pieces, catching two rows of knitting (strands of yarn) each time, until you reach the end of the seam (see Fig. E).
  • Fasten off the yarn by stitching over the corner a couple of times. Weave in ends.

Fig E

Mattress stitch for joining cast-off (or cast-on) edges

  • Work the first three steps as for mattress stitch for row-end edges.
  • On the left-hand piece: Pass needle from front to back at the very edge of the fabric, behind the final row of stitches (see Fig. F), and come back up between the first and second stitches, thus catching one stitch with your tapestry needle.
  • On the right-hand piece: Pass needle from front to back at the very edge of the fabric, behind the final row of stitches, and come back up between second and third stitches, thus catching two stitches with your tapestry needle.
  • On the left-hand piece: Pass needle from front to back between first and second stitches, and come back up between third and fourth stitches, thus catching two stitches with your tapestry needle.
  • On the right-hand piece: Pass needle from front to back between second and third stitches, and come back up between fourth and fifth stitches, thus catching two stitches with your tapestry needle.
  • Continue to alternate between left and right pieces, catching two stitches each time, until you reach the end of your seam.
  • If your yarn is bulky, you may wish to start by catching only half a stitch and then catch one stitch each time (rather than two).

Fig F

Next time you’re working on a garment in pieces, plan ahead for the finishing - spread out the work, and get in the seaming ‘zone’ before you start. The results will be worth that extra bit of time and effort. 

Read more from Jen Arnall-Culliford at www.jenacknitwear.co.uk.

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