Knitting how-to: 7 tips for finishing knitting (+giveaway!)

Martingale's Knit & Crochet Friday

If you’ve knitted one too many sweaters that scream “I’m homemade!” you’re not alone. Finishing knitting can be one of the most challenging parts of completing a garment. Sometimes if you don’t get it right, it can all go wrong.

Nancie WisemanWhen it comes to teaching how to finish knitting, Nancie Wiseman’s got the magic touch. A lifelong knitter and a contributor to such publications as Martha Stewart Living, Knitter’s Magazine, and Piecework, Nancie has owned her own knitting shop and designed for yarn companies including Prism, Trendsetter, Brown Sheep, and Tilli Tomas. She’s also published several books—and her most popular book is newly available in paperback. What is Nancie’s bestselling book (which has sold more than 100,000 copies) all about? You guessed it. How to finish knitting!

Along with clear, detailed knitting how-to for a range of finishing skills, The Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques offers sharp advice from Nancie—and she shares a lot. Her chapters cover:

  • cast ons and bind offs
  • increases and decreases
  • seams, selvages, and picking up stitches
  • borders, bands, and buttonholes
  • odds and ends like joining yarns, weaving in ends, reinforcing shoulders, blocking, and storing finished knits

It’s a truly comprehensive resource. But what I’ll bet those 100,000+ knitters who own Nancie’s book like best is her candor. Nancie offers both the advantages and disadvantages for the techniques she presents, so you can make informed choices about which finishing methods will best fit the knitting you’re working on at any given time. Take a look at this example from The Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques about a cast on that most knitters are familiar with: the long-tail cast on.

Long-tail cast on--benefits and drawbacks
In this chapter, you can read through Nancie’s pros and cons for several more cast-on methods and find the one that fits the design you’re working on to a T.

On top of how-to techniques and honest evaluations of them, Nancie includes scores of other tips for finishing knitting. Here are seven gems that apply to almost any project:

Tools for finishing knitting1) If you absolutely hate finishing, don’t wait to start until all the pieces are knit. When the body is done, work the shoulder seams and the front or neck bands before you start the sleeves. It will let you begin to see what the finished product is going to look like. Small rewards in small steps bring instant gratification and success.

2) Make your swatches large, at least eight inches square. That way, you can use them to experiment with finishing techniques, such as picking up stitches, or to decide the type of band you want to work at garment edges. Be sure to bind off your swatches and keep them. You can also carry them with you when looking for buttons if needed.

3) Leave long ends when you cast on, so you can later use them for seaming. Never trim an end until you’re sure you’re not going to use it somewhere for a seam.

4) If you always work all of your finishing in the same order, you’ll know exactly where to go to find the ends if you ever have to rip part of the garment out for some reason.

5) Steam and moisture are your best friends for blocking. Don’t be afraid to use them.

6) In general, when stitches are knit over and over, they stretch out and look very loose. If you’ve had to work a stitch or two over and over to get a technique correct, and the yarn is wool or a wool blend, drop some water on the stitch when done to shrink it back up.

7) When you discover an error in a stitch pattern a few rows back in your knitting and you think that it will be okay, or that no one will notice it, don’t leave it. You’re probably going to wish you had ripped it out the further away you get from it. Go back and fix it when you find it. You’ll never like the sweater if you don’t.

I love her straight-talk approach, don’t you? And Nancie’s last tip surely rings true: when your project’s seamed, blocked, and ready to wear, knowing that you did it well—down to the final finishing touch—makes all the difference.

Browse Nancie’s pattern books.

The Knitters Book of Finishing Techniques
So, what finishing techniques trip up your knitting? (And how many projects are waiting in the wings for you to finish?) Share your story in the comments and you could win an eBook version of The Knitter’s Book of Finishing Techniques! We’ll choose a random winner one week from today and let you know by email if you’ve won.

You can also purchase Nancie’s book here, download the eBook for free right away, and finish the project that’s been patiently waiting.

You could win a free eBook of your choice when you answer our Quirky Question on Ravelry! If you’re not a member of Ravelry, it’s free to join.

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