the spring display in our neighborhood continues to be astounding through the week—now the trees are all busting out in bloom, bang, bang, bang.
i look forward each spring to the blooming of this specimen cherry tree, which sits on a corner a few blocks up in our city’s historic ridgewood neighborhood.
on monday, its buds were barely evident, but with a week full of weather in the mid-80s, it was in full bloom by wednesday when i went out for my run. and yes, the sky really has been that color all week; hard to believe it’s going to rain all weekend as precicted—it’s just brilliant right now.
most years, there is a little more space between the blooming of different types and we can soak in their individual beauty one at a time. but this year, they are blooming in such quick succession that it’s a bit dizzying. each time i go out, i’m a bit overcome between the visual wealth or the glut of tree pollen in the air—i can’t tell which.
here’s another example, a smaller cherry tree that had tiny buds one day and the next it looked like this
so many blooms that it actually looks bigger in size, haha.
on the knitting front, i’ve been working on a bunch of secret projects as usual, but as i mentioned in the last post, i also finished david’s sweater over the weekend. i’ve been putting off posting about it because i wanted to get some pictures of himself wearing it, but we’ve been running around so much this week that we haven’t had the opportunity to do that. each day nightfall comes before we know it and we haven’t managed the photos.
and now erica is about to arrive for a marathon work weekend, so i want to get this post up before she gets here. the modeling shots will have to wait, but i promise, we’ll do it in the next couple of days—we’ll get her to help us.
last time you saw the sweater, i had joined the shoulder seams and completed the neck finish—it was ready for complete seaming. this is a closeup of my shoulder seam, which i join with a three-needle bindoff, after shaping the shoulder using the short-row method. this is an optional technique you can use for shaped shoulders, for which there is a ton of online support and information.
i like this method because it produces a very smooth shoulder join with perfectly matched stitches. if i’m working with a textured fabric—and i nearly always am—this is the only way i’ve found to match it with exactness at the shoulders. the seam is also firm enough to support the sweater’s weight while maintaining a bit of elasticity. i don’t require knowledge of this finish in my patterns because it can be a bit tricky to work and i prefer to keep its use optional. but if you’re ready for something new, go for it.
once i have the neck finish completed, i like to attached the curved sleeve cap to the sweater body at the armscye. now, this is the trickiest of all seams i think, requiring a lot of patience and often some ripping and redoing. i’m always glad when this step is behind me—once it’s done, the rest of the seams are clear sailing.
the reason the armscye seams are so tricky is that we are joining opposing curves to create a 3-dimensional shell to fit the curves of the shoulder girdle. not only are we joining opposite curves, but from one end of the seam to the other, the curve opposes first in one direction, then in the other.
and if they are not fitted together and sewn beautifully, it will positively ruin the finished look of your sweater.
i hate to be that blunt, but there you have it—ay, ay, ay.
furthermore, if you don’t do a nice job pressing those seams once they’re joined, you can’t show off all your hard work to its best advantage.
so while i was pressing my own armscye seams the other day and sighing with relief that they were turning out well, i decided it might be nice to do a post all about getting a great final finish. you want to show off your good work, right?
i do like to stop and press the armscye seams before putting the remainder of the garment together. it’s tempting to rush ahead, sew up all the seams, and then press everything afterward, but these tricky curves will be MUCH easier to deal with while the garment is still open under the arms.
for this task, it really pays to have the right tools; pressing curved seams is challenging on a flat surface, particularly when dealing with handknits. once a crease is inadvertently steam-pressed into wool, it is very difficult to remove. it helps to have something rounded to work on . . . such as a tailor’s ham.
this is one of my favorite workroom tools—roll it around in your hands a bit and you’ll realize that no two corners, sides, or surface curves are exactly alike. it’s not-quite-elliptical, football-sized body offers every conceivable shape you’ll need to press any curved seam, dart, or collar.
even in profile it is constantly varying from end to end.
santa brought my brown plaid tailor’s ham for christmas when i was about 12 years old—i was preparing to sew my first fully-tailored coat and i would need one. it was a real surprise, but i loved getting cool sewing and knitting tools at that age.
(why yes, i was a complete needlework geek as kid, why do you ask? oh right—i still am, haha.)
can you tell it was the 70s? traditionally, one side of the ham is always wool plaid; i know not why, but you cna sorta date them by the color and type of plaid that was used.
it’s funny, as i write this, i’m wondering just why i did need my own ham at that age; i know my mom had one and no normal household needs two of them. the operative word being ‘normal’, i guess. either that, or more likely, she found a bargain on it somewhere that she couldn’t resist and knew i’d need my own some day.
since i did work as a tailor for many years, i have my own small collection now. if you knit a lot of sweaters or if you also sew, you’d probably get lots of use out of a tailor’s ham if you don’t already own one. it’s a worthy investment; once you purchase one, you’ll never need another. they just don’t wear out.
something i learned while shopping for one to give to helena a couple of christmases back—i don’t think you can get the nice big, heavy ones new any more; at least, i wasn’t able to locate one. discovering this situation has put me on the lookout in vintage shops for a few tailor’s tools i never bought.
but vintage hams in nice shape are still pretty easy to locate on ebay and etsy—at reasonable prices, too (i kept the original wrapping for my largest one, which i found at a garage sale one summer, years ago). i even saw one etsy shop this morning that will make a custom ham or seam roll to your liking.
ok, i digress . . . you have to slap me when i stray like that!
we were talking about pressing armscye seams.
i lay my cured seam over the ham and move it around til i find the position in which it lies flat.
then i lay a wet towel over the fabric to cover it
and with my hot iron, i press very lightly along the seam. never put any weight into it—you could easily end up with a shiny seam surface or crushed texture. you can always go back and press again, if needed.
once i do that i peek under the cloth to see how it’s going; if it doesns’t look pressed enough, i go over it once more. “enough” will vary from fabric to fabric; you sorta have to develop a nose for it, but basically, you are looking for a seam that is flattish and straight and yarn that still looks to have its original spring and liveliness.
when i pull the towel off, i usually press my hand firmly onto the seam to hold some of the steam in just a little longer—sort of molding the fabric a bit at the same time. this is an old habit form my tailoring work, when i spent a lot of time shaping lapels and collars; wool is very moldable and many parts of a finely-made suit are more sculpted than sewn. you can also use a wooden clapper for this step if you have one; my hand is usually, well, handier.
when we do steam blocking in finishing class, this is the point where i pass the results around and everyone gasps over the difference before and after—i kid you not.
it’s harder to show on the blog but here goes—on the right is our steam-pressed seam; the cable is still nicely defined, but the shape is smoothed into a gentle curve and the surrounding fabric has been molded nicely around it. on the left is our unpressed seam, which is still lumpy form its stitching and stand sup from the fabric in a funny pinched way. trust me, it won’t look better on someone’s shoulder, especially when they move.
once the sleeves were in and pressed, it seemed a very quick matter to sew up the side and underarm seams while i visited with debby and susie last saturday. i went home, pressed those as well, and the whole thing was done. i love the way the side seams look with the double cables.
and now that i’ve dawdled over this post, getting sidetracked with stories and such, enough time has passed for david to be up and about and he graciously allowed himself to be subject to a few photos—anything for the blog, right?
i even told him what you always say about his reluctance to smile and begged him to crack one for us
i’m serious. that’s it.
the back view is quite handsome, though i forgot to ask for a shot with his arm raised so we could see the side cables (next time, i promise).
and doesn’t the yarn just make it? my pal kim really knows what she’s doing at the dyepot; she created a color that neither of us can resist loving, so it was a pleasure to knit and i know it is destined to be a go-to sweater for david. if you like it too, take a look at her sporty kashmir in the enchanted forest colorway, or request a color of your choice.
the back armhole seam is looking nice. i find that most sweaters don’t settle into their final shape and fit til they are washed and he wears them a time or two. for us, this usually means that they grow a bit, so i tend to err on the side of a little tightness in the finished piece. when the fabric relaxes, it looks just right.
david will often say that a sweater feels tight when it’s just been finished, but later will agree that it feel fine after all. and i’m happy when it’s not sloppy-loose.
what do you think??
one thing’s for sure—my husband is a great sport; thank you david!
the pattern is now in the hands of the test knitters, some of whom have already cast on. i think between all of us, we’ll have at least one of each version—vest, cardigan, pullover, v-neck, and crew neck. oh, and it’s sized for both sexes. i don’t know if we’ll get photos of all of them for the pattern release, but we will try.
now, what are we all doing in front of the computer on such a beautiful day??
GO—have some fun this weekend and we’ll see you on the other side.