Saturday, November 7, 2009

Closer to Fine

Today Kiwi decided that the camera was not the Antichrist that she had previously believed, so she consented for a picture to be taken close up without me using the digital zoom.

Then when I walked into the living room two of the hermit crabs were hanging off the thermometer which is stuck to the side of the aquarium. I have no idea how they even get onto it, but they occasionally hang out there. I've never seen two of them do it at the same time though, so since I had the camera in my hand, voila!

The reason that I had the camera in my hand is that today Brian and Gerry who have previously taken some advanced knitting classes with me, had asked me about zippers. Given that the zipper in the last sweater I knit for Shawn took me six (yes, damn it, SIX) hours to hand sew into the sweater, I was interested in finding a better way to do this as well. So we decided to all research, make some swatches and all get together to see what we could do. Of course I needed the camera to document for the blog :)

This event had been planned for well over a month, because October's weekends had been so scheduled, I couldn't manage it before this. So of course, I wait until this week to do the research. I wanted to find a good way to sew zippers in with a sewing machine, because you know, I can spend six hours knitting or spinning, not hand sewing a freaking zipper into a sweater and ripping my fingers to shreds. Those of you who know me, or have seen the list of my knitting library on Ravelry know that I have a few knitting books. When we moved last, I think it was only six to eight boxes of them. Not one of my reference books had a description of using a machine. I did find two blogs that had directions one is here but that's it.

I made two sets of swatches. The first set was two swatches that were ribbed but had a slipped stitch selvage which was similar in pattern to the last sweater I made for Shawn, which is the Manzetter by Kelly Bridges at the Elegant Ewe. The second set was one that was a zipped neckline, but I used a slipped stitch selvage and two seed stitches on either side as described in the blog I found. I wanted to see if there was a difference in visibility in the machine stitch between the two.

Initially I tried to pin the zippers to the swatches. It was not happening. Brian's research had suggested basting, so I basted the zippers to the swatches with long running stitches with sewing thread in a contrasting color. I used the zipper foot on the sewing machine, and sewed down the center of the selvage stitch. Because I am paranoid about my knitting getting caught on the feed dogs of the machine, I borrowed a technique from my steeking bag of tricks and used paper underneath. You end up sewing the swatch to the paper, but it rips off easily and it feeds better. This was the result.
It's not bad. I used grey thread because (a) it was already on the sewing machine and (b) I wanted a different color so I could see what it was doing. I probably would like it better if the thread matched.
(Pictures enlarge if you click on them.)

The second swatches I did pretty much the same thing, except this is the one with the seed stitch, and I sewed just outside the selvage edge in the seed. There's a world of difference in visibility. You really can't see the thread except at the top. I think it would still work even if there was only one seed stitch instead of two. And it took no time at all, which is key.

Since Shawn has lost 60 pounds since the diabetes diagnosis, the two sweaters I knit for him are now somewhat voluminous. I wasn't looking forward to doing another one after the last zipper experience, but now I think I could do it without pain.

Brian found a technique to hand sew his zippers in using a crocheted edge, from a now out of print Barbara Abbey book that he was happy with. Gerry also used the machine, but steeked his swatch, so he was attaching the zippers to a steeked edge, which was cool to see. It was a good morning!

Brian and Gerry were very kind and gave me a gift card to the Elegant Ewe for hosting, as well as some of Gerry's homemade bread, which was so good, and some of Brian's hand dyed corriedale roving, which is just my color :)

I couldn't wait and dragged Shawn up to the Ewe as we had to go to Concord anyway. I got some Crystal Palace Mini Mochi, which I've wanted to try. and the Interweave Knits Accessories Special Issue, and Classic Elites Curvy Knits, which has sweaters sized more generously for the more ample among us.

I've been doing six loads of laundry as I've been writing this, but over all, it's been a really fabulous day. Stay tuned for further broadcasts.


  1. Holy crap! After reading this post I went and read all of the titles in your knitting library, and I can not believe, with a collection like that, there is so little information out there about such a commonly called for technique. Maybe we should schedule more of these experiment gathers and write our own book of tips!

    Thanks again for hosting. It was a great time, and I now feel completely confident, and ready to start on a zip-up cardigan.

  2. Hey big sis! I particularly like the one with the crocheted edge. Since I only crochet, that method looks like something I could use. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Very interesting post. Great clear pictures. You do so many things so well.