Week 4: Finishing Your Ella Sleeves, Seaming, Measuring . . .

This past Wednesday on the Ravelry live chat, we got overwhelming feedback that 1 week was not enough time to finish the sleeves. I hope this statement does not elicit a round of growls and groans from the studio audience who knitted ceaselessly, at great sacrifice to themselves and their families, to finish the sleeves. . .

I hope I can make everybody happy with this week’s assignment: For all those who are ready to do something with the sleeves you have knit, I’ve got something for you! For all who need more time to finish the sleeve knitting, here is what to do when you are done in preparation for next week’s assignment.

1. Weave in the bodice and sleeve ends: I have not offered my thoughts about this topic here before, and I may be bucking tradition, but here is what I think. Put your tapestry needle back in the needle case. Save it for the seams. Get out a large-eyed darning needle, that is a sharp needle, and use that for weaving in the ends. Here’s why: I make a point of inserting my needle into a portion of the purl stitch bumps on the wrong side of the knitted fabric (in mole-like fashion. If you’ve taken a workshop from me before, you will recall me referencing moles and voles. Your needle, like a mole, is going to make it’s way beneath the surface, in this case of the wrong side of your knitting. Continue in this manner away from the origin of your end to be woven in for about an inch (2.5cm) and then come to the surface. Pull the needle through to snugness but not taught-ness. Cut close to the surface of the wrong side of the fabric. It is my conviction that this produces no impression on the right side of the fabric and makes for a better “stick.”

If you have a weaving-in method that you like and that works, by all means do what works for you.  But please weave in your ends up to this point if you have not already done so, especially you folks working in stripes.

2. Block your bodice and sleeve pieces (if you like): As most of you already know, blocking your pieces as you prepare to work some seams make it easier to do this work. If you are a non-blocker (I confess I fall into this category), I’m not going to tell you to do something I don’t do myself. I block at the end. . . But I do concede that there is a certain pleasure in beautifully blocked pieces and that seaming has a greater sweetness with well-blocked fabric.

3. Seam up (most of) each sleeve: I have not forgotten that I implored you last week not to put the provisional stitches with which you began your sleeves back onto needles. This week, if your sleeves are finished, you may move those provisional stitches back to a circular needle or needles in preparation for knitting your sleeves down to the desired length cuffs.

Because working these stitches will require a certain amount of play in the fabric of your sleeves, we are going to begin the seam on each sleeve from the armhole BO end and work toward those provisional stitches. I want you to work the seam until it is about 4 – 5 inches (10 – 12.5cm) from the live provisional stitches.

For those of you have never made a garment before, you will be using a conventional mattress stitch to make the seam more or less invisible. There are a lot of on-line tutorials with good videos on how to do this technique. Google at will to find one you like. This one does the job: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvAS-HCWk9I

Things to keep in mind as you work on the sleeve seams:

1. Don’t forget to work from the BO toward the cuff. Stop (with plenty of tail) about 4 or so inches (10cm) from the live provisional stitches.

2. Line up the two sides of the seam, right sides facing you, with increases and any stripes aligned. Clip in place using seam or hair clips. T-pins can also be used for this purpose. If others have little tricks that would benefit us all, please share in the comments.

3. For those who have striped the sleeves, choose a seaming color yarn that is compatible with the majority of your stripes. This yarn should in most any circumstance, be undetectable on the outside. But if you worked your coat in a palette of black to white with shades of grey in between, you might want to use a middling grey for the majority and stick with white for white and black for black. If a medium grey does the whole thing well, by all means do it. The main point: choose wisely and maybe swatch a little to determine the best match. You’ll be glad you did.

Setting the Sleeves into the Bodice

Once sleeve seams are complete (save for that last bit toward the cuff about which I keep growling ), you can set them into the bodice. For this part of the seaming work, you will need to join stitches to each other horizontally as well as vertically. You will join the bound off stitches of the bodice to those of the sleeve at the underarm. These bound off stitches are here so that there is a smooth, flat bit under your arm where you need it to lie flat and not bother, bunch, or bind.

Then you will begin to join stitch to stitch vertically, matching stripes if relevant. You will notice those 24 bound off stitches at the top of the sleeve cap–if striping, you might have wondered why your sleeve stripes stopped so much sooner than the bodice. The reason is because all sleeve caps must be more or less flat over the crown of the shoulder. If the sleeve continued to decrease to nothing or almost nothing as the stripes continued for the same height as the bodice, the result would be a sleeve that, like a really pointy toed shoe, would squeeze you in places you wouldn’t want to be squeezed, the fabric of the bodice would stretch to try to accommodate the width you need at the top of your arm. O, just trust me, it would be bad.

Sleeves in place, now you can try on the Ella BOLERO, I mean the Ella bodice with sleeves!

I hope the results produce a great sense of satisfaction. But here’s what you will learn in an instance. You will know if the sleeves are long enough. . .  or too long (hope not. . .).

If they are long enough, you are ready for next week’s assignment. Don’t rush ahead because I’ve got innovations to divulge. .

Too long? You can take them back a bit if you need to.

Too short? Work until the desired length.

Just don’t seam up that little bit there at the cuff end.  I’ve got options and plans for you, so sit tight. . . more about this next week.

If you really need something to do, join our mini-knit-a-long. We are working on the Poppy Cowl (see my last blog posting) and will add to it some cute gauntlets to match.

Happy Knitting!

5 thoughts on “Week 4: Finishing Your Ella Sleeves, Seaming, Measuring . . .

  1. Thanks for all the great directions. I have one sleeve done and one to go (everything done is blocked–I like non-curling edges to seam).

    Any reason not to do the armhole seaming first and then seam the sleeve? Just curious as this is my preferred method–I like to lay it on a table open and sew so I can see the stripes matching.

    • Hello Steph,
      This method makes sense to me and, as I visualize it, would work the best when both parts (bodice and sleeve) could be laid out flat and then the sleeve seam and bodice side seam could be done at the same time after the sleeve has been set in. With there being no bodice side seam here as it was made in one piece to that point, it adds a bit of trickiness. I can’t, however, think of a good reason for you not to do things the way you have always done. Have at it and report here in the comments if you come up with a good reason after having done it.
      Thanks for this question! Nora

    • I do my sleeves the same way. It works better for me to have any “easing In” that may need to happen on the bottom portion, and know that the top of the sleeve is completely smooth.

  2. Can I just say how very helpful it is when you post pictures! I must be a visual learner, because it all makes so much more sense when I see a picture of what you are describing. Thanks for showing me how to weave in the ends and what the seams should look like when I’m done. I really appreciated this.

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