Creative Knitting Newsletter
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The Project at Hand
So here's what we have: a simple child's pullover made of acrylic and wool, which inadvertently went through the washer and dryer. It felted just a bit, but enough that the neckline will no longer pass over a child's head without a lot of complaining, and who needs that? My first thought was to make this into a cardigan with either a button or zipped closure. Very little yarn remained from the original project, so the prospect of making button bands was remote; thus, the zippered option won.
Here's the cute sweater as presented to me.
Figure 1 The pullover, slightly felted but still wonderful.
For the first step, I basted a line at the center front to indicate where I intended to cut. It's best to use a smooth cotton yarn for this step, and a contrasting color makes it easier to see clearly. Ordinarily when planning ahead, the ribbings are worked before or after the steeking, so they don't need to be cut. It just wasn't an option in this case.
Figure 2 Center front basting thread.
I shortened the stitch count to a very short length and stitched one time on each side of the basting thread, trying to avoid catching that yarn in the stitches. If I was doing this on fabric which had not been slightly felted, I would have used two lines of stitching, placed very close together.
Figure 3 Machine stitching beside the basting thread.
Now comes the part which will leave some knitters cold and quaking in a corner: With a strong light and nerves of steel, take scissors in hand and cut the steek between the stitched lines. You may cut the basting yarn without penalty. Do not be surprised if the cut edges seem a little wavy or loose at this step. All can be fixed soon.
Figure 4 Gasp! The deed is done; no cause for alarm.
The next step is optional. I used a single-crochet edging over the machine stitching to cover the edges of the steek. It's a good idea to keep your stitching line along a particular vertical line of the fabric, so watch carefully as you work along the edge. Be sure to use a crochet hook a couple of sizes smaller than you'd usually use as you want this edging firm. Whether you crochet in each row of the front or space them at a ratio of 3:4 (making a single crochet in three rows, and then skipping the fourth) is really something you need to figure out yourself. I'll be honest and tell you that I did one side the first way and the second the other way; the ratio side worked better. Do tuck in all ends before proceeding to the next step.
Figure 5 Crocheting the cut edges.
Turning in the edges to sew in the zipper would lose a bit of the available ease in this sweater, so I opted to make the crocheted edge instead. You may stitch in the zipper without this step, folding in a bit of fabric as the fabric meets the zipper teeth.
Now let's discuss inserting the zipper. It's a job for hand sewing, although in theory it could be done by machine. I just would not work it that way. The zipper I am using is a separating 12-inch plastic one, in black. I could have used a longer one and cut off the excess at the top of the opening, but this color was as close as the other choices and the right length. Please take the time to shrink the zipper before insertion; I won't bore you with the details of how I learned this.
You may have the edges meet over the zipper teeth or expose the zipper; as always, it's the knitter's choice. I am using the second option. Baste the zipper in by hand. Choose a good color of thread to sew in the zipper; for this sweater, the best choice is a blue and a gray used together. Start at the lower edge and secure the thread between the sweater and the zipper to conceal the knot. Use small backstitches to sew, keeping midway between the teeth and the edge.
Figure 6 The inside story: the back of the backstitches.
As you approach the top of the seam, you'll need to determine if the length of the zipper requires shortening. This is much easier than you might suppose. That stopper at the upper edge of the teeth can be replaced with a few well-placed and stacked stitches on each side to prevent the pull from going AWOL. When you have reached the top, fold under the top inch or so of the tape so that it lies between the inside of the sweater and the wrong side of the zipper. Stitch close to the fold and back down the outside edge of the zipper tape to secure it, keeping the stitches from showing on the public side. Remove the basting thread. Repeat on the other side of the zipper and voila! You're done!
Figure 7 The completed zippered cardigan.