For those of you who are interested (I realise this will be a minority of readers, sorry!), here is how I put together my New Leaf Jacket. I learned a few things from this project, which I have listed after this wee “slide show” of photos.
Steeking… I used the crochet method to do my steeks.
Making the cut… one of them anyway. The two rows of crochet (using gold-coloured sock yarn) keep the yarn from fraying.
Then I basted the outline for the front neckline.
With green cotton thread, I backstitched two rows close together along where I intended to sew the facing. Then I cut the neckline, leaving a small selvedge. I did the same along the back neckline, which was a shallow dip to the centre.
Next I made a pattern for the fabric facing of the neckline, and cut the fabric; I also cut fabric strips for facing the front opening.
Before I sewed the fabric facing to the knitting, I checked that it would lie flat when stitched and turned to the inside.
Facings pinned on the neckline and the front openings. Tilly was helping, as always! You can see the two sleeves near the top of the photo.
Having carefully checked that the two front openings were the same length, I sewed the facings by hand along the basting line, pulling the basting out as I went along. I then turned the facings inside (overlapping the front opening facing and the neckline facing). Then I topstitched by hand all around, then hemmed the turned-under edge to the knitted fabric. I sewed the knitted hem over the facing, just using the same wool.
Next I sewed the velvet ribbon around the neckline and front openings. Velvet slips as you sew, so careful pinning is necessary to keep it lying smoothly. I sewed once around using an even stitch, and then sewed around again, placing my stitches in the gaps between the first row of stitches.
The ribbon is sewn onto right side around the front openings and neckline. Once I’d sewn the ribbon along the right-side edge, I made the buttonholes. To do this, I cut the fabric facing to match the knitted-in buttonholes (doing each as I went), and bound the buttonhole with – surprise! – buttonhole stitch, sewing through all layers. Here Tilly is luxuriating in September sunshine!
I then hemmed the velvet ribbon on the inside using whipstitch.
Close-up of ribbon, buttonholes, facing.
Sewing the sleeve to the steeked armhole. I did this on the right side, following the basting on the opening and taking it out as I went.
Sleeve seams: the instructions said to fold the knitted selvedge at the top of the sleeves to cover the cut edge of the steeks along the armhole. This was far too bulky, so I decided to sew each back to its own side. There was a scary moment when I was gently steam pressing the sleeve selvedges and the iron gushed a brown streak on the jacket! I immediately washed it out and hung the jacket up to dry, inside out. Luckily all was well.
Once the jacket had dried, I whipstitched the knitted selvedge of the sleeve down (to the sleeve, using the same colour wool), and I stitched the armhole steek down (to the armhole, using green wool) with an X stitch. I wouldn’t give myself 10 out of 10 for the X stitch but nevermind, I don’t think any steeking teachers will be inspecting.
Then I sewed on the buttons, and sewed in the last stray threads.
The neckline and buttons.
Then I wore it!
Finally finished turning over my New Leaf! September 2015.
I mentioned that this project has made me realise a few things. They are:
- I don’t mind steeking, and love knitting colourwork in the round, where steeking is necessary if you want to make a cardigan/jacket.
- However, I much prefer a knitted-in steek, rather than just making a steek from the knitted fabric.
- Also, I much prefer to make knitted-on buttonbands and neckline, rather than using fabric – although the finished product in this case brings me great pleasure.
- And I prefer to knit the sleeves directly onto the armhole steeks, rather than make them separately and join them by sewing. I know it’s not very fashionable at the moment, but I do like this traditional straight-edged sleeve construction (dropped seam is it called?) for stranded colourwork jackets.
- I’m less bothered than I was by the slight flare at the bottom of the jacket. This is caused by the pull of the stranded colourwork that doesn’t start until a few rows farther up. I don’t know if it would be possible to avoid this pulling-in effect with more careful knitting, but for my own future projects, I think I prefer knitted ribbing at the bottom of a colourwork jacket, rather than this type of picot hem.
- I realised that while this jacket uses traditional Norwegian construction, the leaf pattern of the colourwork itself is very modern. Solveig Hisdal explains (in Poetry in Stitches, the book this pattern is from) that she was inspired by the damask fabrics of traditional Norwegian costume. I very much like the beautiful design, but I learned that it is much more challenging to do stranded colourwork when you have to carry the yarn behind for long sections. I think in the future I will stick to more traditional types of designs, where the yarn isn’t carried too far behind the work. Or, if I opt for a modern colourwork design, I will know better what I’m letting myself in for!
The finishing process took me many hours, and although I finished the knitting almost a year ago – and Michael made me very handy blocking frames for the body and the sleeves, thank you Mike! – I was quite right to wait until there was plenty of light in order to tackle the construction. I planned it out very carefully, took my time, and also found help from June Hemmons Hiatt’s The Principles of Knitting.
So I am pleased and relieved that this project turned out well! If you’re thinking of doing a project that involves steeking, be assured that knitted fabrics (if made of wool) tend to felt together, and will not drop apart the moment your scissors approach. It’s a very useful technique indeed.