Musing on fusing

I’ve been asking for advice the past few weeks about how to finish the project I’ve been knitting for my daughter Leah.  To review for any new visitors, I have knit a rectangular panel, which measures about 13×41 inches, which has the inscription from the One Ring of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings knitted into it.  I used Quince & Co Chickadee wool, knit it in the round with stranded knitting and steeked it.  Here is a photo of the steeked and blocked piece:

12-20131228_134013My plan is to make this into the front of a pillow.  Its current shape is too long and narrow, so I would build it up on the top and the bottom and aim for a finished size of about 25×40 inches once sewn together.  I bought some beautiful silk fabric to make the back with (and also a border across top and bottom).  Since finishing the knitted portion I have been having second thoughts about whether using a silk fabric backing is a good idea, or whether I should knit the back.  I sought advice from various friends in Vancouver (where I spent my Christmas holiday) and I also asked for advice in my last post.

Both my friend Teresa (who was serendipitously also visiting Vancouver for the holidays) and my blogging friend Ann (who responded to the blog post) suggested using fusible interfacing to stiffen the fabric.  I believe this intervention was intended irregardless of whether I ended up using a knitted or silk cloth back.  Both of them felt that the knitted piece would be too flimsy to hold up in the pillow and should be reinforced.

Well, this has set me to musing about fusing, so to speak.  Here is my concern:  I knit this by stranding.  This means that there is always one strand of yarn being carried across the back of the work.  Because I intended this to be a pillow, and thus the back would not be seen, I was also not meticulous about the length of the floats, which I varied quite a bit, and are sometimes quite long.   I can’t take a photo of the back now, because I am ensconsed in business school for the weekend (I am writing this after a full day of micro-economic theory).  Here is a photo of me cutting the steek, however, in which a portion of the back is visible:

07-20131226162014I am wondering whether the fusing will fuse, not to the knitting itself but rather only to the floats that are stranded across the back.  Furthermore, as you can see in the top photo, there are two lines of text, and in between is about twelve rows or so of plain purple knitting in which I didn’t strand the yellow (there are also similar portions on the top and bottom of the panel).  These areas looked quite different from the stranded ones pre-blocking with a slightly different gauge, causing some puckering, and also a smoother texture, as you can see in the below photo which was taken pre-steeking.


In addition to wondering how the fusing will interact with the stranded fabric, I am worried that it will interact differently with the unstranded portions thus once again highlighting the distinctions between the stranded and unstranded portions that I managed to hide with a good blocking.

If anyone has experience using fusible facing on a stranded knitting project, I would love to hear from you.  Also, to Lora, thank you for your lovely comments on my last post.  I really do love the silk fabric I bought for the pillow back, and my main concern about using it is my lack of confidence and experience in sewing.  I will definitely take your advice and consult a professional seamstress before I make any decisions.

Well, I will stop musing about fusing now, and go back to musing about the Income Elasticity of Demand.  Sigh….

19 thoughts on “Musing on fusing

  1. hmmm, you raise some really valid points. I had also thought you would need to stiffen both the fabric and the knitting and have a very firm pillow. I wonder if there is an adhesive backing that wouldn’t need to be heat fused, just mashed so to speak. You may need to consult a shop that finishes needlepoint or needlework into pillows to see if they would have any advice.

  2. I think that the idea of fusing interfacing to the back is brilliant, but you bring up many good points. What I’d do is knit another piece of stranded knitting. Nothing fancy, and it would not even need to be knit in the round — just break the strands at the end of every row, or purl back. No particular pattern, just make sure to have a few plain areas and areas with long and short floats. That might be a good way for you to get a handle on fusing. Of course, all of this is in your spare time…

    • Hi Susan, I have definitely thought of this, and it is a really good idea (especially the bit about knitting it back and forth and breaking the yarn). I have lots of extra yarn, but am worried about the amount of fabric I have, however. So, I’m not sure I can practice with fusing the fabric as well as the knitting.

  3. If you remember I tried using a fusable mesh on the green mohair 3/4 length coat I made years ago-IT DID NOT WORK-finally just used a regular mesh and ended up cutting it completely out-I guess that I would not use a fusable material on a knit–as the knitted piece moves (even tho it is the top of a pillow) the fusable material may hold it too tight to allow the needed movement.

  4. Doing a test swatch is a great idea, but I also see the point about using a static mesh with a dynamic knit! I like the idea of a knit backing or a professional sewing the silk fabric. Either way I love the idea of a long, narrow pillow. Looks awesome on either a sofa or a bed. Nice work!

    • Hi Kate, I think you are right that a knit fabric would perhaps be more suitable backing, though I must say I am really enamored of the silk fabric I picked up for this project. I think the key here is to test a bunch of different options.

  5. I have to clarify my previous comment. I would not put any fusible interfacing on the knitted front of the pillow, only on the fabric that makes up the back of the pillow. Your backing fabric has to be more stiff than what you currently have – it has to be give-or-take as consistent as your knitted front. Your starting point should be a muslin pillow filled full enough to comfortably span both the knitted front, and interfaced back. From this starting point, you can see just how much filling you’ll need in your pillow to accommodate your slipcover.

    Like The Twisted Yarn’s beautiful fern cushion, I’d add a decorative twisted cord that will hide the seam between knitted front and interfaced back.

    Clear as mud?

    • Wow, I ‘m really glad I put up this post because I completely misconstrued your last comment. Thanks for clarifying. And, yes, I will definitely be making a slip cover with a separate pillow for filling; I don’t think I made that clear in the post. As always, thanks for the comments, Ann.

  6. I agree about sewing a pillow insert rather than directly stuffing the knitting. The other thing I would do is line the front with a woven fabric that will have the same amount of give as the woven silk fabric in back. Stretch the piece of knitting to a pleasing tension and baste it around the edges to a rectangular piece of lining fabric. This will keep the knitting at whatever tension you set and will prevent stretching, sagging and lumps later on. Then you treat both pieces as one when you sew them to the pillow back. Now about the edges. I would use piping to keep a knife edge on the pillow. A flanged pillow would also be pleasing as it would give you an unstuffed edge of the silk fabric all the way around. Hope this helps!

    • Thank you for your comments, Lynne. This gives me more to muse upon. Interestingly, I never even thought about edging treatments at all until I read the comments on this post. Now that gives me one more dimension to consider…..

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