Seams and buttons

Regular readers will recall that in October I was in a rush to knit the final sleeve of the Tinder cardigan.  This was so that I could wash and block all of the pieces before heading out to Tucson.  The cardigan is for my daughter Emma, who lives in Vancouver, and my other daughter Leah was planning a weekend in Tucson to visit me and her grandparents. My plan was to take all of the freshly blocked pieces of the cardigan (back, two fronts and sleeves) with me, and while there to do ALL of the finishing, so that Leah could take the cardigan back with her to Vancouver and give it to her sister.  I blogged about it here.


This plan failed.  I did manage to finish knitting the sleeve on time and get the blocking done (just barely).  However, the finishing kicked my butt.  There were a number of reasons for this.  First, I was enjoying spending time with my mom and going for walks, lazing by the pool, etc.  I didn’t want to be knitting like a maniac on my holiday.  (Yes, I know – that’s what holidays are for, you knitters are shouting at me!)  Second, this is a big cardigan.  It is tunic length and made of wool.  Tucson was having a record heat wave that week.  Sitting with a humongous pile of wool on my lap while I painstakingly sewed very long seams in mattress stitch somehow lost its appeal.  I mentioned both of these in my previous post.  There was an additional reason, however, which I have not yet shared: the seams looked terrible.

Let me be more specific.  The raglan seams turned out really good.  The instructions for the raglan edging were excellent, and the mattress stitch seams worked out perfectly. Here is a photo of my mom modelling the sweater so that you can see the shoulder and raglan seaming.  (Only one side of the garment was sewn together at this point.)


Likewise, the textured pattern stitch of the sweater was easy enough to use the mattress stitch on and the results are not too bad. A good blocking will sort it out.  (One thing I did change in the pattern was to move the decreases and increases farther out towards the side edges of the garments.  I couldn’t understand why they were set so far in.  Once I started seaming I could see the logic; if I were to knit this again, I would follow those instructions exactly.)


However, try as I might, I could not get the sleeve seams to look anything but sloppy.  I concentrated really hard and went very slowly, but they just never looked right. The sleeves are knit in reverse stockinette stitch, and for some reason, this makes it absurdly difficult to get a decent seam.  Having piles of hot wool on my lap and sweating in the record heat may have been worth it if the seams were perfect; but it really was a slog when I couldn’t get them right.  In the end, I gave up.  Here is a photo which shows the messy seam:


Just to be thorough, here is a close-up:


Aarrgghh!  It looks like a two-year old sewed this seam!  Oh the shame, the shame!

Christmas is soon to be here, and I will be heading to Vancouver in a few weeks.  It is past time to finish this cardigan, so I need to buckle down and get back to work on it.  I have been avoiding it however (and doing a bunch of secret Christmas knitting in the meantime) because of my frustration with the seaming.

Serendipity struck early this week as I was catching up on my blog reading and noticed that the fabulous Leah, of the Fashion: Yarn Style blog, just published a post about the difficulties of using mattress stitch on reverse stockinette.  Leah actually ripped out a reverse stockinette sweater, turned the pieces back to front, and re-seamed it on the stockinette side (thus producing a sweater with a totally different look) because she was so upset with the look of the seam.  You can read the post here.  What really struck me reading this post was the following passage:

“I kept redoing my mattress stitching in efforts to improve this terrible line, because the pattern explicitly called for using the mattress stitch! But no matter how many times I tweaked or pressed the seams, they looked terrible. A wonderful reader has now informed me that the correct way to seam reverse stocking stitch pieces together is to use slip-stitch crochet.”

Can you believe it?  Wow!  Ain’t blogging grand? Thanks to Leah, and her wonderful reader, I can see that the problem isn’t my lack of skill (or at least, not entirely) AND there is a solution to the problem: slip-stitch crochet.

So, dear readers, this leads me to dilemma number 1: should I rip out the sleeve seams and re-do them in slip stitch crochet?  Before answering, I beg you to notice that the seams are done in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, the break-iest yarn on the planet, the yarn that will break if you look at it.  Do I really want to rip that stuff out and try again? Should I give in to my inner perfectionist?  Does anyone ever notice the inside sleeve seam anyway?

Dilemma number 2 concerns buttons.  Just before going to Tucson, I raced to the store to try to purchase buttons.  I went to the John Lewis in Reading and was highly annoyed to discover that my first 6 or 7 choices in buttons were out of stock.  I finally, after much grumbling, picked out the only remaining possibility.


I initially rejected these buttons because I think they are a bit too too small (also, I was aiming for wooden buttons).  I decided to buy them anyway, just in case I wasn’t able to find a better match later on.  They have since grown on me quite a bit.  In fact, I really like them.  But I still worry that they will be too small.  The button bands will be knit in 2×2 ribbing, the same ribbing as the bottom bands against which they are photographed.  Here is a longer distance shot to give some perspective on the actual size:


(Note: now that I look at the pattern photo on Ravelry, here, I see that these buttons are the same size as in the pattern photos – 3/4″.  They still look small to me, however, compared to the ribbing.)

So, what do you think of dilemma number 2: should I keep these buttons or go back to square one and shop again?  It is Christmas time and I try to avoid the stores.  I hate crowds.  I like these buttons.  On the other hand, they were about my eighth choice.  I don’t remember the other buttons, but maybe they were much better.  On the other hand, they may still be out of stock: having a second such button-buying experience would lead to more than mere grumbling.  Add in the Christmas crowds, and I may just have a melt-down.

So, dear readers, what do you think?  Should I stick with these buttons or do I brave the shops?  And should I indulge my inner perfectionist and re-do the damn seams???? Inquiring minds want to know!