February 12, 2003

Backstitch collars on the brain.

My son's tweedy jacket is seamed and almost ready to go! All I have to do is embroider the pocket and sew it on. The collar was finished last weekend, and was sewn onto the jacket using free-loop backstitch. I bet you're thinking, "but for heaven's sake, why would you do a fool thing like sew on a collar when you can just pick up stitches and knit on the collar in the round?"

When I first learned to knit, most of my garments were finished using backstitch because that's the way I was instructed to do it by the patterns I was using. I later saw the technique described in Katharina Buss' Big Book of Knitting (pages 70-71), but I had taught myself how to do it just by following the dinky little illustration that comes in all Phildar catalogs. Now that I've attached neckbands, buttonbands and other facings onto garments using various methods - including knitting-on, grafting and backstitch - I've discovered that sewing on neckbands using backstitch is good for several things:

1) When you want the edge of the neckband to match perfectly with the cast-on rows of sleeves and hems. For example, did you do a tubular cast-on for double rib, but don't know how to bind it off using kitchener stitch for double rib? You can make the edge of your collar match with the hem of your sweater by doing the same cast-on for the collar, leaving a row of open stitches after you've worked the double rib, and then sewing these open stitches onto the garment using backstitch.

2) Stretchy collars! Collars are usually stretchier when sewn on this way because the edge of the neckband is the cast-on edge, not the binding-off edge, and this is good for children's sweaters. That's why I still sew on all the collars to my son's sweaters using backstitch. (You can take a look, if you like. Many of them are featured in the gallery of this site.)

3) Did your neckline edge come out like crap? Sewing on a collar covers it up, and we all know that knit-on collars don't usually do this.

4) When you don't have an appropriately-sized circular needle to knit on a collar in the round. The bulky sweater I did last fall on size 5mm's has a turtleneck collar that was sewn on using backstitch because I didn't have a circular needle short enough to knit on a collar.

Most of all, it's a neat thing to do! Here are some snapshots of me sewing the collar (with its row of open stitches) onto my son's tweedy jacket using backstitch. Doesn't that look like fun?

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12 comments to this entry:

I have so much to learn! [sigh] I wish I had know about backstitching collars when I made my first sweater. It was a ragg wool basket-weave drop-shoulder thing, and I was so pleased when I finally picked up the stitches around the neck edge and knit the ribbed collar. I bound off, whip-stitched the collar in place, and triumphantly pulled the sweater over my head. Then I almost burst into tears! The neck was so tight it wouldn't go on over my head! My husband laughed at me and snapped a photo of me with the sweater covering my face and the crown of my head poking through the too-tight collar. Thankfully, I had a knitting book that showed me suspended cast-off and I was able to loosen the collar enough to get it over my head. But I wish I'd known about backstitching! I hate picking up stitches.
I thought backstitch was where you "sew" the seam. Your pictures look more like grafting to me. What's the difference? Will have to get my Buss book out. Love your site!
Alison, believe me when I tell you I sympathize. The first time I knit on a collar in the round was for a sleeveless white cabled top. I had bound off the stitches so tightly I nearly ripped my eyebrows off my face when I tried on the top! I had never had that problem before because I was always backstitching my collars onto my sweaters. Chris, both grafting and backstitching are sewing. Grafting is sewing on by imitating knitting, and creates another row of complete stitches. My pictures do look like I'm grafting, but I'm not. What I'm doing in the photos is free-loop backstitch on the right side. I'm working from left to right, continuously, until all open stitches are sewn onto the sweater at the neckline edge. This method creates a neat seam that shows up on the RS, but not an imitation row of stitches as in grafting.
OMGoodness, I keep forgetting to congratulate you about this technique of yours; it's one of the first things I noticed when I found your blog - I hate, hate, hate, hate picking up stitches, LOL! Achieving a neat join is probably the reason why so many cardigan patterns have you knit the button band separately, too. When I cast on for anything, I always use a needle .5 to .75 mm larger than I am going to use to knit the ribbing, then immediately start knitting with the right size. I always get a nice, stretchy edge at the hem and cuff of my sweaters, and at the top of my socks. Not being able to get a stretchy edge at the top of collars is the reason I have never knit toe-up socks! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Well, I'm certainly sold on the backstitched neck method. I can't wait to start my Phildar sweater! I should get the yarn today. I think I'll have to study those photos for a while, though. Thanks for all the instructions.
Hello, #3, right here! Thanks again for the helpful pictures. Couldn't have done it without you!
can you fly over and teach me the technique in person? sometimes photos / instructions / etc. just don't come together for me until someone actually sits me down and shows me!! hee hee! :)
I have just begun to teach myself how to knit, and I found your site. You're an inspiration :) My first project is a scarf. I've got these old "Stitch by Stitch" magazines from YEARS ago handed down through the family that are helping me a lot. I'm hoping one day I can make a sweater as pretty as the ones you do!
I think your site is so informative, interesting, and entertaining. You're work is amazing. You've become a knitting expert.
Those are among the nicest compliments I've ever received. Comments like those make me want to keep on knitting! Thanks so much for taking the time to write them :-)
I'm a fairly new knitter, but since I taught myself in June 2002 from Debbie Bliss' How to Knit, I have completed about 7 projects--baby knits and one sweater for myself. I am very interested in Phildar patterns, but am afraid they must only be in French . . . I LOVE the tweedy jacket! Any chance I could get that pattern somehow?? I hope you don't mind people wanting to make what you've made! Are you publishing a book? I saw something about a picture not available because it will be in a book fall 2003. . . I am SOOOOOO inspired by your knitting!
Thanks a lot for your great advice! Though I have been knitting for 20 years, I never knew that there is a back stitch method for collar. I hate doing collar cos I can never manage to pick up stitches WITHOUT holes. Then I get a holey collar which is very ugly. I have a question though - do you cast off the stitches in the middle of the front and back so that the collar can be stitched on?

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