February 05, 2007
Closing the Brilliant Retro,
...or how to install a zipper in 168 easy steps.
But first, when we last chatted about knitting, I was on the verge of assembling my Brilliant Retro cardigan. I started by seaming the sides of the sweater using a thin, smooth yarn - as much as I love Classic Silk, it is too thick and nubbly for pulling through all those running threads.
Can you identify the yarn I'm using for seaming? If you're thinking periwinkle by the people who do it best, you've got it!
Now the zipper installation can begin, and my adventures are documented in the extended entry. I must warn you that I have the heart and mind of a perfectionist (but you knew that), and I certainly didn't take the easy way out with this finishing touch. For quick and dirty directions, may I suggest Claudia's tutorial? Absolute quality in every shortcut :).
Okey dokey, I see you're here. Hope you're ready :). Click on the thumbnails for bigger pictures.
After the front pieces of Brilliant Retro dried, I measured the length along the cardi opening. It measured 22". Twenty-two inches. Hmmm... seems a little long. Unless I plan to grow another foot within the next week, 22" will continue to be the distance between my collarbone and my crotch, not between my collarbone and mid-hip.
And then it struck me - this is a close-fitting sweater, and the front pieces will stretch widthwise and shorten lengthwise when the sweater is actually worn! This is exactly the dilemma Carolyn faced with her Olive sweater, except in her case a cardi knit out of thick cotton will get longer when worn.
So how do I go about selecting the right zipper length? I certainly don't want to put a 22" zipper in there. In fact, I'm sure all of us have a store-bought cardigans where the zipper buckles when closed - no, my tummy doesn't protrude sharply from my body, though you'd think so from the picture! It seems to me that's the result of setting in a zipper which is too long for the cardi's fronts once they're actually on and closed!
The choices are simple: (1) use a 22"-long zipper, and the cardi will look perfect when laid out on a flat surface, but wavy on the person, or (2) use a shorter zipper, and it won't buckle when worn, but will probably look crappy as still life.
I have no interest in making pretty still life.
To determine the proper zipper length, I put on the sweater-in-progress, and pinned it closed. I got a good idea of what it'd look like if I used a bunch of little buttons as recommended in the pattern - no, thanks!
Then I draped a tape measure over my chest, allowing slack for all the curves, and noted the actual length of the opening. Wouldn't you know it - 19.5". I think that if I went with the originally measured 22", the 2.5" difference between the length of the zipper and the length of the cardi fronts would result in major frustration.
I bought a 20" zipper in a cream color (boring - I know), checked that it was functioning fine (always a good idea), and while it was closed, pinned it into place. Considering that my sweater fronts were now longer than the zipper, I used the "divide and conquer" method of distributing the slack - pin the two ends, then the middle, then the middle of the middle, and so on. Of course the zipper looks like shit and a half when displayed on a flat surface, but fortunately I'm not two-dimensional and the sweater is meant to be worn :).
After pinning, I wanted to make sure I was on the right track, so I carefully opened the zipper, put on the sweater, and closed it again. "Carefully" being the operative word - there are lots of pins and zipper teeth, all in one place.
And voilà! No buckling after this rough manipulation!
Now I simply needed to stitch the zipper into place.
I'm not fully competent to give you sewing instructions, but basically, I first attached the outermost edge of the cardi to the zipper backing, using the most invisible stitches I could muster, making sure the knit fabric followed a straight line along the zipper teeth. Although there are many ways to invisibly sew through a knit fabric, the specifics are determined by the yarn, gauge, drape, and selvedges used in the project. Trial and error are an important component here.
Although my first line of stitches was neat and strong enough, I wanted to back the zipper with some grosgrain ribbon - it would seal the entirety of the zipper backing, and add a nice finishing touch. I folded the cream grosgrain (boring - I know) under the bottom edge of the zipper, and stitched it to the zipper backing (not the knit fabric).
When I reached the top of the zipper, I tucked the extra zipper backing under the fold of the grosgrain.
Last, I secured the outside edge of the ribbon with some quick little stitches - didn't want to make those too firm, since this cardigan is meant to stretch over my bust.
Before moving on to the other side of the zipper, I tried on my sweater-in-progress. The lack of buckling is very encouraging indeed :).
And just when I thought, "I'm so close!" I remembered that the sleeves aren't attached yet, and there's a a petite collar-ette to knit. A vest is a wearable thing, no? :)