Sewing in Ends

When you start or finish a piece of handwork there is always a short length of yarn that is not actually a part of the item.  We call these the “ends.” People don’t talk much about sewing in ends but I think it’s important.

If the ends are not correctly woven into the piece you are making, then that wonderful hat or scarf that you have worked so hard on might unravel the first time it is washed!  Sewing (or weaving) in your ends when you knit can often be difficult for new knitters.  You obviously don’t want to create an unsightly bump while taking care of those important ends.  Here are some basic guidelines to dealing with yarn ends.

Leave an appropriate end

Yarn ends should be at least 7 inches long.  If they are too short you will have trouble weaving them in.  If they are too long they get in the way as you are working.

If you have cast on using a long tail method you will often find your end is VERY long.  Don’t try to be thrifty and save that extra length.  Just cut it off, leaving about 7 inches and move on.

I do not encourage waste, but that long end is going to drive you MAD, and I don’t want that either!

Use the right needle

It is best to use a sharp needle when weaving in ends.  The sharp tip will make it easier for you to split the yarn in the fabric you are weaving into.

A blunt needle is what you want to join two pieces of fabric together (like sewing up a sleeve).  Those huge blunt needles they call “yarn needles” are mostly useless.  Especially the plastic ones, they can catch on your yarn and make a mess.

Chenille needles or tapestry needles are the best for the sharp points.

Thread your needle

You would be surprised at how often I watch people struggle to thread a needle. Even people who have knitted for a long time. It’s not difficult, but there is a trick to it.

Do not waste time trying to thread your yarn through the hole like you do with a sewing thread, that’s crazy-making.  And don’t  wet it as you do with thread either, that just gets you fiber in your mouth!

  1. Fold your yarn over your needle, pull it taut, and hold the yarn in a pinch between two fingers.
  2. Slide your needle out, holding your pinch in place, so when you remove the needle your yarn is still sticking up between your fingers.
  3. Then carefully push your yarn UP through the eye of your needle. Do not loosen your pinch. Sometimes I roll my fingers tighter to make the loop that is sticking up a bit flatter, but you don’t always need to do that.

Practice this, and you will find that threading your needle is a TOTAL synch!

Skim

Once you have threaded  your needle using the sharp point of your needle skim across the fabric of your work.

The needle should go through just about a third of the strands of yarn that make up the fabric of your work. It should be enough to anchor the yarn you are sewing in, but not enough to be seen through on the other side.

Go back and forth, in the same way about three times.

If you are worried because you have a slippery yarn like cotton or silk you can do it more often.  I think it’s more effective though, instead of making MORE back and forths to make each one longer.  With wool I generally make them about 1 to 1.5 inches long.  With cotton or silk I might go as high at 3 inches.

Skim perpendicular

Now, skim aross your work one more time, but perpendicular to the three strands you just wove. (In the picture the yarn is blue just so you can see what it should look like.) This will help hold the end in place, and not allow it to unravel as easily.

When you do the last pass of weaving in you should be going through your base fabric, but ALSO through the strands of yarn you just wove in. None of this should be obvious from the RIGHT side of the work (the outside of the hat, in my example.)

Keep in mind that in the image it’s just an example.  your work you would have only one end because the other would be attached to your work.

You do it the same way no matter what type of fabric you have.  In this picture I am weaving into fabric made of all knits on this side, where the others are all purl. It doesn’t matter. You even do this if it’s crochet!!

With lace fabric you do have to be careful and not close up any of those nice holes you made!!

Taut not tight

You do not want to sew in your ends too tightly.  Use the same tension as the rest of the fabric of the item. This way it won’t show on the other side.

When you are finished cut off the excess yarn. Leave about a 1/4 of an inch or less when you cut.  You do not want to go to close and snip your fabric!!

Different colors

If you are working on a scarf, or with yarn of a contrasting color, where there might be more chance of the color showing through on the other side.  To prevent this from being a problem, or if you have very bulky yarn, you can make it less obvious by splitting the yarn.

Before you thread your yarn end onto the needle split the yarn into two pieces. For example, if you are working with 6-ply yarn, split the yarn end into two strands of 3-ply yarn.

Then weave each yarn in separately. This will lessen the thickness of the weaving and will reduce the “footprint” of the weaving. It takes a little longer, but it looks better than a bump.

Comments

  1. Love this technique! I’m going to use it on my next project 🙂 (Sewing in the ends is my absolute least favorite part of anything…)

    • I think most people kind of dread this part of knitting. It’s not hard to do but it’s easy to OVERDO and then end up with an unsightly lump. I think this is simple and easy and hard to see! Glad it works for you!!

  2. FABULOUS information! I always struggle when it comes time to sew in those pesky ends. I can’t wait to try out your advice! <3

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