Monday, July 16, 2007

Part 2 of working in ends with a sewing needle: weaving

This post lays out the very last method in the recent series about working in your ends, a method called "weaving in." Weaving in ends has to be one of the only finishing techniques better done from the front of the work than from the back. The reason? If you work from the front, you can be sure that your tail is well and truly hidden. If you work from the back, you can be sure you're making a lovely back, but you can't be sure you're making a lovely front.

Weaving is a form of duplicate stitch--the threaded needle follows the path of the underlaying yarn, as shown in the two illustrations below. Because you want to follow the path of the yarn, not split the yarn, you want to use a DULL needle, not a sharp one. (Click here for further information on the two types of sewing needles.) The technique is shown is stockinette, but the theory is the same regardless of the fabric -- use a dull sewing needle to draw the tail yarn along the same path as that taken by the yarn in an underlying row or, in the case of ribbing, an underlying column.

After you've worked the tail in over about 3 or 4 stitches, draw the tail to the back of the fabric, and pull out the needle. Trim the end to a length of couple of inches or so, and leave it hang until you've made up the garment and blocked it. At that point, you can trim the tail to a length of perhaps 1/2 to 1/4 inch, leaving a little "tag" to felt onto the back face of the fabric. After a few futher washings, if the project is woolen, you can clip the tag off.

If the project was knit in a slippery yarn (cotton, linen, acrylic, etc.) then you're best off to leave the little tag-end hanging. If you don't like the look of hanging tag-ends, then another trick for "slippery" yarns is to combine weaving with the other needle-worked method, skimming. In other words, weave the tail for several stitches, then skim it in for a further few stitches. This isn't ideal because you have to use a dull needle for the weaving, and a sharp needle for the skimming, leading to either lots of needle-threading, or lots of cheating, but however you manage it, weaving+skimming really OUGHT to hold.

Desperation move: If weaving+skimming doesn't hold, take out a sewing needle, thread it with a single sewing thread or a single strand of matching embroidery floss, and sew the ends of the darn slippery stuff together--believe it or not, this is the *real* way to secure the ends in ribbon knitting, and the *only* way to secure the ends if you ever knit with a ribbon-covered cord.

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PS:  Here is a link to a post with 10 (!)  different methods of working in ends in knitting, eight of which are "as you go."
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(You have been reading TECHknitting on weaving in ends)


pacalaga said...

Wow, thanks! I tend to do both - no one ever taught me how, so I just did what made sense, and I have a deep paranoia of my ends slipping free. I feel all validated now. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I have never really been sure what is the proper way to work in those ends. I do like to knit them in over a couple stitches. Dawn

nod said...

I always do this method from the back, and it looks great. You certainly have to pay attention to the front on any of these methods, but I would never weave in my ends on the front. I'm curious why you think one should? If you do it right, you'll never see it from the front. (I'm speaking of wool here, I haven't used many slippery yarns.)

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Nod: Thanks for your excellent question. I would (actually, I do) weave from the front because it is possible to split a ply when weaving from the back, and I wouldn't know I'd done that until I turned the fabric around. So, to avoid surprises and do-overs, I weave from the front. If you are getting good results from the back, then you should keep right on--as the old folks used to say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Thanks again for writing.


Anonymous said...

perfect timing! i'm making a striped scarf but the tails keep showing on the front (while weaving from the back). i was wondering if possible you can show a diagram of weaving for ribbing. and if it's not possible, to describe more how i should weave down the column. thanks so much!

dorothee said...

Great tutorial!
I've always wondered if there was a way to never have tails hanging out, e.g. when making a blanket or a scarf. Do you know any?

whitney said...

How do you weave in the ends on things that are reversible, like scarves and blankets? (The above question is the same, but was not answered, so I thought I would ask again.)

TECHknitter said...

Dear Whitney (and Dorothee). Sometimes comments get posted but I get no notification, so I am sorry to have ignored Dorothee's question for so long. If you post a q and get no answer in a couple of days, contact me directly at

To answer your questions:

For reversible work, the best trick I know is to SKIM IN

The needle doing the skimming must be sharp pointed.

The trick is to skim into the thickness of the fabric, always keeping each color in the fabric of that color. In other words, the trick is to skim into the middle of the fabric, not on either face of the fabric.

This requires that the sewing needle be relatively thin and small. Use the smallest slimmest sharpest tapestry or beading needle that you can thread with the yarn.

It also requires the sewing needle to be carefully threaded through the thickness. To be sure you are doing it right, you must look at both fabric faces when the needle is inserted to be sure that the needle hasn't popped out to one face or another. Check this BEFORE you draw the needle through, as otherwise, you will end up with the tail making a visible track on the fabric face.

Be sure to change direction as you work the tail in. This means that you must work two sewing-needle long lengths of yarn going one way, and then one needle length of yarn coming back so there is a U-turn inside of the fabric. This helps the end stay hidden. It is important to do one more little refinement when working in end by this trick: stretch the fabric out once to stretch the end being worked in to the proper tension--do this BEFORE doing the U-turn and heading back with the needle. Failure to stretch the first part of the tail being worked in (before the U-turn) means you will get a pucker.

Hope this helps