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How to finish a knitting project

Get perfect knits every time with our guide on how to finish a knitting project in four simple steps, featuring tips from designer Judy Furlong.

How to finish a knitting project Mattress stitch

To get the best results from your knitting, you need to know how to finish a knitting project professionally. Casting the final stitches off the needle may feel like the end, but if you want the perfect finish you’re not quite there yet! Finishing is a step that some knitters dread, as it can be time-consuming and fiddly, but we promise it’s worth the extra effort to get a result you can truly be proud of.

This guide will help you learn how to finish a knitting project in just a few easy steps. Not all projects will require all four steps listed below (you might not need to sew up any seams, and may want to skip blocking if you’re using a novelty yarn, for example), but if you follow this simple checklist you’ll be able to make your projects look their best, fit better and stay in good shape for longer.

Are you ready to learn how to finish a knitting project like a pro? Then let’s begin!

In this tutorial we’ll show you how to finish a knitting project in four steps:

  1. Weaving in ends
  2. Blocking
  3. Seaming
  4. Finishing touches

How to finish a knitting project step 1: weave in ends

How to weave in ends

When you cast off a project you’ll find that you have straggly strands of yarn at the cast on and cast off corners, as well as at any points where you’ve started a new ball of yarn or changed colour. You could leave these as they are, but they’ll look very messy – and there’s also a risk that they’ll come undone.

So, as you learn how to finish a knitting project the first step is getting rid of all these untidy yarn ends. You can do this by weaving them in, and there are a few different techniques you can use. There’s no right or wrong way, but you may find that some methods come more naturally to you, or work better with different projects.

One of the easiest techniques is simply to use a tapestry needle to weave the yarn in and out of the stitches on the back of the work for a few inches, then cut off any excess. Alternatively, you could try Swiss darning if you’d like your woven-in ends to be almost invisible.

Find out more about how to weave in ends in knitting with our in-depth tutorial, which covers six different techniques you can try, plus top tips for a neat finish.

Note that some knitters prefer to weave in ends after blocking, to avoid any potential bumps or puckering and give a smoother finish if the fabric stretches significantly. This may be important if you’re knitting lace, but it’s up to you which order you prefer.

How to finish a knitting project step 2: blocking

How to block knitting

Before you sew up your finished item, you’ll get the best results if you take the time to block and press each piece of fabric. It might feel time-consuming when you’re in a hurry to be done, but it makes a big difference. Some knits, especially lace and also cables, can look crumpled when they come off the needles. The process of blocking will transform these pieces and make sure the stitches are even and flat.

However, there are exceptions. It’s important not to block or press any ribbing, because this could stretch it out of proportion and you won’t get the desired effect.

How to finish a knitting project Blocking

For damp blocking, pin out as shown, cover with a damp cloth and leave to dry. With garments, follow the shape of the item and make sure it’s lying evenly. To wet block your knitting, soak for 30 minutes or so in lukewarm water with a mild detergent. Squeeze out (don’t wring) and lay out flat on a soft, smooth surface (try a board or folded blanket, covered with towels). Pin it out using long, rust-proof pins or blocking wires, to match measurements given on the pattern. Keep the edges straight – and don’t pin any rib sections.

See our tutorial on how to block knitting projects for more blocking tips and tricks.

Blocking knitting projects

Want to learn more about blocking different types of knitting? See our expert tutorials! For an in-depth look at the basics, check out our essential guide on how to block knitting projects. Then learn how to block lace knitting, how to block knitted garments and how to block knitted accessories. We can also show you how to block your crochet using a blocking board.

How to block knitting projects

How to press knitting

Once your knitting is blocked, you may need to press it, using either the wet or steam-press method. Check the label on the ball band to see which method it needs, and what temperature. Some items, such as garments or lace shawls, will need to be blocked and pressed after every wash to keep their shape.

To wet press, place a damp cloth over the pinned-out knitting, avoiding the rib, and leave to dry. Remove the cloth once dry. When the knitting is dry, remove the pins and sew up.

To steam press, place a dry cloth over the knitting to protect it. Set the iron to the temperature on the yarn’s ball band. Hold the iron close to the knitting, but don’t touch. Steam, but avoid the ribbing. Remove the cloth and leave to dry. Remove the pins and sew up.

How to finish a knitting project Pressing

How to finish a knitting project step 3: seaming

How to seam knitting

After blocking and pressing, you’ll be ready for the most exciting part – sewing up! This will turn a few oddly-shaped pieces into a garment you can wear.

There are many different ways to sew up or seam your knits. We’ve covered the two most-used methods below: mattress stitch and backstitch. There are plenty more, including oversewing or ladder stitch. For an oversewn seam, pin the fabrics together as for the backstitch method. Working as close to the edge of the knitting as possible, insert the needle from front to back, taking the yarn over the two seams, then repeat over again. Leave a gap of a row between stitches as you work along the seam.

Whichever method you use, you’ll need a large-eyed, blunt needle and matching yarn, approx 50cm (20in) long (we’ve used coloured yarn below so you can see it). You can use longer lengths but they are more likely to get tangled and twist. Shorter lengths are easier to manage and less likely to have any weak areas. At the start and end of the seam, secure the yarn with a few extra stitches, rather than a knot which might rub on the finished fabric and result in areas of wear.

How to do mattress stitch (version 1)

Thread your yarn on to a needle, then weave along the edge of one piece to the point where you want to start sewing up. Lay both pieces to be joined on a flat surface, with right sides facing up. Bring the needle to the front of the fabric between the first and second stitches of this edge. Insert the needle between the first two stitches of the other edge. Bring it back up through the opposite piece, between the two stitches and below the horizontal strand you just made. Keep stitching in this way, forming a neat zigzag, pulling the yarn tight every few stitches.

Mattress stitch

How to do mattress stitch (version 2)

This version of mattress stitch is particularly useful for joining ribbing, and is shown here on sections which have side shaping such as a sleeve. It is particularly useful for a turn-back cuff – or collar – as otherwise you will need to remember to reverse the side on which you are working the seam, so that it won’t show when folded back.

Here’s our step-by-step tutorial from designer Judy Furlong, taken from The Knitter magazine issue 43/44.

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You Will Need

  • Tapestry needle
  • Yarn

Total time:

Step 1

How to finish a knitting project, Mattress Stitch step 1

Align pieces side by side and with needle threaded with yarn tail from cast-on, insert needle just above the cast-on of the other side in the centre of the first st. Pull yarn through.

Returning to the first side, pick up the bar in the centre of the first st formed by the top of the cast-on st. Pull the yarn through.

Step 2

How to finish a knitting project, Mattress Stitch step 2

Miss one st (row) and insert needle into the next but one of the second side.

Step 3

How to finish a knitting project, Mattress Stitch step 3

Back to the first side, miss one st (row) and insert needle into the next but one. Pull yarn through.

You will find that the st at every other row end is almost impossible to lift, but the one above or below is easy.

Step 4

How to finish a knitting project, Mattress Stitch step 4

After a few sts, draw up yarn to pull seam together and continue as set.

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How to do a backstitch

First, pin your two pieces together, with right sides facing and each row carefully matched up. Secure the yarn by making a couple of stitches over each other at the base of the seam. Now working from right to left, bring the needle up a couple of knit stitches away at 1. Take the needle down at 2 and up again at 3. Continue in this way along the edge, going up 2 rows and down 1 row. Keep the stitches regular and place the needle through the middle of each knitted stitch to avoid splitting the fabric.

How to finish a knitting project Backstitch

How to set in sleeves

If your jumper pattern has asked you to knit the sleeves separately, you’ll need to set them in when it comes to sewing up. Here, designer Judy Furlong explains how it’s done in a tutorial from The Knitter magazine issue 43/44.

Start by marking the centre of the final sleeve cast-off, and place this at the shoulder seam. Next join the sleeve to the body at the underarm using whichever method you have chosen. Working on one half at a time, join the sleeve to the body using mattress stitch, making sure that all the reference points match, including any stripes in the pattern.

How to finish a knitting project Set in sleeves

Pictured above: Mark points on the sleeve edge and corresponding points on the Back and Front. Join with mattress stitch. The blue markers show the end of the armhole shaping. The red markers show the last row of the sleeve cap before casting off rows. The yellow markers show the centre of the final cast-off on sleeve and shoulder seam on body.

How to finish a knitting project step 4: Finishing touches

Next, give your beautiful seams a thorough check and a gentle press, either using an iron or by flattening them with your fingers. Try using a tailor’s ham (such as this one from Amazon) to help with shaped seams.

When that’s done you can add any final touches such as tassles, fringing, buttons and so on. In our tutorial on how to make a buttonhole in knitting we show you everything you need to know about adding buttons to your knitting, from making the buttonholes to sewing them on. Need a pompom to complete a hat? Follow our how to make a pompom guide.

Here are some last tips on how to finish a knitting project from designer Judy Furlong: “Take your time when seaming and finishing your garment,” she says. “Although you might be eager to complete your project, you won’t fling it together successfully in two minutes and your knitting deserves much more respect. Don’t put off the finishing, either. This is often the part of knitting that most people dislike, but once you have tried out some of these ideas, you may discover you really enjoy it.

“Having spent years as a youngster finding different tricks to avoid ‘sewing up’, I have now come to realise that finishing can be just as satisfying as knitting the pieces in the first place.

“Now all that remains is for you to await all those lovely compliments!”

For more aftercare tips, read how to look after your knits for advice on washing, storing and repairing your precious creations.

How to finish a knitting project: what you need

Here are the tools you need to finish any knitting project like a pro:

1. Tapestry needle

How to finish a knitting project Tapestry needle

You’ll need a chunky, wide-eyed needle to sew up your knits. Try a tapestry needle, darning needle or specially designed yarn needle. We like these bent-tip darning needles from Clover, which come in a pack of two with a handy storage case.

Buy Clover Darning Needles from Amazon.

2. Blocking mats

How to finish a knitting project Blocking mats

You can use any children’s foam mats for blocking, but buying ones designed for knitters gives you some handy extra features. These mats from KnitIQ are marked with grid lines for more precise results, plus they’re extra thick to accommodate longer pins, and come with a useful storage bag.

Buy KnitIQ Blocking Mats from Amazon.

3. Blocking pins

How to finish a knitting project Blocking pins

T pins are a great choice for blocking, as the wide heads are easy to handle and don’t get lost in chunkier knits. KnitPro’s pins come in a pack of 50 and can also be used with their blocking wires for blocking large, delicate items such as lace shawls.

Buy KnitPro T pins from Amazon.

4. Iron

How to finish a knitting project Iron

A good-quality iron is an essential tool for pressing your projects. This one from Morphy Richards heats up quickly and has a 400ml water tank for up to 17 minutes of steaming – plenty of time to block even the biggest knits!

Buy Morphy Richards Turbosteam iron from John Lewis.

5. Tape measure

How to finish a knitting project Tape measure

Check that your knitted pieces are the right size with Clover’s Spring Tape Measure, which automatically retracts. It has both metric and imperial measurements, and is made from fibre glass, so there’s no danger of stretching it and getting an inaccurate result.

Buy Clover Spring Tape Measure from Minerva Crafts.

For more essential knitting guides, see our collection of how to knit tutorials. And don’t forget to check out the knitting patterns for project inspiration!