I’m working on something at the moment that is relatively simple in design. Lots of plain knitting, but now the fun begins, since its devil is definitely in its detail. This garment is all about the finish, and I’ve re-worked the bottom hem and its edging several times to get it just right. Despite ripping out, and working back, and fashioning acres of time-consuming i-cord, this process has been a genuine pleasure — for there is nothing more pleasing than the perfect hem. The me of just a few years ago would be astonished to hear me say that: for I was once definitely of the mind that it really didn’t matter what your hem looked like, or how neat your finish was, as long as it didn’t really show too much.

My ma tells a story which combines one of my (many) fashion disasters with my generally slip-shod attitude to finishing. While a student away at college several aeons ago, I had found a 1970s wrap-around skirt in a charity shop: one of those nice, naturally-dyed Indian cotton hippy things with generic elephant design. I really liked the fabric, but I wasn’t that keen on either the mumsy length of the skirt, or the potential of the wrap-around to display one’s underwear in a breeze. (This last is rather ironic, since the use I later put it to ended up being far more ‘revealing’). I decided I would transform the knee length skirt into full length trousers. But they would be no ordinary trousers: they would be glorious, enormous flares. Indian elephants would proudly march around each of my legs and I would look the business. So I simply chopped the skirt in two, and hand-sewed each half into a gigantic cone. The top of each cone was the width of my thigh while the bottom edge was over a metre in circumference. These were going to be fantastic pants! But hang on, at the moment they were only fantastic pant legs: I had merely created two ankle-to-thigh-length leg cones with no actual trouser part. No matter, for I had an excellent idea. I chopped off the legs of an old pair of leggings, put on the resulting stretchy shorts, then, with a handful of safety pins, attached the elephant cones to the raw edges of the short-legs. My pants were complete! Brilliant! Now I just had to make sure I wore them with a nice, long sweater that disguised my unusual tailoring solution.

When mum and dad arrived for their parental visit, I was clad in a huge grey sweater, a pair of voluminous elephant legs, a ripped up pair of leggings, and 30 safety pins. What a fabulous outfit! Just the thing to buzz around town in with mum and dad! I thought my finishing secret was safe, but when I moved about or sat down, the sweater of course rode up, revealing several inches of my pinched, bare, safety-pin adorned thighs, and a hint of arse, uncomfortable in its torn-off leggings. The horror! I considered myself at the vanguard of style, but I was merely a figure of fun. I wore the elephant ‘pants’ just that once. I think they later became a headscarf.


Anyway, here is my hem from the right side. I wanted to have quite a plain, stark, i-cord edging, but found that the i-cord on its own wasn’t robust/ stable enough to stop the stocking stitch from curling. I am knitting top-down, so my eventual solution was to create a turned-up hem along a row of purl stitches, to pick up another row of stitches along the raised-purl bumps, and to bind them off in i-cord. It took a while, but I love it. So neat!

And just to prove that the wrong side doesn’t involve safety pins and raw edges:


I like the contrast slip stitches along the hem’s cast off edge — and keeping them at the same tension as the knitted fabric makes for a flat and a flexible hem. In fact, I have been foolishly admiring both the right and wrong sides of the fabric in equal measure.


is it possible to be drunk on i-cord?