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Here’s a quick example of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s celebrated Phony Seam technique.

The phony seam is a way of creating a vertical fold in a knitted fabric. The most common use of a phony seam is at the sides of a stockinette pullover that was knitted in the round. Putting a fold there gives the sweater subtle structure.

Because the Phony Seam is structural, it stays put. Here’s how to do it.

On the row that you want to be the top of the Phony Seam, knit to the stitch where you want the seam to be. Drop this stitch, all the way down to the cast-on.

Here we are, at the bottom of the piece. The next step is to pick this stitch back up, all the way back to the top. Doesn’t that sound tedious and futile? Well, it’s tedious but it’s not at all futile.

Here’s the trick: you don’t pick up the stitch in the ordinary way, one stitch per row. Instead, using a spare knitting needle or a crochet hook, you pick up 1 “ladder,” pull it through the stitch, then 2 ladders together and pull them through the stitch, repeating this sequence until you have picked up all the ladders and placed the top stitch back on the left needle. In the sample pictured above, the 2-row stripes help you keep visual track of all the ladders so you don’t miss one.

It works so well it’s almost unbelievable. That fold is there to stay, all by itself. It looks lovely, too. Damn clever thing, the Phony Seam. Thank you, Elizabeth Zimmermann!



  • FYI
    Your photos are missing from this entry. The placeholders are here though! Lol

    Love your website!

    • Thanks for letting us know, Margaret and Sarah! Fixed this software weirdness, let’s hope it sticks.

  • There are no pictures…?

    • Thank you 🙂

  • I like the phony seam a lot. Recently I was knitting set-in sleeves (flat) in a texture stitch. When I tried mattress stitching the texture stitch together it looked terrible at the seam, so I laddered down and created a phony seam one stitch in from the selvedge on one side. It separated the texture stitch with a defined line and gave a really nice look. So you can use it on seamed knits too (EZ might not approve!).

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