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  • If I fiddle with two circs for a sleeve, I do two at a time. More pain, but less than going through it twice and your gauge is consitent in both sleeves.

    • I, too, do 2 sleeves at a time on 2 circs. It can be a bit fiddly but I HATE to knit 2 of anything this way when I’m done with one I’m done with both.

  • Of course the Monomania needs to have the sleeves knit flat! The body was knit flat! Gauge might change…
    My trick for sewing the seams is to bring the sewing to a stitch group session. The conversation helps. Also, I try to sew them as soon as I can (front and back done? Sew the side seams) so that it isn’t a lot of sewing at the end.

  • Double pointed needles? I know they seem old fashioned next to circs but I’ve become a convert since I started knitting socks.

  • Oh, the horror of flinging an entire sweater around in my lap every round of the sleeves! For a top down sweater, I will knit the sleeves in the round before completing the body so the garment flinging is easier, but otherwise I’m on Team Flat Sleeves.

    • I was flinging the sweater around until I noticed I could just untwist the sleeve portion when it was too wound up. It was a “doh” moment.

  • I appreciate learning the outcome of your two circs for the sleeves adventure. I like that method for socks. My sweater knitting has been with baby sweaters and one for my dad (no need to elaborate on that disaster). I tried a child’s sweater for afghans for Afghans, knitted the first sleeve flat, and the second one in the round on double pointed needles, which resulted in two different sized sleeves. I ended up frogging it all and making mittens to send in. ‘Nuf said.

  • absolutely, always. cast on 2 extra stitches to account for seaming and sleeves knit flat. i mostly do this bc my row gauge really differs between flat knitting cf in-the-round knitting. if i were to knit the body in the round, i’d probably do the sleeves itr too but have never actually encountered that situation.

    and those rowan folk – sometimes they even ask you to knit a hat flat and seam. who would??

    • I am convinced that they do this for their own ease in creating magazine instructions. They can use a shorter set of instructions, and thus have more room for advertising. “Sew It up” takes so little room.

      • Agree – magazines often specify knitting flat because (1) instructions may be more concise, and (2) a lot of beginner knitters are freaked about the idea of circular needles. But Rowan’s insistence on the “knit flat” instructions for complex patterns is baffling.

    • I would knit a hat flat and seam. I do not like small circumference knitting at all, no matter what technique. And I actually like to seam. Weird, huh… 🙂

  • OK. So is there a simple way of converting instructions for a sleeve knit in the round to a sleeve knitted flat? If I thought hard enough, I could do it?? I freak out at changing instructions.

    • Margaret,
      First, you need to know your knitting. Is your gauge different in the round than flat? Swatching will help. You may have to add or subtract a stitch or two.
      Consider where the shaping is on the original instructions, where will that fall if you knit it flat?
      Meanwhile, remember: you’re the boss of your knitting. If you like to follow patterns as written, that’s awesome. If you want to take the idea of the pattern and head out in a diagonal direction, do it! You do you.

  • Whatever works. I don’t mind mattress stitch at all. But for me, the main drawback with flat knit sleeves is the armscye seam. It is never not wonky.

    The last sweater I knit (not counting raglan top-down baby dress) had the body knit flat bottom-up and seamed, then the sleeves picked up and knit in the round with a short-row cap, down to the cuffs. I really like the result, but the part where the whole sweater is wallowing in one’s lap is annoying.

    Maybe medieval detachable sleeves are the solution.

  • The issue of sleeves is why I knit vests.

    • Amen, sista-friend. (Made moreso by the Rev. in your name!)

  • I am in total agreement. I have tried and disliked a number of knitted on top down sleeves, and I have redone them sometimes several times over, and in the end I have gone back to basics and knit conventional but perfect set in sleeves and bee quite happy. I am swearing never to do it again, and standing my ground.

  • I’m perfectly comfortable knitting socks but can’t abide sleeves in the round. I’m also not a fan of short rows, to tend to avoid most top down seamless patterns. The downside is that I’m also not fond of seaming but once i get started doing it I stick with it and find that the anticipation of seaming is much worse than the doing.

  • Bonnie Marie Burns designs perfect sweaters in perfectly written, foolproof patterns. You’re right to go with the seamed sleeves. Your sweater will be stunning!

  • The answer for me is 8- or 9-inch circular needles. Singular, one at a time. Easy sneezy. I didn’t like it the first time I tried (with a 2.75 mm 9″ Hiya Hiya). It made my hands hurt when I swatched. I put that first short circ away for two years before trying again. Now that my hands have figured out how to hold the thing, I am hooked and have built a precious set one purchase at a time, mostly of Hiya Hiya Sharps, ranging from 1.5 mm to 6 mm. ‘Round and ’round and ’round I go on socks and sleeves and mitts. Zippity-quick fun times!

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  • I’m so glad you mentioned the lopipeysas because now I don’t have to. #diditnotdoingit
    I am finally knitting my first adult sweater (for MEMEMEMEMEMEME). But it’s in-the-round, top down. I will probably knit the sleeves in the round, just because I think the pattern thinks I will, and I’m (sort of) following a pattern for this. But thanks for the reminder on arm…sizing as well. The plowing, beast-of-burden arms are mine as well. I did appreciate my sturdy build this week for carrying an entire 8-year-old person on my back up 3 flights of stairs. Saw a tote bag the other day with the phrase “Shop. Schlep. Repeat.” and thought of you. The sturdiness not as entirely out of place in the city as some of the stilettos would make it seem.

  • I can see how it would be easy to convert the main sleeve to knit flat, but the sleeve cap shaping makes me scared. Is it hard to calm down and figure?

  • Oh yes, PLEASE do find out why Rowan stranded patterns are all knit flat! I’m trying to recruit more stranded knitters, not scare them off forever.

  • Needing to know why Rowan designs their Fair Isle to knit flat is crucial and requires an immediate road trip! I think you two need to make a plan.

  • It maybe because I come with a touch of OCD, but I want the increase or decrease points to match up and down the seam. So I prefer knitting sleeves flat…those little tailored places match right up when you are sewing the seam! Anyway, as has been said, whirling a body around to knit sleeves is a super pain. I do always knit both sleeves at once so there is no problem with two sleeves that aren’t the same.

  • Thank you for publically saying what I, and I hope others feel as well. Why all these sleeves in the round? Why are so many people afraid of seaming? Why do all the newer sweater designs feature sleeves knit this way? Do people like flopping an entire sweater around in their lap? (really? knit entire sweater, then do sleeves?)

    I like pieces. Knit both sleeves at the same time – same gauge, same increases at the same spot. (especially if you are not 20 years old and don’t want those sleeves to be TIGHT). Or at least, add a few stitches, knit them flat, then seam.

    Thank you Kay for speaking out for us! You are not alone!

    not afraid of seaming and hates knitting with double points and all those floppy cables.

  • I especially hate adding sleeves to top down knit sweaters, with the body corkscrewing and stretching. I’m considering the idea of knitting the sleeves bottom up and then kitchener stitch joining them to the body.

  • A bold move Kay. But we have come to expect that from you! Will you write more about rug hooking soon? I feel a pull to try it but would like the lowdown from a thoughtful person first.

    • I’m a once-a-year hooker! But it is a fun idea for a post. Will think on it.

  • I am in agreement on the small circumference circular knitting consternation. I’m one of those who hates seaming more than the fiddly Magic Loop so lean into the irritation. To each knitter her own preference, though.

    Mostly, however, I am commenting to give you the high-five of solidarity vis a vis plow-pushing upper arms. Together, we could prepare a serious wheat field for a spring planting, sister. We must use this power only for good.

  • After knitting 4 sweaters that required sewing sleeve, shoulder and side seams, I made my first top down-in the round. The joy of having a completed sweater when I bound off was better than any “block all these pieces then sit where there is good light to seam them up hoping the seams all match” sweater. Of course many great patterns are knit in pieces and I’ll probably do it again.
    Sometimes knitting out of the box or “out of the round box” is when we get our design gene to shine!

  • I’m for flat, but then I don’t get the fear of seaming. It takes 5 minutes to do a sleeve and the best part is that you can seam the shoulders, lay the torso parts out flat, line up the center of the sleeve top with the shoulder, and sew from there rather than trying to make the top of a tube fit smoothly into a hole.
    Maybe Rowan doesn’t like the idea of all those cut ends adding bulk to the steek seams? That’s why I’ve never done fair isle in the round. I can’t get my brain around how you make hundreds of perky little pieces of yarn simply disappear. Why do you not end up with underarm pompoms?

    • Man, maybe it’s because I mostly sew, but sewing knitting is SO EASY!!!! So few stitches! by hand!

      I have been knitting for years though, and I’m waiting to get used to small-circ tubes, but I haven’t yet. Flat or dpns for the win.

  • You are the boss of your knitting! Sorry I missed your IG post yesterday, but you saw mine. I knit the sleeves of my blue Edin cardi in the round on magic loop, so I would have said magic loop to you. My first magic loop outing, and I liked it so much better than 2 circulars, or even my beloved Little House on the Prairie DPNs. I taught a class last night where I showed all 3 small circumference methods, and I may just be a magic loop convert. Interesting how tastes change over time.

    Funny thing: The pattern is by Bonne Marie Burns, and the sleeves are knit in the round, not flat, probably because it’s a top-down raglan. I don’t think I’d change them to flat and then seam! But I do love a good mattress stitch seam, too.

    Enjoy your beautiful cardi in progress!

  • If an annoyed, spectral version of EZ comes knocking on your door to have a little chat, don’t be surprised. Just a heads-up. Although she likely won’t knock, probably just show up, all apparition-like, depending if you’ve had a gin or two.

    Now I want a gin cocktail, and it’s only 9:20 a.m.

    I’ve had an unsewn sweater sitting in pieces in the corner for a couple of years…not a fan of seaming, picking up neck stitches, reinforcing shoulders, etc. *sigh* AND I could use a new sweater on account of its almost winter and I live in Canada.

    very nice sweater/knitting tho’.


  • I have noticed that not only Rowan but most British designers have an aversion to working in the round. Debbie Bliss and Louisa Harding, to name a few, also ask knitters to work fair isle, hats, and pretty much everything else flat. I wonder if that is how they are all trained in their design schools because the flat designs also work better for knitting machines.

  • I have been working on a sweater that is made in one piece, but you still knit the sleeves flat – both at the same time – and seam them. (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/old-town) Not my favorite method! I sat there trying to figure out how to do it in the round – but then again, I enjoy sock knitting.

    It did make me realize that I hate making sweaters with any yarn lighter than worsted, even though I’m sure it will be pretty when I finish.

  • I hear your pain, really. I who adore DP’s on size 1 needles for sweaters, I hear the yowl. Go, girl. My quibble is that structure claim made for seamed garments. Yes, when knitting back and forth any imbalance will cancel out. The key word here is “imbalance” – I check my yarn for excess twist. Does a loop form and then curl and twist on itself when a strand is draped between the hands? Ya got excess twist, there, and it needs to go. Roll the ball opposite the direction of twist until that strand hangs in a nice parabolic who-hah or even until it twists the other way a wee bit. Rinse and repeat. Me, I am knitting a lot of neck-down numbers including sleeves down from the arm scye. Very forgiving mode, and open to tons of modification. Tweak as you go.

  • When all you have is a hammer, then everything is a nail. Fairisle is meant to be worked in the round. If all you learned was machine knitting in design school, and don’t bother to learn any other way, then every sweater must be seamed. Also, if you’re a ‘picker’, then fairisle + picking is faster as the whole sweater is knit (no purl).

    Learn lots of tools! If you throw, maybe learn to pick too. Seam a linen sweater to prevent that twisting. But a nice sturdy fairisle or loppeysa doesn’t need it, so knit in the round. Choose your method with the result in mind. 🙂

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  • I liked pieced sweaters….but not more than knitting in the round, because I like the option of trying on the piece at intervals, and it is just easier to get the length right for my odd little short torso/long legged build.

    HOWEVER (!), I always knit my sleeves flat. It is just a heck of a lot more enjoyable, especially if there are stripes involved. I also build in a faux seam into the body of the sweater. This not only brings a lovely matchup of sleeve seam and body “seam”, but it also gives me the option of reinforcing that faux seam if the yarn and/or weight of the body section can benefit from it.

    Looking forward to seeing this lovely bit of knitting all put together.

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  • Ha! I am not much for seaming. The sleeves always go so quick, relatively. Such minor suffering, but all knitting is suffering in one way or another. Or at least it sometimes seems…

  • Agree completely and with the comments as well. The truth is, as with so many things in knitting or my preferred fibercraft of weaving, the answer is often “it depends”.

    But I do want to inquire regarding your comment: “It is easier to correct mistakes in a flat-knitted piece than a piece worked in the round, especially if you need to take all the stitches off the needles and rip back to the mistake.” Easier? Pulling out needle or needles and ripping back feels about the same to me on flat vs. circular. Am I missing something?

    • To me, that means if a mistake is in the front, you just have to rip and reknit the front, not both front and back.

  • One size does not fit all. (I just said that to our HR person about a new policy, too.) Some sweaters need to be seamed. Some should be worked in the round. Some can work either way. I will say, though, as a sock knitter, I don’t mind sleeves on DPNs. In fact, it’s comforting to me to just be working on what seems to be very long socks!

    • That’s so true. And I like that it lets me knit lopapeysa sleeves one way, and the sleeves on this cardi another way!

  • I’m a seamer, even with fair isle knits. It’s no more difficult to purl in fair isle than it is to knit. I also don’t like the natural “torque” of garments knit in the round. Seams also give a garment more structure, and sleeves with seams are especially easier to sew into the garment than a knit-in-the-round sleeve. I don’t mind seaming at all, but that may be because I also sew.

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  • I’ve been knitting since I was 5 (65 years) and the only seams I make are Kitchener and 3 needle bind off. If it’s knit flat, I ain’t knittin’ it…

  • I have a British friend who is the fastest knitter I know. Her knitting style is called lever knitting, since she holds one needle under her arm, and just works the needle in her right hand across the stationary needle. She can knit an adult sized moss stitch sweater in 3 days!! She does not own any circular needles. Despises them. The lightbulb then went off when I realized that’s why all the Rowan, and many other British designs are knit flat and seamed, including hats! It’s their preferred style of knitting, and really quick if you can master it.

    • This is very similar to using a knitting belt – 0ne end of the needle is stuck into a pouch on a belt that you wear instead of tucking it under your arm. But with a knitting belt you use long (like 14 inch long) dps, and you knit in the round. That is how the world’s fastest knitters, in Shetland & Fair Isle, knit. And they throw!

  • Obviously everyone should knit the way that feels best! My *only* UFOs are pieces that were knit flat, sweaters that are finished but for seaming. There are several, many of them lovely Rowan patterns in lovely (expensive) Rowan yarn, most waiting over a decade for seaming. I know how to seam and can do a good job, but really really dislike it, and really really like to knit, so seaming never happens. Now that I understand myself better, I just make anything that will be end up as a tube in the round to begin with, converting as necessary. I have small hands and the 9″ and 16″ circulars work fine for sleeves and whatnot.

    But one question: how does seamed construction “lend itself to more precise shaping methods than seamless methods”? What can you do flat that can’t be done equally well with paired increases/decreases in the round, or top down set in sleeves, or some other technique?

  • Since we knit for FUN, we should do it in the way we enjoy most. Even though, as in most worthwhile endeavors, there are whole bits that aren’t that fun anyway, but are ultimately WORTH IT. Apparently I am feeling all Miss Climpson ish tonight. (DL Sayers, Peter Whimsey if the reference escapes you, as WELL it might.)

    • I am of a piece with the general consensus of “to each her own sleeve method” and “one size does not fit all”, but mostly I wanted to say that I knew immediately JUST what you meant when you said you were coming over all Miss Climpson. I was going to try my own impression, but couldn’t swing it. Off to hunt up my Sayers… 😉

  • Nobody puts Kay in a corner.
    Way to own your knitting!

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  • Feckless reckless flouting.
    Love it.

    • Lol my inner Dr. Seuss.

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  • I am currently knitting a cardi in one piece up to the armholes and will join the sleeve tubes to knit a yoke — definitely not my favorite way to knit a sweater, but I am almost to that magical joining point!

    Coworker I taught to knit is making a baby hat from fingering weight wool in the round and bemoaned how fiddly it is to start. I suggested she do what I do for small circumference pieces in the round: start by working back and forth for a couple of rows, then join to knit in the round (in her case, on two circulars). Then once the piece is knit, sew up the tiny seam at the bottom of the piece. Coworker did this and pronounced it “life-changing” so I am feeling all-powerful right now.

    • I already knew you were all-powerful. ?

  • Thank you for posting this! It expresses everything I’ve thought about this topic. I did a small top-down baby cardigan as a test, for example, and I did one sleeve in the round and the other flat and seamed. The flat-knitted sleeve looked better and lay better. I don’t enjoy knitting in the round anyway. I don’t enjoy top-down sweaters for myself. I don’t think trying them on midway is actually helpful. And I prefer the shaped styles that can be achieved with seamed knitting.

  • P.S. to previous. I actually like purling. I knit continental style, and I have a very fast method of purling. I’ve seen some versions where people seem to do a lot of twisting and extra motions, but the way I was taught is very quick.

    If I do a top-down cardigan, it’s being knit back and forth anyway, so knitting the sleeves in the round makes no sense from a gauge perspective.

    I avoid pullovers, as a rule, to tell you the truth. They don’t look very flattering on me, and they are too hot and uncomfortable.

  • You guys are great.

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  • Broke my wrist 3 months ago just when I had all the knit-flat cardigan pieces ready to seam. Result: one completed vest.

  • I should have added that I now have two sleeves’ worth of yarn for mitts and a hat.

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  • I want you back!


  • this is a HELP-ME comment! you mention that linen sleeves in the round twist like mad. So does seed and moss stitch. Anybody have a circular solution? a favorite fake seam with seed/moss on circulars. boy does it twist and i dont forsee blocking correcting this. Thanks one and all.

  • Late to the party here (but heck, I’ve been reading your MDK letters forward from the beginning of time, and just made it here).

    Ditto your quoted experts. No little tubes for this girl. When a pattern calls for knitting sleeves in the round, I simply add two stitches for selvedges and seaming. Mattress stitching a sleeve seam takes me oh, about five minutes; I’ve never wished for that time back, as I have with DPNs, magic loop, etc.

    Colorwork, such as fair isle: conjoined sleeves, which involves knitting two sleeves at once, separated by steeks, in one large tube. Another reason not to fear the “S” word. I even do this with superwash wools, just being extra sure I’ve got the steek stitches secured.

    On knitting fair isle flat: I believe this must be easier for us continental knitters. It feels quite natural to me. Ten years ago, when I first taught myself to knit (all hail YouTube!) every time I tried English knitting I dropped my right hand needle and all the stitches thereon. It’s still a mystery how people do it, and do it so well. I might as well be knitting with my feet. So I inadvertently learned to knit in a way that allows for flat fair isle.

    Lastly, thank you both for all you do. I’m already mourning not having a fresh supply of “backlog” letters to go through as I ease into my day. You are mensches of the first water.

  • I am definitely a seamless knitter, but I think your arguments are perfectly accurate. Thankfully, knitting has room for everyone!

    The reason I don’t knit flat is that I’ve never made a flat sweater that had the polished look of my seamless sweaters. *wrygrin* then again, I’ve been knitting seriously for about fifteen years and my last flat sweaters were knit thirteen years ago… Possibly I should risk it again. 🙂