Why Try Seamed

June 10, 2020

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43 Comments
  • Hey so excited that I can leave a comment now that I’m leaving a comment just because I can.

    Thanks for your patience, everybody!

    • Yay for comments!

      • Great article, thank you. I have spent a ridiculous amount of time looking for the Sunburst Cardigan you mention. Can you give me s clue on how to find it? Thanks

        • Thank You so much for this article. I agree with you 100% about the better fit and finish of seamed knitting, and have never once been satisfied with the fit of a top down garment I now avoid those patterns entirely, unfortunately.

          As for superwash wool, I’ve had the same problem you address, When I do use it I generally have to thrown it in a low temp dryer for a bit after washing to get the fit back. One thought about this I have is to go down a bit in needle size and then block to correct measurements if necessary- I will be experimenting with this soon

        • Ugh. Went back and saw link. Yes I am a goofball

  • I’m a big fan of seamed–I’m knitting my first cardigan now and it’s seamed and I chose that on purpose, so that if I have to rip (which I’ve had to do twice!) it doesn’t destroy everything. Also, the seaming instructions are easy, at least for this pattern!

    • Thank you!
      As a sewist and knitter I know that seams provide structure and support, and gave long bemoaned all the patterns with ‘sleeves in the round.’ Why is the knitting world afraid of a simple seam? I detest flipping a complete sweater around in my lap to knit sleeves.
      Plus, my mother taught me that you knit both sleeves at the same time so that your increases/decreases all occur on the same rows.
      Hurrah!

  • And as an FYI for others – if you get to MDK through a bookmark be sure to change the link to the new name, and then you have to sign in again, and then everything is AOK (took me a minute to figure out what I was doing wrong…).
    I like seams for all Kate’s reasons. When I’m doing a seamless construction I use the basting method from Karen Templar’s (dear departed) blog. It gives even a seamless sweater some support. Basically a purl seam stitch that you then close with a seam line.

  • I just changed a (mostly) seamless pattern to one with side seams.

    • I knit seamed garments. My girlie figure is long gone. I can make adjustments without the grief of seamless sweaters. I like to knit without frustrations. One way to learn sewing seams, is practice on swatches. Of course this is my opinion.

  • Ann Budd suggests that some of the disadvantages of seamless can be reduced by making a false seam by e.g. a purl stitch on a stocking stitch garment. Comments?

    • Disclaimer: Ann is *very* smart about knitting. That having been said, I don’t see that a single purl stitch can address my main concerns. The only thing I think it would help with would be the stretching and sagging – the others just don’t apply in this situation! And a purl stitch isn’t any less stretchy than a knit. Do you happen to recall what aspects she said it helped with? I might be missing something… ?

      • I do this on all seamless sweaters. I learned the technique from Clare Mountain, she calls it a basting stitch seam. Once blocked, you mattress stitch up either side of the column of purl stitches, gaining all the structure of a side seam on the garment. I’ve even done this on the sleeves of heavier weight sweaters too, by continuing that column of purls right up the centre underside of the sleeve. It works really well!

        • Ok, yes, that’s a crucial detail! *Just* a purl wouldn’t help, but seaming around it absolutely would – you’re seaming!

  • Another fan of seamed garments here, for reasons mentioned (working both sleeves and both cardigan fronts at the same time, structure, smaller pieces to tote around), and also because the set-in style looks better on me. I’ve made a couple yoke sweaters, and I’m currently working on a set-in sleeve worked from the top with short rows. As with most knitting things, it’s good to try new techniques, but I’m going back to knitting sweaters in pieces.

  • I love seamed garments for exactly these reasons: no huge pile in my lap, less strain on my wrists, the possibility to change a mistake without ripping the whole piece. And set-in-sleeves !!!!!!! Even for casual wear I prefer set-in-sleeves. So, thanks for this 🙂

  • Raising my hand to join in with the other seam-lovers! I have learned the hard way to avoid seamless sweaters that are knit in heavier than a fingering weight yarn — they stretch and hang like a sack!

  • I don’t mind side seams or sleeve seams. I sometimes have trouble with the seaming for set in sleeves though. I would comment though – who hangs sweaters? All mine are in drawers or shelves even the Erin Duffle coat I made.

    • I assume Kate means that they’re hanging on our bodies when we are wearing them. I’m sure she’ll correct me if I’m wrong about that though.

      • Correct, hanging on our bodies!

  • I’ve only ever done seamed jumpers and happy to do the finishing – the flip being, I’m super apprehensive about seamless, esp top down. There’s more than enough patterns out there for both, but really keen to knit one of Isabell Kraemer’s gorgeous jumpers, so expect to make the leap at some stage.

  • I also prefer the fit of set-in sleeves, but problems with getting sleeves to my preferred sleeve lengths have led me to prefer top-down sleeves so I can try them on as I go. (My current WIP is being done that way; I’ve partially seamed as the sleeves have lengthened.) I have not yet found good tutorials for adjusting sleeve length and sleeve ease (elbows bend!); sometimes a diagram for a pattern is relatively detailed and will allow comparisons based on the depth of the armscye but I’ve managed a too-short sleeve even with that info plus adjustments when knitting from the bottom up. As sleeve length has been a problem for me my entire life, I’ll be darned if I’m going to put that much effort into a garment that doesn’t cover my wrists, elbows bent, when that’s what I intend. Vent over. 🙂

    • Well, hello! I can help you with that. (As a not-tall person I struggle with this all the time, too.) Perhaps Kay and Ann will agree to me writing a tutorial for adjusting sleeve length. I do teach a class on it, but clearly an article would help!

    • I’ve done set-in sleeves on straights from the top to about two inches below the armhole and then paused. Sew the sleeves into the armholes. Then, pick them up for magic loop top down. That way I could try them on.

  • Always love Kate’s explanations. She’s very persuasive.

  • Thank you! This convinced me to order the wool for that beautiful seamed sweater I’ve been eyeing for ages!

  • Well hurrah! I simply do not understand this obsession with knitting everything on circulars and top-down. It has become the only way to do it as far as some people are concerned. Of course, we can all appreciate a clever round yoke design, like those of Jenn Steingass, but nothing beats the tailored effect you can get with set-in sleeves and seaming. Geiger, by Norah Gaughan is a case in point. But I think people are scared of seaming because they think it will mess up their knitting, and perhaps they have had experience of this.

  • What happened to the little save article button at the top of the article?

    • Make sure you’re signed in! When I noticed it being gone I also noticed….I was not signed in! Duh, Emily! 😀

  • I don’t mind seaming, but inevitably, the number of rows on the back and front don’t match exactly, in spite of knitting to rows, not inches. Depending on gauge, even a few rows off can mean a noticeable difference in length. In my last project, I was off by 4 rows, which was half an inch. In stockinette, it’s okay to fudge a few rows in the seam, but if you need to match a pattern back and front, it’s not great.

  • I don’t think the problem is totally “scared of sewing seams”. The key problem with getting your set-in sleeve to look good is to have the armscye and the sleeve cap be *the right length*. And that means ……. [drumroll] ……. gauge is important. And that’s a whole other story in its own right.

  • Kate, your ‘Wild One’ is the absolute BEST seamed garment ever!! Seeing it in person, when you wore it at Laura Nelkin’s first retreat, I was in awe. Someday, maybe (those zippers scare me….). Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Great article, Kate, I agree completely. Sweaters last if seamed. I’ll be passing this in to my knitting group.

  • Preach, Sister!
    While tech editing, I’ve often been amazed by the contortions people will go through to avoid sewing a seam. Seamed construction can make the knitting simpler and the resulting sweater better fitting and longer lasting – it’s worth learning to sew a seam!

    • Sandi! Yes, some of these seamless designs are eye-wateringly complicated to design and edit, aren’t they? It’s a trade-off I’m not sure I understand – much harder math to create and review, rather than asking the knitters to spend an hour or so sewing some seams. As a designer and editor, I’m always going to prefer a simpler pattern! Less risky to create, less risky to knit!

  • I love seamed garments b/c I love intarsia (yes, I’ve heard of techniques to work intarsia in the round). I love seamed garments because they’re easier on my wrists and easier to take on the daily commute (back when we did that). I love seamed garments because I love color blocking.
    I love seamed garments because I love seaming—that last bit of handling of a project that I loved working on.
    Can you tell that I’m a Process Knitter?

  • I like both seamed and circular knitting, but my reason for knitting a sweater in the round isn’t any of the ones you mentioned. It’s the fit! If you’re knitting top-down and/or in the round, you can try it on and adjust as you go. If you knit in pieces and seam, you can’t check the fit until there is a LOT of undoing required to fix it. (I’m not talking about sleeve length, either.) It’s fine to know your measurements and all that, but if you’re making a style for the first time, you just may not know exactly how it’s going to look at the stated measurements. I hate going through the whole process of blocking, assembling and finishing and THEN finding out there should have been more shaping, or more ease at the bust.

    • Amy – this is an interesting thing! You’re not wrong that top-down garments are fantastic for trying on, and adjusting sleeve and body shaping and length. But whether this works for a given body depends on whether the base construction works for you. The true foundation of a garment’s fit is in the shoulder/armhole and neckline constructions. If a raglan works for you, for example, then a seamless raglan provides an easy way tweak details of fit. But if a raglan doesn’t work, then no amount of body or sleeve changes is going to solve that. Assessing fit of a seamed garment does seem more challenging (pun intended!), but it’s just a small shift in thinking. It’s about learning to read the schematic in detail, and using that to assess the style and measurements before you start knitting. (And then, of course, matching gauge.) How a garment fits your body should never be a surprise! I”m always trying on a seamed garment as I go, too – pinning the pieces together. I often work front(s) and back first, assemble/pin them together and check from there. Heck, you can check the body fit before you’ve even shaped the armholes – work the back and front(s) up to the armhole point, pin those together, try them on!

  • Kate, I had a bad experience with a sleeve that didn’t fit the arm hole early in my knitting life and I never got over it. Before that, I had successfully seamed 2 sweaters. That badly fitting sleeve cap ruined set in sleeves for me- now I pick them up and knit down.

    • I’m sorry you had a bad experience! If you’ve done it twice before, I have complete confidence you’ll be able to do it again. It’s worth trying again, I promise!

  • Just seeing this and you don’t have to convince me about the virtues of seaming. I’m definitely pro-seam! I do have a question: Do you have tips for modifying a seamless sweater design to incorporate seams? I’m sure it’s simple but I can’t wrap my quarantine-brain around it. TIA

  • One advantage for knitting garments in pieces is that it can be easier to make alterations. Say you finish a jumper and you don’t like the front neckline. If it’s knitted in pieces, you can rip back the front piece to where you started the neckline shaping and reknit it fairly quickly. But with a jumper knitted in the round, you have to rip back the front, back, and top of the sleeves to change that neckline.