To Seam or Not to Seam?

Filed in Just Stitches by on January 17, 2014 3 Comments

Finishing is one of the topics in knitting that can often create a fair level of discussion. In particular, whether garments are created seamlessly or made in pieces and then joined together tends to draw strong opinions.



One of my earliest developed classes was called Flat to Circular and Back Again. Although many students took the class in hopes of eliminating the need to seam their projects in the future, what they learned is there is rarely one right answer that works for all situations. As is often the case, ultimately my goal is to teach the concept of the best tool (or in this case – technique) for the job. Rarely is an all or nothing approach the best. So I thought I would share my thoughts on seaming and not seaming in knitting.

One and Done!

Often knitters get excited about the prospect of seamless projects because when the knitting is complete, so is the project. There might be some blocking required, but no tedious sewing. And this is a good reason to like seamless knitting. Personally I believe the seamless nature of socks and shawls are part of  what drives their continued popularity in the knitting world.

Of course, lots of other projects can be made seamlessly. In fact, it is one of the truly cool aspects of knitting. Few other crafts allow the creator to not only create the fabric, but the finished shape/structure at the same time. However, once you move beyond the simplest of shapes, the construction techniques can add a level of difficulty.

The truth is I love a well designed and constructed seamless project. The architect/technician in me finds them to be fascinating to create. That said, the following are the issues (pros and cons) that need to be considered when working seamlessly.

  • Seamless garments don’t have seams (duh!) which can improve how comfortably a person might wear a particular item. Seams in socks can create wear points, resulting in sores.
  • Working seamlessly often means working in the round. If at any point you will also be working flat be aware that your gauge may change.
  • To maintain seamless knitting for garments like a sweater, steeks will probably be required. Although steeks are cool and work amazingly well, the concept of cutting your knitting is just too much for some folks.
  • Seamless garments tend to have better drape and flow. This can be a pro or a con depending upon your goals with the garment and the need for structure
  • Depending upon the details of the project, working seamlessly can either simplify or unnecessarily complicate a project.
Parts is Parts

Historically, most sweater patters were written as a series of instructions for pieces that were then joined together through a typical seaming process. My belief is that this behavior is related to a stronger understanding and presence of sewing at the time. Back in the day, most everyone had some reasonable familiarity with sewing. So creating pieces similar to those found in a sewing pattern made logical sense.

Generally, people have an easier time visualizing a two-dimensional object as opposed to a three-dimensional one. Therefore, written instructions for individual pieces are often easier for knitters to conceptualize. In addition, schematics for flat pieces are significantly easier to draw.

Because I am a technician, I also appreciate the technical aspects of seaming a project together. There is an unusual satisfaction as pieces come together to create a finished project. The following are part of my process in thinking about a seamed project.

  • Will the seams provide structure that might be required for a stretchy knitted fabric? (This is particularly true for high stress areas like shoulders or heavy pieces like a long tunic or coat.)
  • Some techniques (stitch patterns) are easier to execute flat as opposed to circularly.
  • Other aspects of the project (like lining it for example) may require that the garment begin in pieces.
  • Does the finished size of the project dictate that it should be worked in pieces and then joined together at the conclusion?
  • Depending upon the details of the project, working the project in pieces can either simplify or unnecessarily complicate a project.

To seam or not to seam….that is the question! If you have your choice, which will you choose? Share your answer and your reasons why below….everyone has an opinion on this!

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