In defense of seamed knit garments

Most of the garments I design are knit flat and seamed, and I’m often asked why. Seaming appears to have become the black sheep of the family of knitting techniques, now that we can work seamlessly on DPNs, 1 circular needle, 2 circulars or even knitting looms. Here are some reasons that I make seamed garments:

1) It’s much easier to measure the work in progress. I keep a close eye on the total size of each piece as I’m making it: by distributing the stitches over two straight needles, it’s easy to pin it out on a blocking board and measure it’s full width. It is much more difficult to work a pullover in the round and measure its circumference in progress. It is also easier to spot errors while working flat, as compared to having the knitting all scrunched up on the cable of a circular needle.

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2) If you make a mistake, there’s far less knitting to rip back. I can’t bear the thought of ripping out an entire sweater’s worth of stitches just to fix a single error in the sleeve.

3) It is easier to adjust sections of the garment independently of each other. The number of rows in the sleeve cap does not have to match the rows in armhole, for example, if the body and sleeve are made separately. It’s possible, but much trickier, to make this kind of adjustment when knitting seamlessly.

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4) Seaming gives you a little wiggle-room in the final size of the garment. Are you worried that the garment will be a little snug? Then you can use a half-stitch for seaming rather than a full selvedge stitch. If it looks a bit loose, you can use a slightly larger seam allowance, maybe 1.5 stitches one each side. You can even vary the seam allowances in different sections of the garment, e.g. a half-stitch if it’s too tight around the hips, and a full stitch at the waist.

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5) Garment sections are much more portable than the entire WIP is. When I was working on the Raindrops Tunic for Knit Now, I left the front and back pieces at home and knit the sleeves while on vacation in India.

One argument I often see is that working a sweater top-down seamlessly allows you to try it on as you go. While this statement is true, the problem is that it’s impossible to diagnose fitting issues until the sleeves are separated and the body is joined for working in the round. However, any adjustments that are needed have to be made far before getting to this point, which means that you’ll be ripping back an entire sweater’s worth of stitches to make the necessary fixes. I find it much more efficient to know what my target dimensions for each section are, and to measure the work often as I go along.

Since I have detected a lot of anxiety surrounding seaming, I’ll be posting a tutorial soon on how I manage it. But for now I’ll leave you to ponder the benefits of seamed garments, and perhaps give one a try if you haven’t already.

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