Hi Friends! Welcome back to our series on Sweater Construction. If you missed the first two parts, I recommend checking them out here. Today we’ll be discussing one of the most important considerations when knitting a sweater — to seam or not to seam?
What is a seamed sweater? It is a sweater knit flat and then seamed (sewn) together. A seamless sweater is simply a sweater without seams — typically you knit three tubes and graft them together. While both methods have their benefits, and neither method is superior to the other, there are some specific indications for choosing to seam or not to seam —
Seaming is an invaluable technique for sweater knitting. Not only does it provide a professional and polished ‘look’ for your finished sweater, it actually plays a crucial role in the construction, function and durability of your garment. Seaming helps a sweater to retain its shape. Over time, the wear and tear on the fabric can cause stitches to stretch or warp. Seaming will help the sweater retain it’s original shape, as it provides structural support to the stitches and can support the weight of the fabric. For cabled sweaters, this is particularly important, as the bulk and weight of the cables can sag over time.
Another ‘pro’ for seamed sweaters is that they’re incredibly portable — all pieces are knit flat and separate, and then the finishing (mattress stitch!) can take place at home. If you’ve ever carried around a giant tote with half a sweater in it, you probably know how heavy and unwieldy in-the-round sweaters can be. However, because all pieces are knit flat, modifications for fit must be made ahead of time since the sweater cannot be tried on until it is seamed.
Finally, construction aside, there is something peaceful and beautiful in watching a sweater ‘come together’ as it is seamed. Slowly sewing up your sweater, knowing that the finished object is just on the horizon…To me, that combines the best parts of our craft; the joy we feel in creating a beautiful and functional object, plus the patience and endurance to complete it.
I’d Rather be Seamless
Now, for all my circular needle-loving friends — the seamless sweater. Seamless sweaters are truly addicting; they knit up so quickly and easily. They are also favorite construction method for colorwork.
Seamless sweaters are perfect for making modifications as you go. They can be tried on as you knit, so any obvious fit issues will be apparent fairly early on. While seamless sweaters aren’t as portable, they are a faster knit; instead of knitting each piece flat and repeating the process (front, back, sleeve front & back and repeat), a seamless sweater is simply three tubes that are then attached. It
While seamed sweaters are my top pick for structure and stability, some hardy wool doesn’t necessarily need the extra help. For example, Romney (or other ‘rustic’ wool) makes a very strong and sturdy yarn that still has a beautiful drape. So, strong wool can feasibly support itself and make a hardy, seamless sweater.
What’s Your Choice?
Choosing between a seamed and seamless sweater should always take into consideration the yarn type, original pattern construction and (of course) your own preferences. If you know you are a knitter who starts off strong and then ‘lags’ towards the end of a project, perhaps a seamed sweater may not be the best option at this time. A fast knit with minimal replication might be a better choice. Conversely, if you know that your yarn type will have trouble holding it’s shape over time, or if the fabric of the sweater will be heavy or dense, a seamed construction might be the best option.
Overall, choosing between seamed or seamless construction is a personal decision. I recommend knitting a few sweaters using both options and seeing which construction is your favorite!