Monday, December 1, 2014

Seams or Seamless, the Pros and Cons

The seams or seamless controversy rages on while I sit back and wonder why everyone takes such a narrow view? I see rants in blogs and on Ravelry defending a single position. I get asked to proclaim a definitive preference by many of my students and friends. Sorry, I don't have one! I think every method of construction has pros and cons. I feel it is better to assess every project on the basis of it's individual needs and make a carefully, considered decision. 

I also hate the way knitters on each side of the argument use scare tactics on newer knitters. Here's a modified (to protect the knitter) quote from a seamless defender.  "Imagine knitting a gorgeous  garment without the stressful pain of sewing and seaming".

I think it's wrong that some knitters choose projects by deciding what they don't want to do or more importantly don't want to learn to do! You learned to knit, so I have every confidence that you can learn to seam. There is nothing to be afraid of!

Here's my pros and con's list for each method.  


Seams create stability, the knitting is firmer with a seam, it is less likely to stretch in length. 

It supports slippery yarns with drape and inelastic fibres. Even Elizabeth Zimmerman is said to have liked phoney seams for the added structure they give seamless knitting.

Shoulder seams and a bound-off back neck will prevent drooping shoulders and sagging necklines. The weight of the sleeves is balanced by firm shoulder joins. 

Seams can simplify construction, when working flat you may not have to work multiple shapings all at the same time. As an example you will only need to maintain stitch patterns at two edges. On a cardigan knit seamlessly in a stitch pattern you are working on the two fronts, both sleeves and the back all at the same time. 

More detailed fitting is often easier with flat pieces. This can be advantageous if you are a knitter who needs many adjustments.There are more places to put shaping.

Seams allow for shaping by easing in the fabric, as an example to create a rounded sleeve cap. 

Seams can be a design element.

Blocking is easier when working with flat pieces.

Garments hang better.  

There are places to weave in ends.

For instructions on how to seam go here.

Seamless (Seamless garments can be worked flat or in the round, top down or bottom up)

No interruption of patterns by seams

Working from the right side makes patterns are easier to follow when there is action on all rows.

No purling in stocking stitch means no rowing out. (Rowing out happens when knitters have a looser purl than knit gauge.)

Working this way helps with three dimensional thinking.

Top down seamless garments can make checking lengths easier.

Less finishing is required.

There can be twisting of the garment when it is worn. Working in the round occasionally creates bias in the fabric.

The work is less portable as the item gets larger and heavier.

Garments which combine flat and in the round knitting may have gauge differences.

There are no reverse shaping instruction.

There is more to tear out if something goes wrong.

The additional weight of the work can be a problem for knitters with repetitive stress injuries or arthritis.

The gauge swatch must be knit in the round if garment will be created that way.  

If you have additional pros and cons please leave them in the comments.


  1. A swatch for knitting in the round may be knit flat with no purling. Techknitter has a post about how (with no pesky strands behind the swatch).
    I don't understand how flat knitting has more places to put shaping. The same shaping must be possible to place on the corresponding place when knitting in the round, or am I wrong? I think perhaps the difference lies in culture rather than possibillities for shaping.

    1. Veronika you are correct on both of your points. You are mentioning what's technically possible but these methods fall into advance level knitting. Most knitters find working multiple instructions at the same time intimidating. I can work side "seam" shaping at the same time as front and back darts. That equates to 6 or 8 shaping points depending on the method you choose. I've taught the Whole loop method a few times many knitters find getting the loop length correct very difficult. For my readers, here's the Tech Knitter link to the post Veronika is referring to:

  2. I will add that when working with newer knitters, unless the seamless is pretty basic, it can be more challenging for them to work and follow the directions for 'at the same time.' I also find I have become a convert to seamed knitting for the ripping out and portability as well.