Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Fully Fashioned Decreasing, Should You or Shouldn't You?

Half a sleeve cap sewn into an armhole strip

First a definition. This one comes from:

Knitting the Perfect Fit Essential Fully Fashioned Shaping Techniques for Designer Results by Melissa Leapman.


The shaping details being referred to are decreases, they reduce the number of stitches to narrow and shape the kitting. They appear at armholes, around necklines and in sleeve caps. A variety of techniques can be used, depending on the purpose they will serve and the desired look of the finished knitting. Decreases can slant to the right or left, or be vertical depending on what technique is used. When shaping the knitter might choose to work a left-slanting decrease on the right-hand side of the garment and a right-slanting decrease on the left-hand side of the garment. This is done to emphasize the visual detail of the shaping. If the decreases are placed one or two stitches in from the edge, they become a decorative detail. 

Many experts feel placing the decreases inside the knitting as opposed to on the edge makes it easier to seam the pieces together. I've tried both methods and I have to say I disagree. I rarely knit stocking stitch so I always place my decreases at the edge of the knitting so they will be invisible once the pieces are sewn together. I don't like the shaping to interfere with the stitch pattern. I've never found it difficult to seam the edges together.

There are many areas in knitting discussion which assume the knitter is working in stocking stitch and questions are answered with that paradigm in mind. This limits our thinking. Details matter if you want to achieve the best possible results. 

I've been teaching a new class, Capology. I was surprised by how many students asked why my sleeve cap samples were so smooth and tidy. I knit the samples in stocking stitch and worked my shaping on the edges. The decreases were therefore invisible after seaming. It lead to a lively discussion about why are knitters told they shouldn't place shaping at the edges. When I asked if they had trouble seaming none of them knew because they had never tried it. This leads us to something I always tell students. "Never substitute my judgement for your own". Your knitting style and project materials vary therefore your results will too. I guess I should change to "Never substitute my judgement or anyone else's for your own".  

I think somehow the preference for fully fashioned shaping to cut and sew methods in manufacturing has crossed to hand knitting in a non-nonsensical way. What do you think?


  1. What do you think is the best book (or even video) to learn to seam correctly. I've had successes and failures (one of those due to shaping before the edge), but I feel like I was just winging it.

    1. Here's a post with some of my favourite books. I'll add a seaming post to my list of upcoming posts. I'll need to get some good photos for it. I do have a post on seaming sleeve caps here:

  2. Thanks for this interesting post. I had vaguely wondered why this was called "fully fashioned." This makes sense.

    I was in a class recently where it was recommended to put the shaping a stitch or two in from the edges, in order to make seaming easier. "Maintain the integrity of your selvages." But you're right, that's best with stockinette. Your lacy sleeves would not be as pretty with that decrease line running through them!