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The Seamy Side of Knitting

Ah, seams. How we loathe them! (I know, I know, amongst you there's bound to be someone who loves to seam. I have a friend who loves to untangle tangled skeins, and another friend who, get this, knits for charity, so clearly some people will enjoy anything.) Still, on the whole, we don't like to seam.

There are entire threads on Ravelry about converting seamed patterns to seamlessness, presumably because people prefer it that way. In my reading up about knitting history, it seems that seams came into vogue because sweaters could be knit in parts by different people, then assembled, so one could presumably specialize in right fronts and make a living at it. But in the olden days, sweaters were more often knit in the round, and then steeked*: yes, people would actually prefer to cut their projects in half, than to seam them together.

Being seamless has entered our language as a metaphor for comfort and ease, and we take it so very much for granted that we don't even notice the metaphor any more. How often we've enjoyed a seamless transition from A to B and not even thought about what a seamed transition would have felt like! (Not good, I imagine, like flying RyanAir instead of Lufthansa).

But, if you're scared of steeking, and the pattern calls for seams, sometimes you just have to put on your big boy pants and knit the pieces and then assemble them, sigh.

My first seamed project (Lincoln Centre) was a nightmare (of course), since it involved a convoluted slip-stitch (mosaic knitting) pattern, and the edges looked like they'd been spawned by Cthulhu itself, and I had absolutely no idea of how to connect one insane edge to the other. I did my best, and keep my arms down when I wear it, waddling like Charlie Chaplin emulating a penguin:

(The seams at the shoulders were so bad I literally covered them up with knit epaulets, thus ensuring I will never actually wear this out in public despite the months spent creating it).

So it was with some trepidation that I produced a Caldwell Vest, which was meant to be knit in pieces. And knit it in pieces I did. And then I began to seam it together.

It went well, to begin with. Compared to the slip stitches above, it was easy to "read" my edges, and I followed Sally Melville's video advice about seaming on the Bluprint web site. (I might have been doing a mattress stitch but I don't think she mentioned the name). I went slow and steady, and the seam looked gorgeous.

Which is lucky for me, because I'd seamed it from the incorrect side.

Not wishing to unseam it, and reasoning that this vest had cables and was therefore rugged and masculine, I decided to make exposed seams one of those knitting design decisions that we have thrust upon us from time-to-time. I very carefully seamed the other side together the same incorrect way, and also very carefully seamed the shoulders together the correct way (even manly men like me don't want ruggedly masculine exposed shoulder seams), and she was done (even the most masculine vests are apparently She/Her).

Then I picked up and knit a simple button band, added sliced antler buttons (as one does), and voila! (P.S. it looks a thousand times better in real life, because I take most of my photos late at night under the world's least flattering light source):

Manly cable pattern:

Antler buttons:

Stripes on the back! It called for reverse stockinette, but my knitting friends and I preferred the stockinette:

Below, at the top of the pic you can see my perfectly sewn seams:

The moral of the story, if there is one, is to do everything well, just in case. Had they been hideous slapdash seams I would have had to undo and do again (or burned it, and moved on).


  • Steeks = extra stitches that are somehow secured, then sliced through, to create cardigan fronts, or arm holes, or neck holes (or whatever other hole you can think of).

Off the Needles:

  • Mega TJ (for Dryer Lint Debbie)

  • Itineris Shawl (at last! My only-knit-at-meetings scarf/shawl is finished)

On the Needles (and actively being worked on):

  • Buster #2 (all limbs attached, starting the head)

  • Shard Scarf (just gettin' started)

  • Decemberist Shawl (for Dryer Lint Debbie)

On the Backburner:

  • Another 1898 hat (it's just such good airplane knitting, I had to do it again. I've finished the band, and misplaced it)

  • The second Sophie's Universe blanket (Round 50)

  • A swatch of stockinette in white worsted (third of three needle sizes) for my Master Knitting Course

  • Persian Dreams Blanket (round 6 of Hexagon 9)

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