Ok, I've Got My Kevlar Suit On (Seamless of Course). Fire Away!

This is not meant to be rude or to inflame, but let’s apply some scientific thinking to the idea that seams provide structure, shape or ease in blocking to knitwear.

From the land of knitwear, knitwear designers and technicians, Master knitters and anyone who works with knitwear, I would love to see the definitive, objective, non-irrefutable data that shows seams add stability and structure. I await such data with a modicum of expectation.

I have a theory. Seams were created for five bogus reasons in the beginning of this century because:

1). Frail and weak women were then able to work on lighter pieces of knitwear without discomfort in leisure; Holding a complete sweater in the arms to work on the collar will kill poor Granny.

2). Multiple shaping decisions are too complex since women have limited thinking capability;

3). Because women cannot envision in three dimensions, proven by the dearth of women architects, engineers, mathematicians and applied scientists, military strategists or theoretical scientists. They are far better left in the realm of the two-dimensional arts, poor dears. That the decision makers are male has no bearing on this, BTW.

4). Mass produced knitwear is progress. All knitwear is more easily produced in pieces. Handmade looks homemade. Our pattern consumers will never accept something that didn’t look like is was purchased off the shelf in a fine ladies store.

5). “We already sold her a sewing machine, instruction on the latest frou-frou, with all the educational materials laid in to cut ready-made fabric. Do you want us to create our own competitors? You idiot!”

Blocking can be done on any grid or with measuring tape and pins.

Any thoughts about this?


Stan Stansbury's picture

I'm not actually interested enough to try to track this history down but here is how I think it went.
1. Starting in the mid-19th century, industrial knitting breaks the association between knitting and the lower class folk who did it for subsistence. It becomes a hobby that self-respecting ladies can take up.
2. Those ladies are not part of the cottage industry, and are not interested in its wisdom. They need patterns for fashionable items they would wear. They are used to the flat patterns for sewn clothing.
3. Interested publishers and manufacturers begin to adapt existing sewn clothing patterns for knitting in the easiest possible way, flat knitting.
4. Under pressure from industry, traditional in-the-round craft knitting vanishes from all but a few isolated, mostly poverty-stricken locales, and most people forget that it was ever even done that way until the revival starts in the mid-20th century.

New York Built's picture

Sounds eminently plausible. Most of the promulgators of this trend were women. Any men with these skills quickly left them for more lucrative work...happily forgotten.

"Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends."
– Francis Bacon

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

Bill's picture

This is a fascinating insight into the way you think...
...sad...but fascinating...

Perhaps it's because men have stood in the way of educating women...although there are currently some amazingly gifted women architects, etc...

as for seams...I agree with Stan...current knitting patterns are based on sewing patterns...many traditional knitting patterns are limited by the needles available...circular needles have changed that...

MMario's picture

I am hoping his tongue is firmly in his cheek - or somoeone's cheek.

MMario - I'm not divorced from reality - we're having a trial separation

Bill's picture

I suspect, both...LOL

New York Built's picture

How astute, informed and generous of you!

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

MarkPhilip's picture

Certainly neither rude nor inflammatory. If anything, possibly a little unseamly!
I, for one, enjoyed it!

New York Built's picture

May I choose which cheek and whose?

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

Tallguy's picture

I do know that early knitting seems to have been done in the round. They knit tubes. It was all knit, from the right side, there was no purling. The fabric could then be cut to make it flat. (There is some debate on what kind of fabric Christ's robe was since it was desirable because it was "made without seams".) Purling came later when trying to duplicate stocking stitch knit on flat pieces. (I prefer to teach beginners to only knit.. in the round, of course, and introduce purling much later)

So there may be something to your theory.

Are you asking why do you need to knit something flat, in pieces, and the sew them together? You don't. I often will convert a flat pattern to be knit in the round, because I don't do seams. Well, I can if I had to. I don't think seams add any more stability than a properly knit stitch anyway. There are some designers that actually prefer to graft the shoulder seams rather than bind-off and sew together. But I do think that some shoulders do need some extra strength to hold up a heavy garment.

TheKnittingMill's picture

If only your power was used for good instead of evil! (",)

“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.”
-- E. Zimmermann, Knitting Without Tears

New York Built's picture

I'm really not bad...I'm just written this way.

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

mrossnyc's picture

I too, have read that flat knitting, and hence creating a knit garment with seams, was a creation by garment designers adapting their methods of piecing fabric together for women interested in knitting. I've also read that knitting was originally done in the round using a thick-gauge wire rather than needles.

I agree with you Mark that there is no need for 'stabilizing' a knit garment with a seam. That is illogical.

Seams will create a weak point and add bulk to a knitted fabric. Also unlike sewing fabric together, the extra material used to create a seam cannot be pressed to lie in one direction or another with a knit garment.

elib1971's picture

Don't get too comfy in your kevlar kiddo. While I am an enthusiastic but rotten knitter, my granny can produce anything with or without seams and explain why each method is best suited to the particular project she has chosen. Why restrict oneself when one can sew as brilliantly as one can knit? And as her needles fly, she stops on occasion to sip her martini and demolish with razor wit those about her who have failed to amuse. Kevlar is no protection. Such grannies and the other brilliant women in my life are forces to be reckoned with. I strongly recommend that we not mess with them! Eli B.

Eli B.

New York Built's picture

I am delighted your experience with your grandmother allows her to share her knowledge and ideas with you. So many people never get that opportunity. By fate, I was one such unlucky person who missed out.

I believe these five theories to be based on bogus thinking, shaped by the culture at the time in the 1800's. Indeed, our present day world has been seriously weakened by prejudices and bias in all it's forms. I am equally thrilled that you have had strong women in your life. I made a choice when my daughter was born that she would be able to do anything she set her mind on doing. As she is now a young adult, I look forward to great things.

I have little patience for those who insist on something based entirely on belief and no experience. Cherish your granny's reasoning. You must report out here all her acquired wisdom. Or just let her talk while you transcribe.

I've become a fan of upside-down martinis...my female knitting friends have won me over.

"Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends."
– Francis Bacon

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

elib1971's picture

My gran's order in restaurants has been the same, word for word, for the past 30 years, which is as far back as I can remember:

"A martini. Very, very dry. With a twist. Do you have tanqueray gin? Yes? Please."

My brother and I could recite it as children and helpfully order for her.

Eli B.

Eli B.

aussieknitterchris's picture


We could use your analytical/deductional skills in analytical biochemisty mate....I love it!!

Some of the stuff that's come off my needles has definately benifitted from the seaming process I can tell you that much for sure...although sometimes I think I can actually hear the balls of wool whimpering in terror when I enter a yarn shop, so I guess that's not saying too much...

I'm not going to admit that I know too much about dressmaking coz that would be way to faggy, but I assume seaming multi-pieced knitted garments was for much the same reasons that dressmakers follow this process and that is that it makes the overall garment manufacture easier, and it allows for more styling options (particularly with well-fitting garments) easier...

BTW in reference to MMario's suggestion, if it needs a home I could make a suggestion!! ;-)...

Chris...wildly knitting...always!

...wildly knitting...always!

New York Built's picture

All I can say are three little words, Plow Boy...

Tell me more!

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.

albert's picture

If I had to knit flat and then piece things together, I would require martinis for stabilization.

elib1971's picture

Some of us require them regardless!

Eli B.

Eli B.

People like me who have problems planning ahead, or who want to change something about shaping mid-course, find seams helpful. Also, if certain areas wear more quickly than others, you can plan seams so that you can replace the worn area without ripping large areas.

jdkcubed's picture

Much rather do items without seams. My choice is based on the fact that Isuck at seaming thing together. never look nice. . . that being the case

I believe seams (or the intriduction of false seams) do add structure. specifically thye stabilize bias'ing of yarn. if you yarn of choice has a strong bias to the twist the seams will "stop" the bias shifting. If it is a seamless piece the bias shifting can continue leaving you with a sweater or garment that "aways twists".

My favorite seams are the knit on kind or EZ fake seams which seem to serve the same purpose....

The World's a blast. Ka-Whoosh, Ka-Whish. With healthy soul and belly. And all the skies are full of fish, and all the fish are smelly!

New York Built's picture

Bias is added to fabric by adding more twist to the yarn as you knit. If you put the yarn into a ball, hold it still, and pull from the center of the ball, it's like pulling a roll of toilet tissue from the center. You get a twisted tube of tissue. Same thing happens if you pull from the outside of the ball.

If you put the same ball on a roller, like the rollers in most bathrooms, and pull from the outside, no twist. No added twist, no bias. Works on any fiber I tried...wool, silk, linen, alpaca.

I have little or no biasing with this method. Used two spring clamps and a dowel, and push a cardboard tube into the new ball of yarn. Works like a charm for all my seamless projects (which is all of them). Found a small, light metal fixture same size as a ball in a hardware store bathroom fixture department in the Bronx...my travel tool.

"Think...then write...then rewrite...THEN publish."
- Mark's bathroom mirror sticky note to himself.

Every person I encounter teaches me more about myself. Without whom not.