Seaming Made Easy (Really!)

By Tabetha Hedrick

I can’t think of a single person in my circle of friends who doesn’t shudder at the very idea of seaming—all of those pieces needing to be sewn together, the random bits of yarn strands, which needle to use, selvage edges? It’s enough to cause even the most advanced knitter a bit of angst.

While seamless or circular projects can have an instant gratification effect for the knitter, seamed garments have important advantages not to be forgotten: increased structure and support, less sagging, bagging, or riding-up issues and more ease with checking your measurements. For myself, I have discovered that seamed knits make my form look more tailored and sophisticated, so I prefer that method of construction. And because seaming is the way I roll, it was pertinent that the process be easy and uncomplicated. I’m going to share my favorite tips and tricks with you!

Trick No. 1

A selvage edge is the first and last stitch of every row that gets sucked up into the seam. Many patterns already include this in their layout, but if not, just add two stitches to your stitch count. Now, the trick here is to knit that first and last stitch of every row, creating a garter selvage edge. It isn’t any bulkier than slipping the first stitch, but it sure is a LOT easier for seaming (I’ll show you later on in this post).

Garter Selvedge

Trick No. 2

Block those pieces! Blocking not only “treats” your fabric so that it settles and relaxes, but it sets the selvage edge, making it more visible and easier to handle. Who wants to try to seam a piece that is curling and wrinkly? While you are blocking your pieces, check the measurements—are the front and back pieces the same length? Are they the same shape and size?

Blocked vs Unblocked

Trick No. 3

Always seam with the RS of the piece facing you and get comfortable. Most pictures show pieces laid on a table in front of you, but I just blanket my legs with the pieces and seam while sitting on my couch. Find the position that suits you best.

Trick No. 4

The right tools make all of the difference. You will need the yarn used for your project to seam with (If it is too fuzzy, find another yarn of a similar color.), as well as clips, yarn, or other items for lining things up, scissors and tapestry needles.

Tools to help you along the way.

Trick No. 5

If you are ever in doubt, especially around armholes, use yarn, pins or clips to line things up. This is particularly useful when dealing with stitch patterns that need to align correctly.

Clips of all shapes and sizes come in handy for lining up edges.

Gather your chosen tools and let’s get started with some seaming picture tutorials.

Seaming Bound-Off Edges

This often includes shoulder seams and armhole bind-off sections in the sweater and sleeve. I find it to be the easiest segment of seaming, because there isn’t much guesswork—just V stitch to V stitch.

Tops 1

Tops 2

Begin by placing your pieces, RS facing, next to each other, bound-off edge to bound-off edge.

Step 1: From beneath the piece on the left, insert your needle into the visible gap between the selvage edge and the first stitch, just below the bind off.

Step 2: Bring your needle to the other piece and, from beneath, bring it up between the selvage edge and first stitch.

Step 3: Bring your needle back to the first piece, insert it into the very hole you came out of with your yarn.

Step 4: Push the needle through and out the other side of the entire V stitch just below the bind off.

Step 5: Move to the other piece, insert your needle into the very same hole that your yarn came out of before.

Step 6: Push the needle all the way through and out the other side of the entire V stitch just below that bind off.

Repeat Steps 3-6 for a couple of stitches (about 4-6 depending on weight of yarn).

Step 7: Grab the 2 ends of the sewing yarn and pull snug (don’t yank).

Repeat Steps 3-7 until you have seamed the length. Weave in your ends and voilà!

Seaming Selvage Edges

Remember that beautiful garter selvage edge I showed you? That lovely little trick makes it super easy to slip your needle in and pick up what is called “the bar” (you’ll see that bar very clearly in image #8). Side note: Picking up two bars makes for a more elastic seam, but I personally prefer to pick up one bar in the set-up phase.

Selvedge Seam 1

Selvedge Seam 2

Selvedge Seam 3

Begin by placing your pieces, RS facing, next to each other, selvage edge to selvage edge.

Set-Up Phase

Step 1: From beneath the piece on the left, insert your needle into the top strand of the cast-on edge, between the selvage edge and the first stitch.

Step 2: Bring your needle to the other piece and, from beneath, pick up the top cast-on strand between the selvage edge and first stitch.

Step 3: Bring your needle back to the first piece, insert it into the very hole you came out of with your yarn.

Step 4: Angle your needle, under the garter stitch bar, and up through the hole on the other side of the bar.

Step 5: Move to the other piece, insert your needle into the very same hole that your yarn came out of before. Angle your needle, under the garter stitch bar, and up through the hole on the other side of the bar.

“Resume Your Regular Seaming” Phase

Step 6: Bring your needle back to the first piece, insert it into the very hole you came out of with your yarn.

Steps 7 and 8: Angle your needle under the next 2 bars. Push your needle out the hole on the other side of the second bar.

Steps 9 and 10: Move to the other piece, insert your needle into the very same hole that your yarn came out of before. Angle your needle under 2 garter stitch bars and out through the hole.

Repeat Steps 6-10 for a couple of stitches (about 4-6 depending on weight of yarn).

Step 11: Grab the two ends of your seaming yarn and give a gentle pull (don’t yank!) to tighten up the stitches.

Repeat Steps 6-11 until you have seamed the length. Weave in your ends and voilà!

Seaming Selvage Edges to Bound-Off or Cast-On Edges

This little area can be tricky because selvage edges aren’t the same width as regular stitches. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the number of bars you pick up per stitch. I generally pick up 1 bar, then 2, then 1, then 2, and so on.

Top to Side

Step 1: Starting out as indicated in the above tutorials, insert your needle into the V stitch right under the bind-off edge.

Step 2: Bring your needle up and insert it into 2 bars of the selvage edge.

Step 3: Insert your needle into where it came out from before and bring it out the other side of the V stitch.

Step 4: Insert your needle into the spot it came out from before and go under 1 bar of the selvage edge.

Repeat Steps 1-4 until you are done.

Setting That Sleeve Cap (probably the hardest part in the “sweater-seaming world”)

The trick is to line up your sleeve cap to your armhole entirely before attempting to seam. I don’t have a sleeve cap needing to  be inserted at the moment, but this is how you go about it:

  1. Clip each sleeve cap bind-off edge to the corresponding armhole bind-off edge on the body.
  2. Eyeballing it, center the top of the sleeve cap to the shoulder seam; clip in place.
  3. Align each side of the sleeve cap to the armhole so that it looks lovely and clip in place. Begin seaming by following the methods I have outlined above.

Seaming is a disciplined art that each must learn, but after learning these basic tricks and techniques, I think you will find seaming to be an enjoyable, creative process meant to be explored and tested.

 

Tabetha lives by the belief that joy comes when fully participating in the present moment, especially when it comes to fiber. Surrounding herself with yarn through knitting, designing, spinning and teaching ensures that blissful continuity. For patterns and class schedule, visit her website at www.tabethahedrick.com.

8 Responses to Seaming Made Easy (Really!)

  1. Kelly says:

    This is such a great article! Everything is so concise and easy to understand. Thank you, too, for also including written instructions to go with the pictures. All too often books and websites only have the pictures, leaving one to try and decipher what is going on.

    I’m hoping to try a new baby sweater patten here soon, for my 11 month old, and it will be the hardest pattern I’ve attempted so far, so this article is definitely getting bookmarked for reference.

  2. Sheila says:

    Thank you very much for the clear explanations and picutres. I will definitely try this out.

  3. S. Neuman says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with seamed vs. circular garments. Though the latter may be easier, for pure structure and form, nothing beats a sweater in pieces for great structure. Finishing is not a chore to me. It’ s the prize at the end.

  4. Karen McNeill says:

    Thank you so much for the seaming lessons! I recently took up the “sport” of Knooking. It’s certainly easier in some ways than knitting because a dropped stitch can easily be fixed. However, when I finished the knocking part of the project, I had a pile of little squares that needed to be seamed together and I have put off putting them together for a couple of months. Now, having read your tutorial, I think I’m ready to attack the final part of the project.
    I totally enjoy all the information that comes from the the newsletters and have saved all of them. Keep up the good work!

  5. Terry Van Enter says:

    Well then! Thank you for this I cant wait to try it on my next piece. Seaming is something I have never been shown and I battle with it. Especially when trying to sew cotton (which I tend to do a lot of)
    I just need to try and figure how to print this.

  6. Viv Sloane says:

    This is great and I am passing it along to my needlework group. Viv

  7. Kathy says:

    Great help and very effective . Thankyou

  8. Tabetha says:

    I’m so glad the tutorial helps you guys – keep up the great knitting!

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