Ode to the Seamless Sweater

Warmth Top
by Kristen TenDyke

If you're like me, you're busy deciding which sweaters you're going to knit this fall and winter. I've been scouring the Knitting Daily shop, along with all of our magazines, to choose my next project. I'm leaning toward a cardigan.

Many people, however, are thinking about knitting pullovers. I'd wager that most of those knitters want to make a seamless raglan pullover. And why not? There are so many pros to knitting this way:

•  There's no seaming.
•  It's easy to resize—by working fewer or more increases you can easily upsize or downsize a sweater
•  You can try the sweater on as you go.
•  If you're knitting in the round, there's no purling!

Here's Knitscene editor Amy Palmer to go in-depth with you about seamless sweaters and raglan knitting.

The Beauty of Seamless

You've seen it—the perfect sweater with gracefully shaped shoulders and no clunky seams. You've probably wanted to knit it. Maybe it has diagonal raglan lines for architectural interest from neck to underarm, or maybe it has effortless-looking colorwork circling the shoulders. A seamless yoke sweater is a thing of beauty, but it can be a little intimidating at first glance.

Why Go Seamless?

A seamless yoke is actually straightforward by definition: a sweater with a yoke (the section of the upper body that encompasses front, back, upper sleeves, and shoulders) that has absolutely no seams. By contrast, a non-seamless yoke has seams at the sleeve-body join. The stitch orientation of and number of rows in the sleeves usually do not align with the body, making continuous patterning on the upper body impossible.

These constructions, such as the set-in or drop-shoulder, also feature shoulder stitches that need to be seamed, front to back. The seamless yoke makes a great canvas for colorwork and uninterrupted stitch patterns—see the illustrations below. Seamless yokes can feature raglan shaping, which gives the appearance of seams without the bulk, or concentric shaping that has minimal obvious structure.

Seamless Yoke with Raglan Shaping Seamless Yoke Sweater

Top-Down Construction

Child's Fair Isle Pullover
by Ann Budd

Seamless yokes can easily begin at the top or at the bottom of the sweater. But for the knitter who wants to avoid seaming as much as possible, a top-down seamless yoke sweater is knitting nirvana. Stitches are cast on for the neckline and then increases are worked, either in diagonal lines (a raglan) or in a concentric pattern for a circular yoke. The body and the sleeves are separated; the sleeve stitches are placed on holders; then the body is worked in the round to the hem. The only seaming necessary is the underarm, which can, alternatively, be grafted. If a top-down sweater is looking too small or too big, place the live stitches on some waste yarn and pull the piece over your head—trying on garments as you're knitting them is incredibly easy in top-down seamless construction. And customizing the length of the sleeves is just as simple. Can't decide between elbow-length and three-quarters? Just try it on.

Bottom-Up Construction

Bottom-up seamless sweaters are great for the knitter on the go. In many of these patterns, the garment is worked in smaller, more manageable pieces. The body is knit in the round from the bottom hem and then set aside. The sleeves are then knit, starting from the cuffs, and worked to the desired length. With this construction, you have the added bonus of being able to knit both sleeves at the same time, if you choose. Another option with bottom-up construction is to knit the sleeves first and use your in-progress sleeves to check your gauge. Once the body and sleeves are knit, they're joined together in the round. The yoke is then shaped with decreases from joining round to neck.

Rayonnant Pullover
by Rosemary (Romi) Hill

Words of Caution

Seamless knitting can be wonderful, but there are a couple potential pitfalls. Pay close attention to the pattern's schematic, as the shoulder depth in seamless construction is typically an inch or two longer than set-in construction, in order to provide more fabric for the shoulder area. If you are narrow shouldered or have a small bust, these differences could lead to extra fabric at the underarms, so plan accordingly. Also, when working a colorwork or cabled yoke, pay close attention to the increases or decreases. Some shaping is usually done within the pattern itself, so any modifications to the pattern will need to take that shaping into consideration.

—Amy Palmer, editor, Knitscene

If you're as in to sweater weather as I am, I have a wonderful recommendation for you: The Knitted Sweater Weather Bundle, which includes three of my favorite products: Easy Seamless Sweaters to Knit from the Editors Knitscene, The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Budd, and Finish-Free Knitting Techniques, a helpful technique-building video seminar with amazing designer Kristen TenDyke.

With these three items, you'll have all of the tools you need to get you through this season's sweater weather, including more that 450 patterns!


P.S. What's your favorite sweater construction? Knitting in pieces, top-down seamless, bottom-up seamless? Leave a comment below and share your preference!

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