If there’s a third rail in knitting, a hot spot we must avoid touching if we don’t want to be knocked over by the blunt force of Strongly Held Opinion, it’s seaming.
I once mentioned to a knitter (whom I obviously didn’t know well enough for such intimacy) that I enjoy a nice short-row shoulder that is seamed with a three-needle bindoff. My observation was met with a blue streak of fierce argument as to why the short-row/3nbo shoulder is the root of all of the world’s problems. This knitter was HOT against this nefarious blight on the craft of knitting and on the sweater as an item of apparel. (I remain unrepentantly pro-3nbo shoulder seam. Put that in your Clover and clip it!)
Seaming is personal.
You never really know how you’re going to handle a seam until you’re staring right at it, and it’s time to do the deed. You may think you’re going to mattress stitch, but some attribute of the edges to be joined proves inhospitable to your blunt-tip tapestry needle, and you need to find another way.
And as much as I love the three-needle bindoff, it’s not always the right way, even for me.
Seaming Case Study: Savage Heart Cardigan
This past weekend was Savage Heart Seaming Weekend: do or die. I’d only finished the knitting a week ago, but once a garment is EBTF (everything but the finishing), things can spiral out of control very quickly, especially if I get the chance to cast on something new. So I wanted to get right on it.
To get in the mood, I got out my Clover Wonder Clips and went to town clipping the edges together. This step is not strictly necessary, but it does get the edges lined up, and counteracts curl quite nicely.
I almost wanted to just put it on and wear it with the clips in.
I set out to sew all the seams with mattress stitch. On further reflection, however, the side seams of this cardigan, which are formed by casting on four sections of stitches on neither side of the underam of the sleeve, were not really my idea of mattress stitch material. I knew there were 40 cast-on stitches at each edge to be joined, so why not pick up 40 stitches on each side, and then bind them off together, using the three-needle bindoff technique?
And then, I thought, why not just continue the three-needle bindoff plan onward, up the sleeve seam? How elegant! One continuous, flexible seam up each side and sleeve, with just 2 ends to weave in, if I played my cards right.
Side Seams: 3NBO
After removing the now totally superfluous Clover Clips on the first side seam, I picked up 4o stitches on each of the edges to be joined, and began to bind them off together using the three-need bind-off technique.
I picked up stitches on the RS of the garment, and started working the bindoff on the WS of the garment, which in this case is in stockinette stitch.
After a few inches, I didn’t like the furrow of stockinette stitch that was visible on the RS of the garment, so I pulled it back and started over.
This time I worked the bindoff on the RS of the garment, and to make it less noticeable against the reverse stockinette stitch fabric of the RS, I “purled up” the stitches instead of picking them up and knitting them, as one normally does. (I could have achieved the same effect by picking up the stitches normally, but with the WS of the fabric facing as I picked them up, and then binding off on the RS. Are you confused yet?)
I like it. It’s not exactly according to the pattern, but it looks good to me, like it was meant to be. A good melding of textures.
Sleeve Seams: Ruh-Roh
I got myself ready to pick up more stitches, on the two edges to be joined into the sleeve seam (I hadn’t cut the yarn), and stopped.
It was a lot of stitches. The sleeve was knit normally, from the cuff up, in contrast to the sideways construction of the body of the cardigan. A normal sleeve wants to be sewn up with a normal seam.
So I changed course again, and mattress stitched the sleeve seams.
It looks perfectly fine. I hadn’t done a good stretch of mattress stitch in a while, so it was fun.
The Moral of This Story
The moral of this story is that everybody has their preferred ways of seaming, and every seam is its own little Situation. A knitter is wise to cross the seaming bridge when she comes to it, and to cross it the way that makes the most sense to that knitter.
How would you have done it? I promise: no judgment, and no hurt feelings if you don’t like the way I did it. (Please no yelling!)