I have had a Personal Insight. And that insight is that I do not like to knit small tubes, such as sleeves, in the round, and I’m not going to do it anymore.
Let’s review the pros and cons. But remember, this is a personal insight. I am not trying to take anyone with me down this path of feckless, reckless flouting of conventional wisdom. Only my personal sleeves are going to be affected. Here we go: pros and cons of seamless knitting, according to me.
Pros of Seamless Knitting
- You get it all done at once, at least up to the armholes. No putting aside the garment while you wait for the mental fortitude to sew the seams. When you’re done knitting, you’re very nearly done with the project.
- Your gauge tends to be consistent on the front and back, because you’re knitting them simultaneously.
- You don’t have to sew those damn seams. (Knitters are in this hobby for the knitting, not the sewing.)
- No purling when working stockinette. (This is only a pro if you don’t like to purl, or if you have a tension discrepancy between your knitting and your purling.)
- Fair Isle is definitely easier to work in the round.
Cons of Seamless Knitting
- When knitting the body of a sweater in the round, it gets too big to carry around with you unless you like to haul a shopping bag. (Which you might like to do, who am I to judge?) Pieces are smaller to carry.
- The psychology of long rounds versus shorter rows: this is very personal. The sweater is going to have the same number of stitches in it whether you work it flat or in pieces, but some prefer to work two short rows instead of one long round.
- It is easier to correct mistakes in a flat-knitted piece than a piece worked in the round, especially if you need to take all the stitches off the needles and rip back to the mistake.
- Seams provide structure. This structure is helpful for sweaters that are heavy or cabled. Seams are, in my view, necessary for sweaters knitted in very drapey or bias-prone fibers such as linen or bamboo. A tube of linen stockinette will twist like crazy. Seams help the garment hang straight as a plumb line.
- Seamed construction lends itself to more precise shaping methods than seamless methods. This is especially helpful for knitwear that mimics garments that are typically made with woven fabrics.
All these arguments filled my head when I embarked on the sleeves of a cardigan. Two little sleeves, not even full length. I futzed around looking for two size 4 circular needles so that I could cast on those 58 stitches in the round. So annoying, so poke-y. Pondered digging out some double-pointed needles. No—how would DPNs be less fiddly? Considered relearning the Magic Loop. Remembered that I disliked all the stitch-sliding involved in that method.
Having rejected these alternatives, I soldiered on with the two circs, thinking that things would get better as I worked the sleeve increases. I looked forward to having even 10 more stitches on the needle, so that I could transfer all the stitches to a 16-inch circular.
After complaining online about all this, I got a different take from two sources that I consider unimpeachable. Karen Templer said, “I like small circ knitting but am all about seamed sleeves at this point.” Bonne Marie Burns said, “I despise sleeves in the round and have started knitting all of ’em flat. A half hour seaming redeems hours and hours wrestling with cables.” With this blast of cool, fresh air from two trusted authority figures, the scales fell from my eyes. New vistas opened. The way forward was clear.
Reader, I am knitting those sleeves flat.