Seamless Sweaters vs Seamed Sweaters

Seamless top down raglan sweater.
A top down raglan with cables that I knit for myself.

Top Down Seamless Sweaters

In recent years, the top down seamless sweater has taken over the knitting world.

It’s easy to understand why.  The sweater is knit in the round in one piece.  When you’re finished knitting, all you have to do is weave in your ends and hey presto!  You’re all done!  No seaming pieces together.  No attempts at precision blocking to match the size of the pieces.  No extra ends from the seaming process.  And you can try it on as you go.

Who wouldn’t love that?

I’ve knitted a few top down seamless sweaters, and it is pretty nice to have a sweater practically finished once it’s off the needles.  It’s the ultimate in sweater knitting for the knitter in need of instant gratification.  Some knitters now refuse to knit a sweater any other way.

That’s fine, of course.  There are no knitting police.  You can knit your sweaters however you like.  But, the top down seamless sweater isn’t without its flaws.

  • Raglan sleeves aren’t flattering on everyone.  Women with a larger bust size tend to end up with lots of extra fabric around the underarms.  And sometimes you just want a different line to your garment.
  • Knitting the sleeves is annoying.  They’re knitted in the round after the body is finished.  So, you have to flip the entire sweater around when you first start the sleeves at the end of every round.  As you get further down you can let the sleeve twist and untwist it at the end of every round.  But that’s kind of annoying, too.
  • It’s not very portable by the end (unless it’s for a baby).  A sweater for a full grown adult can get unwieldy by the time you get to the sleeves.  Not that it’s absolutely not portable, but if you’re like me and you take knitting with you to pass the time if you get bored, you’ll need another small project for those situations.

Seamed Sweaters

seamless sweater
A seamed sweater with set in sleeves.

Seamed sweaters do have some distinct disadvantages as well.

  • You do have to make your pieces match, so blocking and accurate measuring are really important.
  • You have to sew the pieces together when you’re done knitting before you can wear the sweater.
  • You’ll have more ends to weave in, because you’ll have the ends from all the pieces plus the ends from the sewing.

I’ll admit that sewing pieces together isn’t necessarily my favorite thing to do.  I have to be particularly motivated to do it, which means I have to really like the sweater in question.  But, there are several points that recommend the seamed sweater, despite having to do more finishing work.

  • A seamed sweater has more structure.  Seamless sweaters can grow more easily, which can be problematic with slippery fibers like cotton, alpaca, and superwash wool.  The seams provide limits and structure that help the sweater not to expand as much or as easily.
  • It’s more portable.  You can easily take a piece of a sweater with you, when taking a whole sweater would be unwieldy.
  • You have more choices for design elements.  You can easily do all the shoulder styles as well as a wider variety of choices in construction elements.
  • It’s easier to block lacy sweaters in pieces than as one large item.

Of course, there are a couple other ways of knitting a sweater: side to side and bottom up seamless (with or without steeks)  are other ways I’ve encountered.  Personally, I’m not married to any one style.  I’ve done all of them except for using steeks (I’m too chicken to take scissors to my knitting).  If I like the pattern, I’ll knit it regardless of how its constructed.

What about you?  Do you have a preference?  Do you hate seaming sweaters?  Let us know in the comments!

9 thoughts on “Seamless Sweaters vs Seamed Sweaters

    1. Glad you enjoyed the topic! I enjoy the structure and fit of seamed sweaters, too. Sometimes, though, I like that it’s all pretty much done once it’s off the needles.

    1. I’m like that, too. I have a sweater that’s in pieces that I finished knitting years ago. Maybe someday I’ll sew it up. I tend to like starting projects more than finishing them, though. I also have a pair of socks that have been finished forever, but I haven’t managed to weave in the ends yet so they haven’t ever been worn. I’ll get to them one of these days.

  1. I prefer to knit sweaters in the round with knitted sleeves that are picked up after the body is done, and to steek all my holes. However. The first time I did this with my own hand spun, I decided I wanted a perfectly seamless shoulder so I did kitchener instead of a three needle bind off. THAT was a mistake. The sweater is five or six years old and I’ve worn it maybe 3 or 4 times, because the sleeves have ‘grown’ by about 4 inches. Someday I’ll rip it out and re-knit it right. Maybe when I’m 90 :)

    If I need shaping I put ribbing in at the sides of a sweater/vest or I add in bust darts.

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