Knitting Without Seams

Note from Sandi: The following is excerpted from Interweave's new book, French Girl Knits: Innovative Techniques, Romantic Details, and Feminine Designs, by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes. Kristeen's book will be quite a treat for those of you who hate sewing up seams in your knitting– all 18 patterns in this book are seamless!

Here's an overview of three of the five seamless construction types that Kristeen presents in her book.

Types of Seamless Construction in Knitting

The beauty of top-down raglans is their simplicity and ease of construction. You can achieve a perfect fit by trying on the garment as you go and making custom adjustments along the way.

A top-down raglan begins with the number of stitches required for the neck circumference. The four body sections (front, back, right sleeve, and left sleeve) are delineated by markers, which indicate where increases will be made to shape the yoke. The increases create diagonal lines that follow the boundaries between the four body sections as you work the distance from the neck to the armhole.

Considering that many patterns specify working a garment in pieces from the hem to the neckline, most knitters learn to construct garments that way. This method can make custom fitting difficult because it isn't clear how the pieces fit together until all of the knitting is completed and the seams are sewn. Seamless bottom-up construction, on the other hand, lets you try on the garment as it progresses as well as cast on lovely scalloped lace edgings at the hem and sleeves.

You construct bottom-up seamless garments in the same way as their made-in-pieces sisters, but you knit the front and back simultaneously in a single piece to the armholes, work the sleeves in rounds from the cuffs to the underarms, then join the pieces and work the yoke in a single piece to the neck.

Top-down seamless set-in sleeve construction gives knitters who love seamless construction the means to achieve the sophisticated look of made-in-pieces sweaters without the tricky and often frustrating armhole seams. For the simultaneous body and sleeve method, the sweater begins at the shoulder line with a provisional cast-on for the entire width of the shoulders. You work the front and back separately, with short-rows worked across the back. You then join front and back as you pick up stitches for the sleeves at each armhole edge.


Sandi here again: Reading through Kristeen's book was a bit like having all sorts of little lightbulbs go off in my head. My background is in sewing, so I'm fairly comfortable with making pieces that fit and seaming them together. But studying the diagrams and techniques in this book helped me visualize garment knitting in three dimensions–which, of course, is invaluable considering that we humans are built in three dimensions! I'm totally stoked to try knitting a seamless set-in sleeve sweater now that I've seen the lovely photos of the Viola above.

Tune back in on Wednesday, when I will have some great seamless knitting tips from Kristeen.

For more techniques and tips regarding these types of constructions, plus patterns and information on two more seamless techniques–side-to-side and bottom-up set-in sleeves
–look for French Girl Knits in your local yarn shop, or buy it online from our store.


Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? I've been finishing up things this week–seaming sweaters that had long languished in my knitting closet, for one thing–and now I have to decide: do I start the Central Park Hoodie my sister asked for, work on baby gifts for all the new members of my family, or start another lace shawl that is a gift for (shhh) someone else? Choices, choices. 


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18 thoughts on “Knitting Without Seams

  1. Hi Sandi — When you review a book, could you give us a hint about the size ranges in it? As a plus size woman its hard to know whether a book will be useful to me. And I’m not that good at adapting patterns yet. Thanks!!

  2. Finally! I was so happy to receive this email; maybe someday IK will have a special issue on seamless patterns? Sandi, I will tell you truthfully, so you can send this to the relevant Interweave “customer preference collection person”: the factor by which I evaluate knitting books is the level of seaming required in the patterns. I am particularly annoyed by cardigan patterns where the body isn’t even done in the round, and there are 5 pieces to put together. I am quite happy to do sewing projects, but when I am knitting, I am knitting. Seamless projects are so much more efficient; I feel that seaming really adds extra time to a project, although I so appreciate in some instances it can alter drape, etc, in a positive way.

    Tip for anyone else like me: check out Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard, it’s fantastic for seamless constructions.


  3. What you have mentioned about this book is Very Old Hat! Meg Swansen has been teaching this for decades. The techniques you mentioned are not at all innovative. Sorry.

  4. I also was looking for a size. I need plus size too. I went to the book preview section and tried to enlarge it even to see what the sizes were and could not. This is the main reason that I don’t buy things. I see lots of books, etc, that I want to buy, but I can’t tell what size the patterns are and so I don’t buy them. Thanks!

  5. Hi Sandi! I have to add my voice to those asking for sizes! I even tried saving one of the images and pulling it into Paint, but it was unreadable. For a great many of us, knowing that the model is wearing bust size 32″ is not very helpful. This looks like a great book, with many things that I would be interested in knitting; I routinely change multi-piece patterns to knit-in-the-round because of my deep loathing of construction. This book would be right up my alley, but if I don’t know the size range, well…… Thanks for “listening”!

  6. Well, yes I agree, this is an old hat though surprisingly little-known – I have been knitting top-down raglan for ages and the norwegian women have for centuries but rarely do I meet others who do as well. It would be great to stick to the subject for a while and add some more:
    – how to adjust sizes (especially bust sizes) – particularly easy in my experience with raglan
    – how to knit cardigans in the round and then cut the front open safely as the norwegians do.
    – patterns patterns patterns this book is a wonderfully different but the traditional norwegian / islandic ones are beautiful as well.

  7. Is it possible to have pictures of all the projects in the book available to us? There are so many books that I am interested in, but I won’t buy a book without knowing what the projects are in it…I end up going to other knitting websites, the bookstore, or the library to see what’s in the book before I buy. I would just make life easier. Sizing information would be helpful, too! But I really would like images (after all, you’ve taught up how to resize!).

  8. I just bought this book on Saturday! The last thing I need right now is another book, but when it’s got about 80 to 90% projects I love in it, I figure I’d better buy it.

    Sizes in the book seem to go up to 49.5, with most of the top sizes in the 42-44 range.

  9. I never got the look I wanted seaming a sweater. Knitting them all in one piece gives me a finished garment I love that is the size and drape I envisioned. Great patterns…I think I may need to make “Wrenna”…

  10. Gosh, golly, gee…I do love these top-down raglans featured in today’s newsletter. BUT I’m a busty and curvy gal and I wish you could/would/might do a blog about how to choose the “right” top-down raglan pattern for different body types. I just have the feeling that the gorgeous Wrenna (I LOVE THAT THING!!!) would make me look like a blob. Would it? Thanks for all the great inspiration! -Susan

  11. From the sample photos, I made out 34 inch bust sizes from each. That’s not going to cut it for me, anyway. globaltraveler: do you mean most of the tops are in the 42-44 range, or that the top sizes they go up to are 42-44? I sure wish authors would put something at the beginning of their books that tells you how many patterns are in them, and how many of those patterns are in certain size ranges. Sigh.

  12. Sandi:
    Do not publish this comment, sorry, but I can”t see how to email you directly.
    I have a suggestion for IK. I NEVER buy books from Interweave Knits online. I like IK books, for the most part, but I don’t buy them online. Why? If you are interested I will tell you.
    I can’t see what is inside. Everytime I buy a book based on the sales pitch I am disappointed. Of course IK always makes it sound good, why would I buy it if you make it sound…oh, just so-so?
    I do buy all my books from Knit Picks. Why? Partly because of the semi-annual 40% sales…but mostly because you can see what’s inside! I have never regretted buying a book from them because I can see a generous sample of what is in the book.
    Please…go to the Knit Picks website. Go to books, select a book and click on it…you can then look at a sampling of the patterns inside.
    If IK did the same you would sell more books! I recently bought Cute Knits for Baby Feet because I could not resist the sampling I saw and I am totally loving this book.
    Thanks for your time.
    Hugs & Prayers
    Lee Mitchell

  13. In conjunction with LM’s comment: I agree – that’s what I was trying to hint at with my previous comment about posting pics of all the projects online. If I go to the KnitPicks website, then once I’m there, it’s more convenient to just continue there (or to move on to Amazon). And then if you throw in visits to the local bookstore or library…

    This is definitely an easy way for Interweave to improve their web sales, though you guys probably don’t make much on books in the first place (it’s really all about the downloadable patterns!).

    Another thing that might be cool is to offer downloadable books. Just a thought. Those of us who are “green” would appreciate having that option. And it would cost Interweave (and us) less.

  14. I can’t recall the number of sleeves I’ve sewn in inside out! At one time, I’d even go to my mum’s to get her to pin them in properly before I threaded the bodkin! Since she’s passed now, I have to do it myself. Raglan sleeves are easiest to do this with, but if I can start at the top and eliminate sleeves altogether – well, now we’re talking! Can’t wait to get my hands on this book and knit for myself and other ladies in my life, You know, sisters and friends who could probably knit if they just tried, but find it so very much easier to do when you do all the work….good thing I actually *like* knitting, isn’t it?

    Carol Cripps

  15. I am attenpting to knit the TWISTED TULIP SOCKS, originally featured in the Spring 2008 issue of Interweave Knits magazine.
    It tells me to cast on 64 stitches, yet the pattern is for 68, and I can’t seem to get the chart read properly. Is it read from right to left and then from left to right on the same row? The size I am making should be about 8-1/2 instead of 7-8. I assume you just extend the pattern to make it look right? Please help me. I have started the pattern 6 times and ended up tearing it out.

  16. I absolutely love top down knitting. It is less frustrating to have a garment complete after all the knitting is done. I am vertically challenged (short!) so I try the garment on a lot. It is great to have sleeves and body length actually fit. Cabin Fever ( has patterns and books that are all no sew or top down. It is great to see that more designers are are making parrerns that are no sew.