Knitters seem to be passionate about their preferences when asked.
There are those who will simply not finish a garment if it means sewing anything together. They love the knitting but cannot abide finishing, so into the UFO pile it goes. These are your die-hard circular knitters who hunt out top-down, in-the-round patterns.
Then there are the seamers who may have had a bad experience with their circularly knit project. Perhaps an obvious mistake was made somewhere in the garment which then required ripping out most of the piece to correct it. Or an expensive fiber like silk was used and the garment grew a foot the first time it was worn. Just those two examples could be enough to turn a knitter off of circular construction forever.
I had an unusual experience with a sweater knit in the round that a friend brought back from Peru. It was a lovely alpaca sweater with Fair isle motifs all around. I excitedly put it on and went out for the day. The sweater twisted around my body in a very uncomfortable way and felt tighter and grew longer as the day wore on. I was very disappointed and got it off me the minute I could. I kept the sweater for years in the vain hope that it could somehow be fixed, but never wore it again.
I asked some knitting friends which form of construction they preferred and why. Here are some of the answers from the circular contingent:
-Some knitters knit faster than they purl or hate purling and would prefer to knit only. Knitting on the right side of the fabric only means they will always be working a right-side round and need never purl.
-Certain techniques such as cables, traveling stitches or certain laces are generally regarded as easier to work with the right side facing the knitter. The same is true with techniques like Fair-Isle, as more than one strand of yarn is in play per round and can become troublesome when working back and forth.
Then there is Team Seam and the reasons they prefer sewing:
-Some of the more luxurious fibers are also the most inelastic and saggy. Alpaca, silk, cotton, bamboo; are all notorious for their sagging and bagging. Seams stabilize these fibers and keep them in check when they try to go rogue.
-Some yarns can be overtwisted when being spun which leads the resulting fabric to bias (as in my example of my sweater twisting around my body). This isn’t a huge problem when knitted flat, but can be disasterous knit circularly.
-Larger garments, for men or plus-sizes, are heavier due to the sheer quantity of yarn they contain and beg for stabilization from seams. Skirts also benefit from the extra sturdiness seams provide
Stabilization is a great reason to learn to love seams, but what are some others?
-Certain techniques simply cannot be done in the round, intarsia and entrelac being examples.
-Achieving a very tailored look is difficult in the round as flat knitting allows for more precise construction and seams create a kind of visual exoskeleton which is more flattering to those of us who are a bit fluffier.
This is not to say that both techniques can’t co-exist beneficially in the same garment.
Below are two examples.
My Zelda pullover is started circularly at the hem and all the way to the underarms the Honeybee stitch panels and shaping are worked with the right side facing the knitter. This is not only very fast, it allows the knitter to see the lace panels form and avoid the confusion that may result from working it from the back side.
Then the underarms are bound off and the remainders of the front and back are knitted flat. This gives us shoulder seams to sew and sleeves to set in. The shoulder seams are great stabilizers and the set in sleeves are tailored and flattering to most body types.
The Shana Skirt below, employs seams for the body, as it’s wider expanses of stockinette would sag woefully under the weight of itself and it’s flouncy bottom without them. However, the flounce is picked up and knitted last, and it’s circular nature is not only lightning fast to work, but it allows the knitter to stop when the desired length is reached.
Both circular and flat constructions have their own advantages, charms and problems. Know your options and make thoughtful choices when constructing the garments that you work so hard to complete.
Interested in knitting these styles? PDF patterns are available!