Blocking

How to Sew Hand Knits: Everything You Need to Know About Seaming!

There are several techniques for seaming garments and the method you use depends on the area of the garment that you are seaming. Generally, we seam together stitches that are situated horizontal-to-horizontal, vertical-to-vertical and vertical-to-horizontal within a garment. In addition, seams can be worked via grafting where live stitches are worked together into an invisible seam. An example of grafting is using the Kitchener stitch on a back neck band. Lastly, the three-needle bind off is sometimes used at shoulder seams but is typically categorized as a bind off technique.

It’s important to choose the right seaming method based on how the stitches are situated at the seam within the garment. For instance, at the side seams, stitches are typically lined up side-by-side vertically. So, vertical-to-vertical seaming is used. At the shoulder, we typically use horizontal-to-horizontal seaming. However, when seaming the arms, you may have to use multiple techniques if working a set-in sleeve as you will be working along a curved edge and the position of the stitches will change. Below is a general guideline for how each section of a sweater is seamed.

Horizontal-to-Horizontal Seaming: often used two join the two shoulder seams. The three-needle bind off may also be used but is typically categorized as a bind off technique.

Verticlal-to-Vertical Seaming: used most often at the side seams of a garment when the stitches line up vertically side-by-side at the seam.

Vertical-to-Horizontal Seaming: used frequently when seaming arms as we work along the curve of the armhole.

TABLE 1 final

Most methods require the knitter to seam with the right side (RS) facing. However, any edges that will be turned back (sleeve cuffs, cowl neck or a turtleneck) must be seamed from the opposite side to avoid the seam from showing.

My patterns typically feature a selvedge stitch at the edge for seaming where either garter stitch or Stockinette stitch (St. st) is applied. If the pattern you are working with does not include a selvedge, be sure to add 1-2 stitches at each end in order to work the seam. I typically work St. st within the selvedge but occasionally I will work garter stitch if I need a nice firm edge. The method you choose depends on what is being seamed and also on personal preference.

Across techniques, it’s important for the two sides to be joined together smoothly with no gaps. to do this, a knitter must be able to identify a full stitch. On the right side of Stockinette stitch, look for the Vs. On the wrong side of Stockinette stitch, look for the “frowns” (downward facing half circles) and the two legs of the stitch that are hidden under the “smiles” to the left and right of the frown. This is a full stitch but many new knitters make the mistake of thinking just the “frown” or “smile” portion is the stitch. See pictures below.

Seaming - identify a stitch

Before getting started, be sure all pieces of the garment are blocked. This will ensure each piece is according to the measurements provided in the schematic. Without this step, your seams will not line up and/or your garment will not fit properly. So, as a child of PBS, I will echo the familiar mantra, “take the time to do it right!”

There is a general sequence for seaming garments as listed below but this also depends on the garment design. For instance, in a dolman style sweater that does not have separate sleeves, steps for seaming the sleeve can be skipped. Another example is knits worked in the round to the armhole that do not require side seams to be sewed. Although you may need to skip a step depending on the garment type, the list below provides a good starting point for understanding the process of seaming garments.

Sequence for Seaming Garments:
1. Seam shoulders
2. Seam both sleeves at the shoulder (I recommend working from the top of the should down on each side)
3. Seam sleeves along the side
4. Sew side seams

Supplies
1. Darning needle
2. Seaming yarn (preferably the same yarn you knit with and no longer than 18 inches)
3. Optional: Tailor’s ham for seaming the arms. A ham is tightly stuffed pillow used as a curved mold when pressing curved areas of clothing like sleeves. I like using a long ham as a foundation when seaming the arms as it separates the knitted fabric.

Seaming Garments - Arm

First, start by threading your needle. There are a few options for starting – I will mention two here: 1) the figure eight which is named for its appearance and 2) Knotting On/Off which produces an edge that looks like a cast on or cast off stitch. I typically use the figure eight when beginning a seam and knot off at the end.

The Figure Eight (8)
1. Place the two sides together with RS facing.
2. Insert needle from back to front (WS to RS) into the center of the corner stitch on one side. If you are using a tail that was left in the knitting process, insert into the side without the tail first.
3. Then, insert the needle from back to front into the opposite side in the same place (center of the corner stitch).
4. Tighten to close the opening between the two sides.

Knotting On/Off
1. Place the two sides together with RS facing.
2. Insert needle from back to front (WS to RS) into the center of the corner stitch on one side. Then, go back down through that stitch leaving a small loop. The loop should be about ½”.
3. Insert the needle from back to front into the opposite side in the same place (center of the corner stitch).
4. Next, draw the needle through the loop and tighten down.

For instructions on each seaming method, see blogs in Blocking, Finishing and Seaming.

Happy seaming!

References
Hiatt Hemmons, June. The Principles of Knitting. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
Vogue Knitting: the Ultimate Knitting Book. New York: Sixth and Springs Books, 2002.

Advertisements
Standard
Blocking

How to Sew Vertical-to-Horizontal Seams

This seam joins a bound off edge to a row and is often used when joining the top of the shoulder seam to the armhole edge. Because there are more rows per inch than stitches per inch in this type of join, you will have to occasionally pick up 2 horizontal bars for every 1 stitch of the bound off edge.

1. Place the pieces together with the bound off edge of one piece against the rows of the St. st piece. Be sure you have the right sides facing.
2. Start by working the figure eight or knotting on (see blog on How to Seam Garments).
3. Insert needle under a stitch (V shape) just inside the bound off edge on one side.
4. Insert the needle under one or two horizontal bars between the first and second stitches on the other side.
5. Work in this manner to the end, knot off.

V-to-H in St st

References
Hiatt Hemmons, June. The Principles of Knitting. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
Vogue Knitting: the Ultimate Knitting Book. New York: Sixth and Springs Books, 2002.

Standard
Blocking

How to Sew Stockinette Stitch Seams (St. st)

This seam is worked from the right side (RS) and used to join garment edges by each row. It is typically used at the side seams on sweaters worked with St. st at the selvedge.

1. Place the pieces side by side with RS facing.
2. Start by working the figure eight or knotting on (see blog on How to Seam Garments).
3. Insert needle under the horizontal bar between the first and second stitches.
4. Insert the needle into the bar directly opposite on the other piece.
5. Work to end, knot off.

V-to-V in St St

References
Hiatt Hemmons, June. The Principles of Knitting. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
Vogue Knitting: the Ultimate Knitting Book. New York: Sixth and Springs Books, 2002.

Standard
Blocking

How to Sew Reverse Stockinette Stitch Seams (St. st)

This seam is worked with the right side of the garment facing in sweaters knit in reverse St. st. It joins the garment edges by each row at the sides. This seam is easy to remember as working the “smiles” and “frowns”.

1. Place the pieces side by side with RS facing.
2. Start by working the figure eight or knotting on (see blog on How to Seam Garments)
3. Insert the needle into the top loop (frown) on one side.
4. Insert the needle into the bottom loop (smile) of the corresponding stitch on the other side.
5. Work in this manner to end, knot off.

V-to-V l in Rev St st

References
Hiatt Hemmons, June. The Principles of Knitting. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
Vogue Knitting: the Ultimate Knitting Book. New York: Sixth and Springs Books, 2002.

Standard
Blocking

How to Sew Garter Stitch

This seam is similar to working reverse Stockinette stitch and is used to join garment edges by each row. It is typically used at side seams on sweaters worked in garter stitch at the selvedge. This seaming method is easy to remember – just think about working the “smiles” and “frowns”.

1. Place the pieces side by side. Note: garter stitch is the same on both sides, so there is no right side.
2. Start by working the figure eight or knotting on (see blog on How to Seam Garments).
3. Insert needle into the top loop (frown) on one side.
4. Insert the needle into the bottom loop (smile) of the corresponding stitch on the other side.
5. Work in this manner to the end, knot off.

V-to-V in Garter Stitch

References
Hiatt Hemmons, June. The Principles of Knitting. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
Vogue Knitting: the Ultimate Knitting Book. New York: Sixth and Springs Books, 2002.

Standard
Blocking

How to Sew Stockinette Stitch Seams (Horizontal-to-Horizontal)

This seam joins two bound off edges where the stitches are situated horizontally from left to right. Is often used at the shoulder seams. For this seam to work properly, you must have the same number of stitches on each side.

1. Place the pieces with the bound off edges together and RS facing. The goal is to make the stitches appear to move across the seam so match up the top of the V on one side with the bottom of the V on the other side. So, you are working across right side up Vs and upside down Vs.
2. Start by working the figure eight or knotting on (see blog on How to Seam Garments)
3. Insert needle under a stitch (V shape) just inside the bound off edge on one side.
4. Insert the needle under the corresponding stitch (upside down V shape) on the other side.
5. Work to end, knot off.

Horizontal Seaming

References
Hiatt Hemmons, June. The Principles of Knitting. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
Vogue Knitting: the Ultimate Knitting Book. New York: Sixth and Springs Books, 2002.

Standard
Blocking, Seaming & Finishing

How to Wet and Steam Block Garments

Blocking is the process of setting hand knit garments by steaming or wetting the fibers in order to give them a permanent shape. In sweaters, it is particularly important to ensure the garment matches the measurements according to the schematic in the pattern. This ensures proper fit.

Supplies
1. Clean, flat surface that pins can be placed in (blocking mat, blocking board, or even your carpet with a clean towel over it)
2. Rust-free pins
3. For Wet blocking: spray bottle or cold water bath
4. For Steam Blocking: steamer, iron with steam setting or a large pot

On Blocking Boards
First, let’s talk about the surface needed to block. I’ve blocked on the floor for years using a towel and measuring tape. But, having a curious Weimaraner made this process very challenging! If you have pets, you know what I mean. I then invested in the foam puzzle-piece type blocking mat which made life easier but it still required me to maneuver my measuring tape cleverly to ensure I was blocking to the pattern schematic. Just this year, I invested in the Sew-EZ blocking board. It’s a game changer, no lie. If you can invest in this option, I highly recommend it because it cuts down the time significantly. Below is a picture of the Sew-Ez board:

Sew Ez Blocking Board

Tips for Pinning the Garment
1. It’s important to use rust-free pins.
2. Plastic head pins may be used only if you are sure there is no risk of your iron or steamer melting the heads.
3. Using the measurements specified in the pattern schematic, pin the garment at strategic points along the edge (armhole top and bottom, both sides of neck, shoulder drop, bottom ribbing).
4. Next, fill in the rest of the pins in between these strategic points. Place pins close enough together so that no one section of the garment is overly-stretched.

Understanding the Fiber Content of Your Yarn
Before beginning the process, it is important to understand the fiber / content of the yarn. The yarn content determines how the piece will be blocked as fibers react differently to moisture and heat. See Table 1 below.

Table 1

Understanding the Different Methods of Blocking
There are two primary ways to block a garment: by applying water (either submerging the garment or spraying with cold water); or by steaming the garment. Fully submerging the garment in water should be avoided for heavier knits as it can increase the drying process. If you are steam blocking the garment, do not press down on your knitting with the iron or steamer. Rather, hover over the garment (see instructions below).

If you are not working with lurex or a novelty yarn and if the label does not provide instructions, then cold water spray is the safest choice for blocking. Cold water spray minimizes the shrinkage risk because wetting is done only after shaping and there is total control over the level of dampness.

Steam Blocking (via Iron or Steamer)
1. Pin the knitted garment with RS facing. Ensure you are using rust-free pins. If you are using an iron with uneven steam, it is best not to use plastic-head pins as the plastic may melt. However, I have the Rowenta Precision Valet steamer and use both rust-proof T pins and rust-proof plastic head pins. I’ve never had a problem with either. So, my advice is to know your steamer and if there is any doubt, test it first.
2. Note: if you don’t have an iron or a steamer, do it the old fashioned way! Before pinning, boil a large pot of water and hold the garment above the pot (careful not to burn yourself).
3. Place pins close enough together so that no one section of the garment is overly-stretched.
4. When steaming, hover over the knitted garment at a distance of at least 1” from the surface and allow the steam to dampen each section of the garment completely.
5. If using an iron, set the temperature of your iron according to the fiber you are working with. Never press down on the piece. Hover, hover, hover!
6. If your iron has uneven steam, place a cloth over the item being blocked (a sheet works great). This will protect the surface of the garment.

Cold Water Spray
1. Pin the knitted garment with RS facing. Ensure you are using rust-free pins.
2. Place pins close enough together so that no one section of the garment is overly-stretched.
3. Use a fine-mist sprayer and go over the entire garment. Some fibers (i.e. wool, man-made fibers) may require more moisture than others.
4. Allow the garment to dry. Place in a warm spot around your house but do not place in direct sunlight or heat.

Wet Blocking (via Fully Emerging the Garment in Cold Water)
1. Fully emerge the garment in water for at least 30 minutes.
2. Remove garment from water and gently press as much water out as possible without wringing or twisting.
3. Place the garment between two towels. Simultaneously roll and press out additional moisture.
4. Pin the knitted garment with RS facing. Ensure you are using rust-free pins.
5. Place pins close enough together so that no one section of the garment is overly-stretched.
6. Allow the garment to dry. Place in a warm spot around your house but do not place in direct sunlight or heat.

Check our our video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OnS9ht0j0s.

References
Hiatt Hemmons, June. The Principles of Knitting. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988.
Vogue Knitting: the Ultimate Knitting Book. New York: Sixth and Springs Books, 2002.
Stanley, Montse. Reader’s Digest Knitter’s Handbook. Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s
Digest Association, 2001.

Standard