No-Sew Construction for Knitting Patterns

Posted by on Jan 27, 2015

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Vortex Sweater (photo: Joe Hancock)


Last week, Kristen Tendyke, author of No-Sew Knits, told us about her passions for knitting, math and eco-friendly yarns. Our interview with her continues with more on her passion for no-sew construction and knitting the perfect sweater.

tie cardigan knitting pattern
Majestic Tie Cardigan (photo: Interweave Press)
CraftFoxes:  What are your favorite no-sew construction techniques from your book, and what do you love most about no-sew?

Kristen:  As I mentioned last week while talking about what I love about knitting, writing knitting patterns became easy for me once I figured out the measurements and learned Excel. At a certain point it started to seem like I was using the same method of creating sweaters over and over: back, front, sleeves with caps ... sew them together ... rinse and repeat. I needed a different type of challenge. I wanted to see what I could do if I took out the step I enjoyed the least, the seaming.

At first my designs were terrible, and I'm glad they never made it past the sketching and swatching phase. I had some pretty interesting technique ideas, but their implementation was visually unappealing. But I kept at it, and it eventually dawned on me that I should be designing for me — as in, I should design things that I think I'd want to wear. From that point on, the designs got much better. 

My favorite no-sew construction involves incorporating pockets into a sweater seamlessly. I dabbled with it in my first book, Finish-Free Knits, and was continuing to play with it as I designed and wrote No-Sew Knits. In No-Sew Knits, my techniques are refined, and I've included information for 3 different ways to put seamless pockets into any sweater. 

My favorite type of fitted shaping includes a set-in sleeve cap. I find it to be one of the most comfortable and visually appealing shapes for a sweater. One of the seamless set-in sleeve constructions that I use is based on what I learned from Elizabeth Zimmerman's technique. I've changed it to what I believe is a more modern and flattering fit and to suit how I would prefer it to look.
sunshine pullover sweater knitting pattern
Sunshine Pullover Sweater (photo: Joe Hancock)
The other seamless set-in sleeve construction I use involves picking up stitches around the armhole, working short-rows for the cap shaping, then knitting the sleeve from the top down. No-Sew Knits includes instructions for how to add this type of set-in sleeve to any sweater. 

Some people say that the biggest con to seamless knitting is that stability can be lost resulting in the garment stretching out of shape. I've found that with the correct fiber choice (such as choosing animal-based fibers over plant and synthetic), then the fabric will generally remain as intended. In designs that I feel that stretching might become an issue, I'll attempt to add stability into the seamless knitting by using faux side seams (or slipped stitches) along the side edges of the body and/or sleeves, or using a three needle bind-off to join the shoulders so the sleeves don't stretch them down the arm further than intended. 

The biggest benefit of knitting without seaming is that when you're done knitting, the sweater is finished — no pieces to sew together! Top-down sweaters can be tried on as they're being knit, so you're not left wondering if all that time knitting is worth the effort. I also find the unique constructions really fun to knit.

Be sure to check out Kristen's book, No-Sew Knits — 20 Flattering Finish-Free Garments. You'll find even more knitting tips and patterns on her website.

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