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table of contents » chapter 17 (of 29)

17: Seam Theory

If you have counted rows, and edges have been knitted with the least possible number of bumps, lumps, slipped edges or joins, it will be easy to make the knitted pieces into a garment.

Most pattern books, leaflets or magazine editorials suggest working seams in backstitch. In fact, I used to write patterns for these publications, and when the proofs came back to be checked, I often found my careful seam instructions changed to “Using backstitch...”

I would see red!

A backstitch seam, worked with the wrong side facing, is perfectly adequate to do what is needed, which is joining two bits of stuff together. But it will never look as good as a seam that has been worked carefully, matching row to row, or stitch to stitch with the right side facing, so that you can see what you are doing and what will result [pic 1].

1: The uneven seam on the left (done with all good intent) has been worked in backstitch with the wrong side facing. The almost undetectable seam on the right has been worked with the right side of the work facing, matching row to row.

A backstitch seam formed by three layers of thread is thick and isn’t flexible. Tight seams stay in place, but knitted fabric has a certain amount of “give” and a firm seam doesn’t allow for this. In extreme cases, the seam pulls the band or hem up at each side, and the fabric of the garment sags at the centre front or back. This becomes more evident with wear. The best seam should have the same stretch as the knitted fabric. A backstitch seam and jagged shaping edges are a deadly combination, because as there is no place to put the seam close to the edge a very thick seam results.

Another drawback of backstitch seams is that because they are worked on the wrong side, the resulting seam wanders between the line of adjacent stitches. Joining and matching stripes and pattern sequences perfectly is impossible with backstitch [pic 2, 3, 4].

2: A stripe or a pattern emphasises the difference between the backstitch seam on the left and the seam on the right worked with the right side facing.

3: The back of the seam on the left, worked with right side facing contrasts with the thickness of the back stitch seam shown on the right.

4: A seam worked with the purl side as the right side facing shows the difference between the two methods. The backstitch seam is on the left.

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