The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

There are many ways to seam knitted pieces together. Many of those ways are meant to be used only in certain cases. The knitting seam that we are going to discuss in this tutorial is not like that. It can be used to make a horizontal seam, a vertical seam and even to join open stitches to the knitted fabric.

The funny thing is that this handy knitting seam is not really a knitting seam. It is a simple backstitch commonly used in sewing, quilting and embroidery. It is quick, easy and stretchy – perfect for joining pieces of knitted fabric together.

Let’s see how we can use backstitch to make a horizontal seam (e,g. shoulder seam), and a vertical seam like the one we make to join the sides of a sweater. We’ll also take a look at a neat way to seam open stitches to the knitted fabric. It is a great alternative for a shoulder seam if you want to avoid the extra bulk.

If you are a visual learner, you can watch every step described below in this video tutorial.

MATERIALS

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

To make this seam, we’ll need a wool needle and a piece of yarn that is about three times the length of the future seam. You can leave a long tail after you bind off stitches and use it for seaming, or you can attach a separate piece of yarn when it’s time to join the knitted pieces. 

Normally, I prefer to use a long tail that I leave after binding off stitches (fewer tails to weave in :-), but in this tutorial, I’ll attach a piece of yarn in a different colour to help you see how this seam is done.

HORIZONTAL SEAM

Any seam that joins the cast on and bind off edges is considered to be a horizontal seam, even though it is not worn horizontally in a project. For example, if you knit a long stripe of fabric and join it in a circle to make a headband, you will make a horizontal seam. When you put the headband on, that seam will be located vertically, but it will still be “a horizontal seam”.

Another common example of a horizontal seam is a shoulder seam on a sweater with classic four-piece construction.

Ok, now that we’ve sorted out the terminology, let’s see how we can use backstitch to make a horizontal seam.

1. Place two pieces of fabric with the right sides in so that you can start seaming from the right side of the work.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

2. Align the top edges of the pieces and­­ thread the yarn into a wool needle. If you use the yarn tail that is already attached to one of the pieces, make a stitch around the edge stitches of the last row of both pieces. This way we’ll join two pieces together.

If you attached a separate piece of yarn, run the wool needle through the spot between the first and the second stitches at the right side of the last row of the work. Pull the yarn, but don’t pull it all the way through. Leave a small tail and tie it to the working yarn with a square knot. Watch how to do it in this part of the video tutorial.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

3. Insert the wool needle from back to front through both pieces into a spot that is one stitch to the left from the previous spot in the same row.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

Pull the yarn through.

4. Now insert the wool needle from front to back into the spot that is one stitch to the right from the current spot (going back by one stitch), then from back to front into the spot that is one stitch to the left from the current spot (forward by one stitch).

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

Pull the yarn through. It’s better to pull the yarn tight to make the seam neater. Don’t worry about jamming the fabric. This seam is stretchy enough to keep the fabric relaxed.

Repeat step 4 until you get to the last stitch at the left side of the seam. Then insert the wool needle from front to back into a spot that is one stitch to the right from the current spot and pull the yarn through.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

5. Make a stitch around the last stitches of both pieces.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

Secure the yarn and weave in the tail. 

If your project is made with chunky yarn (like the swatches in the photos), this seam could be rather bulky

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

To improve the look of the seam, we can join two pieces by attaching open stitches of one piece to the fabric of the other piece. Here’s how it works:

SEAMING OPEN STITCHES

Don’t bind off stitches on one of the pieces. Keep them on the knitting needle and cut the yarn leaving a tail that is about three times as long as the future seam. Make sure you finish the work with a wrong side row so that the tail is at the right side of the work.

To help you better see the process of seaming, I attached a piece of yarn in a contrasting colour to my swatch. Of course, in real life, we would do it only when we want to add a bit of decoration to the project.

1. Arrange the pieces with the right sides up so that the piece with the open stitches is at the bottom, the other piece is at the top and the yarn tail is at the right side of the work. Thread the yarn tail into a wool needle.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

2. Technically, we can attach the open stitches to any row of the other piece, but in most cases, we’ll attach them to the stitches of the row that is the closest to the bottom of the top piece. We’ll join them stitch by stitch as follows:

Insert the wool needle from back to front into the first stitch at the right side of the first row of the top piece, and from right to left into the first open stitch.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

Slip the stitch off the knitting needle and pull the yarn through.

3. Insert the wool needle from back to front into the second stitch in the same row of the top piece and from right to left into the next open stitch.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

Slip the stitch off the knitting needle and pull the yarn through.

4. Now insert the wool needle from front to back into the previous open stitch and the spot it is attached to (going back by one stitch), then from back to front into the spot that is one stitch to the left from the current spot on the top piece and from right to left into the next open stitchWatch how to do it.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

Slip the stitch off the knitting needle and pull the yarn through. Pull tight to make the seam neater.

Repeat this step until you get to the last stitch at the left side of the seam. Then insert the wool needle from front to back into a spot that is one stitch to the right from the current spot and pull the yarn through.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

5. Make a stitch around the last stitches. Secure the yarn and weave in the tail. 

The resulting seam is not just nice-looking, it is also flat with no extra bulk

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

VERTICAL SEAM

Backstitch is also helpful when we need to join the sides of two knitted pieces. 

The seam will take away one stitch at each side of the work, so it is important to add two extra stitches to the project. This way we will keep the stitch pattern intact after we make the seam. 

We can treat those extra stitches as selvedges, or simply work them in stockinette stitch. It does not impact the way we seam the pieces. The only difference is that the selvedge stitches are usually easier to recognise. Plus, they will create a nicer ridge on the wrong side of the work.

1. With the right side of the work facing to you, find the first column of stitches at the sides that will be joined in the seam, and pull that column of stitches sideways to create a small gap. This gap will serve as a guide when we make the seam.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

2. Place the pieces with the right sides in. Align the side edges and thread the yarn into a wool needle.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

Just as we did when we made the horizontal seam, you can use either a long yarn tail or a separate piece of yarn that is about three times as long as the future seam.

3. If you use a long yarn tail, make a stitch to join the pieces at the right edge. If you use a separate piece of yarn, attach it to the fabric with a square knot. In both cases, insert the wool needle into the gap.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

Now we’ll work in the same way as we did when we made the horizontal seam, but this time we’ll join rows of the fabric instead of stitches, and we’ll stay within the gap at all times.

4. Insert the wool needle from back to front into a spot that is one row to the left from the current spot. 

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

Pull the yarn through.

5. Insert the wool needle from front to back into a spot that is one row to the right from the current spot (one row back), then from back to front into the spot that is one row to the left from the current spot (one row forward).

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

Pull the yarn through and pull tight.

Repeat this step until you get to the last row at the left side of the seam. Then insert the wool needle from front to back into a spot that is one row to the right from the current spot and pull the yarn through.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

6. Make a stitch around the edge at the left side of the seam. Secure the yarn and weave in the tail.

The Most Versatile Knitting Seam

The resulting seam looks very much like a seam created by the mattress stitch, but this seam has more stretch and it does not unravel as easily if one of the threads accidentally gets damaged.

Now, that you know three ways to use simple backstitch to seam knitted pieces, you understand why I feel that this seam is the most versatile of all. In fact, it can easily become the only knitting seam you will use in your everyday knitting, just as it was the only seam I used for many years before I learned about other ways to join knitted fabric 🙂


If you like this tutorial, you will LOVE e-books and charts
in the Library of Free Knitting Resources

The library is free for everyone
who is subscribed to 10 rows a day newsletter.

If you are a subscriber, you’ll find the password at the bottom of each newsletter you receive from me on Fridays.

If you are not a subscriber, please type in your name and the best email to reach you in the form below, and I’ll send you the password to access the library.


Here are a few more things you might like:

Happy knitting 🙂


The Most Versatile Knitting Seam - step by step | 10 rows a day
The Most Versatile Knitting Seam - step by step | 10 rows a day
The Most Versatile Knitting Seam - step by step | 10 rows a day
The Most Versatile Knitting Seam - step by step | 10 rows a day