In this tutorial, you are going to learn how to seam 2 stockinette pieces together with a horizontal seam. This is often done to sew the front and back of a sweater together at the top of the shoulder or to connect the ends of a scarf to form a cowl. But first, I want to give you an overview of the various methods of joining two pieces.
Ways to Join Your Work: Seaming, Grafting, & Three Needle Bind Off
Seaming and grafting are the two general ways we sew knit pieces together. They are both done with a darning needle.
Grafting is the process of connecting the live stitches of 2 separate pieces (or 2 ends of the same piece – a cowl, for example) together. When done correctly, it creates a seamless transition between the 2 pieces. A graft is seamless on the front and back of your work. The most common method of grafting is Kitchener Stitch.
Seaming is the process of sewing 2 finished pieces together. The seams can be invisible or visible, depending on the method you use. But even invisible seams will have a bump under them, like the seam allowance in sewing.
One other way to join 2 pieces together is the Three Needle Bind Off. It is a method of binding off and seaming at the same time. This tends to be my go-to method when I have 2 pieces that I need to seam together at the bind off edge.
Because there are an infinite number of stitch patterns, there are an infinite number of ways to seam and graft – especially for horizontal seams and grafts. But take heart! Once you understand the basics, you’ll be able to adapt the basic techniques to fancier stitch patterns.
So let’s get started with the basic horizontal seam for stockinette stitch…
How to Seam Stockinette Stitch Horizontally
The most common ways to seam stockinette stitch are vertically and horizontally. A side seam of a sweater is an example of a vertical seam. I recommend using mattress stitch for vertical seams. The shoulder seam of a sweater or connecting the 2 ends of a scarf to make a cowl are examples of a horizontal seam.
In this video, I will teach you how to seam stockinette stitch horizontally:
Your Seaming Yarn
You can seam with a yarn tail from your project, if you left a long enough tail. The benefit of using your tail is that you will have 2 fewer tails to sew in when you are done. The drawback is that if you ever have to make a repair on your garment, it might be harder if you’ve used your tail to seam.
You will usually use the same yarn for your seam as you knit with. However, if you are using a weak yarn, like a single ply, you may want to use a stronger yarn for your seam. Also, if you’re garment is knit with a bulky yarn, you may want to use a thinner yarn for your seam to keep it from being too bulky.
Cut your seaming yarn at least 3 times longer than the length of the seam. And leave yourself at least a 6” tail at the beginning so you have enough to sew in when you are done.
Identifying the Stitches to Use
Knitting stitches, especially the stockinette stitch pattern, remind me of graph paper. Each stitch is like one block on a sheet of graph paper. The stitches are arranged in rows and columns, just like the blocks on graph paper.
Noticing the shape of the stitches and realizing that they look like “V’s” is helpful in seaming. You want to recreate that V-shaped stitch shape as you make a horizontal seam. To do that, loop the yarn around the “V’s” on the piece farther from you and around the upside down “V’s” on the piece closer to you. It really helps to see the columns of stitches and choose the bottom/top stitch of the column.
If you are having a hard time figuring out which row to work in, it’s OK – you’ll get the hang of it. Look at your rows and identify the one closest to the edge that has consistent V’s. Use that row. In most projects, it won’t matter if you have an extra row in your seam allowance.
What the Horizontal Stockinette Stitch Seam Looks Like
I held the camera at an angle to take photos of the back so you could see how the seam is raised on the wrong side of the work. Click on a photo to see it larger.
Here’s a photo of the wrong side (tight tension) straight on:
More Tips for Seaming Stockinette Stitch Horizontally
- You may want to block your knitting before seaming. This helps to even out the pieces and reduces the annoying curl that stockinette stitch fabric always has.
- You can use a straight darning needle or bent tip needle. A lot of people love the bent tip needles. But it took me a long time to get used to them and I still don’t love them.
- This seam is always done with the right side facing.
- After the first stitch on each piece, you will always insert your needle into the other piece where the yarn is coming out and pick up the 2 strands of the next stitch.
- For an invisible seam, match the tension of your seam to the tension of your knitting.
- For a sturdier but more visible seam, pull your seam tight – but not so tight that it puckers.
- When making a tight seam, do it loosely then pull it tight every inch or two.
- If you need to seam the top or bottom of one piece to the side of another piece, you can combine this method of seaming with the mattress stitch. Use this method of seaming for the top/bottom edge and mattress stitch for the side edge.
- Refer to this tutorial to learn how to sew a horizontal seam in reverse stockinette stitch
A Project to Practice Seaming
Flow is a fantastic project for practicing both the horizontal seam and mattress stitch. It’s a quick-knit top that is perfect for beginner sweater knitters or those wanting to improve their sweater knitting skills. Learn more about our Flow Knit Along, where we guide you step-by-step through the pattern with detailed lessons, at https://knitalongclub.com/course/flow/.