I really do love a flat knit. It brings me back to my early knitting days when everything was new and exciting. I enjoyed the process of knitting flat, so I think it's time to celebrate the flat knit (again).
There are some things we need to address about knitting flat:
- Preferring to knit flat does not indicate a lack of skill.
- There is a lot of pressure for designers as well as knitters to just move with the trend and knit everything in the round.
- If you want to make things that you will want to wear, think about whether the type of construction is right for you.
- There are many ways to purl. Don't let your dislike of one method stop you.
- Seaming does not have to be the knitter's Achilles heel. It needs work!
I was caught up in the in-the-round trend and I'm glad that I've woken up and thought about what I want, not what the knitting world thinks is 'in'.
After some much needed reflection (this is why time off is so important) I realised I really do prefer to knit flat. This year I'll be seeing if I prefer to design for flat knits too.
You may have noticed that I haven't ventured into designing knit garments yet. There are many reasons for this but one huge reason is that as a designer, I feel pressured to offer simple, top down or bottom up constructed designs. I have since realised that I don't enjoy knitting that kind of thing, so why would I enjoy designing it?
In the round or seamed?
Personally, I find endless rounds tedious, especially if it is a large adult garment. If it's not Aran or chunky, I will probably leave it on the WIP pile forever. Knitting adult sleeves in the round is also boring for me. I sometimes think that it's no wonder people avoid sleeves in in-the-round projects. Perhaps if the sleeve was just a rectangle with a bit of increasing and decreasing, we'd approach it differently.
There is a strong temptation there to knit garments that are offered in this effortless, seamless top down or bottom up construction but when it comes down to it, I wonder why I'm even knitting it in the first place. With my everyday wardrobe, I prefer fitted garments. I don't like baggy or boxy unless it's a cardigan. I also don't like anything that hangs off my boobs in a shapeless circus tent style. I may be pregnant right now but I don't want to look pregnant forever! I make the effort to wear fitted jeans so I don't want to compromise on my tops.
Don't get me wrong, there will always be things that I enjoy knitting in the round, such as mittens and socks (because it is quick and fun!) but for garments, I'm into the flat knitting process. I like being able to see my progress in stages; 2 sleeves, a front and a back panel. I think I feel like I have achieved a lot more if the garment is in pieces. This is what I do when I'm sewing a garment, so knitting a garment in this way comes easily to me.
I love close fitting clothing with accentuated curves, deep v necks and set in sleeves. I also love vintage knits, such as those featured in Susan Crawford's A Stitch In Time collection. Not all of the things I like will suit me, though. I have broad shoulders as well as a large bust, so seeing nothing but in-the-round high neck sweaters is really disheartening. I need v necks, scoop necks and square necks to cut me up and balance my proportions. With flat knits, there is a lot more flexibility with choosing a suitable neckline or overall fit, which is ideal for someone who likes to tweak.
I'm a classic inverted triangle and I want to have a self made wardrobe that helps me to make the best of what I have. I want to feel good when wearing something I've made, not just because I made it but because I love wearing it. Seaming flat knits is the answer for me.
Some people look amazing in their in-the-round sweaters and can wear them anywhere, any time but that's not me. I strongly believe that we should all be able to knit what we want for our wardrobes without worry of judgement or others thinking that we can't knit properly because we don't like using DPNs.
This is another area that knitters discuss when it comes to seamed v circular.
If you're knitting flat and the pattern calls for stockinette, you have to purl on the wrong side. That's just the nature of the game. Some knitters outright avoid this and as a result knit everything in the round.
Some knitters hate purling but I have to ask- have you tried all of the possible purl methods? If you were a born crocheter first, have you tried continental purling? If you've tried English purling and hate it, what's stopping you from trying the Portuguese purl?
Find a purl stitch method that is right for you and the rest is history. I'll include a list of handy purl links at the bottom of this article.
This is the killer for a lot of knitters. Seaming up as opposed to knitting something seamless is a bone of contention. Taking a darning needle and yarn to your knitting after hours, days, weeks or months of working so hard on it can be daunting. Your seaming skills may not be up to scratch and you fear you'll ruin the look of the garment. It's all understandable but let me convince you that taking the time to learn to seam will bring huge benefits for your knitting.
Why seam your garments?
Seaming helps with shaping in a way that in-the-round cannot. Kate Atherley highlights how "Seamed garment structures open the door to more tailored looks" in her article Why try seamed .
Atherley also highlights how knitwear will sag and lose shape over time, so if you want casual wear, knit in the round. If you want a greater range of fit, structure and office or evening wear- seam!
There are many tutorials out there on seaming techniques that you can practice. In my 2023 beginner knits series on Youtube, I will be talking you through seaming and finishing your work to a good standard.
Some handy resources:
If you'd like to know more about building your own individual wardrobe and dressing for your body shape, the free resources from the Concept Wardrobe are a great starting point.
Norweigan purl tutorial by Very Pink Knits.
Portuguese knitting (and purling) by very Pink Knits.
English style purl by Berocco knits
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Need advice on another element of knitting flat? Let me know in the comments!