How to Convert a Seamed Sweater to Seamless

Axiom is a great pattern to try changing from seamed to seamless, and many Knit Picks team members are planning to do that with their own projects. Patterns can be followed precisely, or they can be used as a creative jumpstart, to be adapted as each knitter prefers. Like with most pattern modifications, when converting from seamed to seamless, a lot of frustration can be avoided by asking the right questions before getting started and doing a pinch of prep work.

To get started, there are a few questions to ask ourselves to determine if a seamless adaptation will work for a particular pattern.

Does this shape lend itself to being knit seamlessly?

Axiom is a drop-shoulder sweater, which means it can be converted to seamless without major changes to the design. Raglan sweaters can also be easily converted, but traditional set-in sleeves do not lend themselves to being made seamless without substantial changes and would need the sleeve construction redesigned to become seamless.

Does this pattern have details that won’t work in the round?

With Axiom, the answer is no, there are no techniques that prevent the design from being seamless! Some patterns use techniques like intarsia that are easiest worked flat, but most cables are just as easy to work in the round as they are flat.

Are there stitch patterns that need flat and in-the-round versions planned?

Axiom’s cable instructions are all written to be knit flat, so if you prefer following written instructions, the wrong side rows must be rewritten to be worked in the round. If you prefer to use charts, all you need to do is read them from right to left on every row of the chart to work them in the round.

What direction are the pieces originally knit?

Noting the direction the pieces are knit is helpful for creating your modification plan. All pieces of Axiom were designed to be knit from the bottom up. The body pieces can easily be adapted to be worked seamlessly from the bottom up, but seamless drop-shoulder sleeves have to be knit from the top down. In order to avoid seaming, stitches have to be picked up and knit from the top down, so the direction will need to be reversed.

Will it be noticeable if the sleeves are worked in a different direction?

Some stitch patterns have an obvious direction, like Axiom’s cables. If the cables were also on the sleeves, changing the sleeves from being knit bottom-up to top-down would significantly change the look, but because the sleeves are plain stockinette and 2×2 rib, the direction can be changed without it being obvious.

How many selvage stitches are involved?

Seamed sweaters typically have an extra stitch at each seam edge that hides on the inside after sewing. If they’re not subtracted from the stitch counts, that adds up to 4 extra stitches on a pullover like Axiom, a little less than 1” (2.5cm) to the circumference of the body. These must be subtracted from our adjusted stitch counts, so that the finished sweater is the desired size On the sleeves, although there are only 2 selvage stitches, the extra stitches must be subtracted because the extra stitches do not correspond with the 2×2 ribbing.

If all of the answers to these questions align like they do for Axiom, the pattern can be adapted to be seamless!

Adjusting Axiom’s Stitch Counts

The following stitch counts should be calculated as follows and noted down. These are the only key stitch counts that need readjusting, and although they are tailored to Axiom‘s instructions, they provide guidelines that can be used for any drop-shoulder sweater.

Front CO + Back CO – 4 sts from selvage = Body CO

Front CO – 2 sts from selvage = Front Sts

First set of knit sts in Set Up Row 1 – 1 st from selvage = Adjusted Set Up

1st Front BO – 1 st from selvage = Beginning of First Underarm BO

1st Back BO – 1 st from selvage = Beginning of Second Underarm BO

1st Front BO + 1st Back BO – 2 sts from selvage = Full Underarm BO

Final sleeve stitch count – 2 sts from selvage = Sleeve Pick Up Count

Total sleeve length in inches – 2 inches of rib cuff – (((1st set of increase x 2 if applicable) + (2nd set of increases x 4)) / rows per inch) = Unshaped Upper Arm Length

Sleeve CO – 2 sts from selvage = Wrist Sts

Working Axiom’s Body Seamlessly

  • Using the Body CO determined above, cast on that number of stitches, join in the round, and place a marker to indicate the beginner of the round.
  • The first round of the body should be worked skipping the first stitch, a selvage stitch. This means it should be knit as follows, to accommodate the removed selvage stitches: K1, (P2, K2) to last 3 sts, P2, K1.
  • Throughout the whole body, WS rows should be replaced with rounds worked evenly in pattern, so knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches as they were established in the previous round.
  • On the next round, work the Front Sts determined above as established in the previous round, place a marker, and then work as established in the previous round to the end of the round. The section after the beginning of the round marker is the front, and the remaining section after the second marker is the back. To check your work, there should be 92 (100, 108, 116, 128)(136, 144, 152, 160) stitches for your front.
  • After the ribbing is the length indicated in the pattern, work the first section of the set up row one stitch fewer to accommodate for the removed selvage stitch, the number we determined above as the Adjusted Set Up. To check your work, that means Setup Row 1 should begin as follows with the adjustment: K21 (25, 29, 33, 33)(37, 41, 45, 49)…
  • After adjusting the Set Up Row, the body can be knit as written up to the underarm BO, keeping in mind that the front’s instructions should be worked first, followed by the back’s instructions on every round, and that WS rows should be replaced with rounds of working evenly in pattern.

Working the Underarm BO Seamlessly

  • When you reach the Underarm BO rows in the instructions, the two BO rows will be combined into one BO round, so one more even round should be worked.
  • Next, work across the front until the number of stitches that remain before the marker equals the Beginning of First Underarm BO number determined above. BO the Full Underarm BO number determined above, removing your stitch marker as you cross it.
  • Now work across the back until the number of stitches that remain before the marker equals the Beginning of Second Underarm BO number determined above. BO the Full Underarm BO number determined above, removing your stitch marker as you cross it, and not breaking the yarn.
  • The yarn will be in position to continue knitting the front, starting with a RS row. The fronts and back will be knit flat and joined at the shoulders, so from this point on, the front can be knit exactly as written in the original pattern, starting after the BO rows, until the shoulders. For the remainder of the front, the stitch counts will match the stitch counts given in the pattern.
  • Note that there is a section instructing knitters to work even for several inches after the set of BO rows that is easy to miss if you’re not following the pattern instructions closely.
  • Once the front is completed, rejoin the yarn for the back and follow the pattern instructions for the upper back, starting after the BO rows, until the shoulders.

Knitting and Joining the Shoulders

  • The shoulders of Axiom are shaped slightly by binding off in two sections over 2-3 rows, and the shaping must be either replaced or eliminated.
  • The easiest way to convert the shoulders to seamless is to skip the shaping and place all stitches on hold to later be joined using a 3-needle BO.
  • If you’d like to keep the shaping, the BO set can be replaced with one short row that’s the length of the first BO section, and then once again, the stitches can be placed on hold to later be joined using a 3-needle BO.
  • Once both the front and back are completed, to seamlessly join the shoulders, place the right front shoulder stitches on a needle and the right back shoulder stitches on another needle, and hold them together with their RS facing each other and WS facing out. Join yarn and use a third needle to work a 3-needle BO. Repeat with the left shoulder.

Knitting the Sleeves Seamlessly

  • Because the sleeves are designed to be knit from the bottom up and have to be converted to top-down to be seamless, they require more substantial adaptation.
  • Starting at the center of the Underarm BO and working evenly around the armhole, pick up and knit the Sleeve Pick Up Count determined above, and join to work in the round.
  • Work evenly in stockinette until the sleeve measures the Unshaped Upper Arm Length determined above, measuring from the picked up edge. To check your work, that means you should knit approximately 4.25 (4.25, 5.5, 2.5, 3.25)(2.75, 2.75, 3.25, 3.25)”. If you’d like to add extra length to your sleeve, this is also the ideal place to do so.
  • With the unshaped length completed, shaping can begin. The same shaping rates given in the pattern should be used, but in reverse order and with the increases replaced with a K2tog at the start of each shaping round and a SSK at the end. That means the shaping that’s worked every 4 rounds should be worked first, and then the shaping worked every other round should be worked last, if applicable for your size.
  • Double check that you’ve included the correct number of decreases using the Wrist Sts determined above, and then work 2×2 ribbing by simply repeating (K2, P2) to the end of each round. BO using a stretchy method.
  • Repeat for the second sleeve, and don’t worry about blocking any pieces yet.

Neckline and Finishing

  • The neckline is already written seamlessly, so it needs no modification. Knit it as written, and BO using the same method as you used on your sleeves to tie them together.
  • Weave in your ends, block your sweater, and your project is completed!

Will you be converting your Axiom project into a seamless knit? Do you have any other modifications planned?


  1. Sandra / September 27, 2023

    Would it be possible to reissue the pattern with the directions in the round? I bought it earlier but soon decided that I didn’t want to have to sew up pieces. I am not confident enough to convert the pattern myself.

    • Andi Satterlund / September 27, 2023

      The designer intended this to be a classic seamed sweater, so we don’t currently plan to change the pattern from her original vision.

      That said, if you need some help feeling confident about altering the pattern on your own, we’re here to answer any questions you might have! Is there a particular aspect you find especially intimidating that we could provide more information on?