Zen inspirations: the European Shoulder Seam.

Hello!

As a result of my background in fashion design and particularly machine knitting, the Zen Variations sweaters are constructed slightly differently from some of the other top-down sweater patterns.

Whereas many patterns call for matching short rows on both the front and back shoulders to create a shoulder slope, with machine knitting, the knitter works as many straight bits of knitting as possible to increase the speed at which a sweater can be produced. By pushing all of the short rows to the back shoulders, a steeper shoulder slope is created and the front can be knit straight–in other words very quickly.

I hadn’t really thought through this construction as a hand-knitting technique until I noticed the work of Linda, aka the Gauginator, on Ravelry. Linda has had an impressive career to date working for major yarn companies and developed a recipe for what she calls the ‘ESS’ or European Shoulder Seam. She has been perfecting this recipe with some beautiful sweaters:

Gauginator's ESS ( European Shoulder Seam)

These details from a couple of Linda’s designs showcase the beauty of the design: above the ESS (European Shoulder Seam) and below: Martina.

Gauginator's Martina hand knit sweater

I asked Linda about how she came to this process and she send me a wonderful email detailing her knitting adventures:
 I wanted something that mimicked a set-in sleeve, where the sleeve cap seam was in closer to the proper chest width.
Also, having the shoulder seam positioned further back on the shoulder provides for a much better hang to the sweater. As we know, a proper fit in any garment emanates from a perfect fit in the shoulder.
At the time there were a few commercial patterns out there that pushed the shoulder seam toward the back of the shoulder, but they were very cumbersome and bulky; simply sewing the seams together to force them to fit. I’ve seen this construction referred to as English-, Italian-, French-shoulder seams … I decided to call it European Shoulder Seam (“ESS”) to encompass all the countries 😉
So I took to my drafting paper and literally created a sewing sloper to achieve the three-dimensional shoulder portion. From there I applied my knitting gauge and off I went.
The magic of it all lies within the Front shoulder section which, surprisingly, is just a straight piece with no shaping. The way that piece “torques” over the shoulder is what causes the perfect fit. I had to go on faith, because I can’t “quantify” that torque. All I know is that it works in all gauges. Since that’s the case I’m happy to not be able to explain ‘how’ it works, just that it does 😉
Gauginator's Notched Lapel

Linda’s Notched Lapel cardigan.

 

While I had appreciated the idea of the set-in sleeve construction for its simplicity and for the speed at which a sweater could be produced, I had never considered the ‘torque’ aspect of the shoulder and how that makes it equally as relevant to hand-knitting as machine knitting. I am indebted to Linda for bring it to my attention!

Happy knitting,

Rx

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4 thoughts on “Zen inspirations: the European Shoulder Seam.

  1. I found Linda’s ESS on Pinterest awhile back, but then couldn’t find enough info on it at the time (either I just got distracted by something else shiny on Ravelry, or because it was genuinely hard to find, I can’t remember). So when I noticed the shoulder style on your Zen Variations it was definitely a key selling point. Thanks!

  2. I have to say that I found the construction of the first sweater I knitted a little confusing (as you know!) as I hadn’t then seen how the shoulder seam ‘worked’. But it is beautiful, not only aesthetically, but also in the fit. Genius! And if this is the way machine made garments are constructed, why haven’t hand knitting patterns caught up? Until now, of course!

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