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How to Sew Invisible Vertical Seams in Knitting with Mattress Stitch

Anybody else here hate finishing?  Sewing up?  Yeah, me too.

Until recently, that is.

I always dreaded it because I didn’t know what to do.  And I didn’t want to mess up my beautiful knitting with crappy sewing.

The solution was staring me in the face, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it:

Learn to sew.

Now, I will be the first one to tell you that I’m a knitter, not a sewer.  But sewing with yarn?  I guess I can accept that.

I’ve learned a couple sewing techniques that have made finishing my knitting practically stress free.

Some of them can be applied in most, if not all, finishing situations.  The first and favourite of mine is Mattress Stitch.

Mattress stitch is also called Ladder stitch.  You can find it in any good knitting reference book, but they don’t always tell you when to use each stitch.

Mattress Stitch is perfect for sewing invisible side seams in sweaters, for sewing in sleeves (especially raglans), and for sewing amigurumi.  It forms a beautiful, invisible vertical seam, and it’s really easy to do.  (To connect a vertical seam to a horizontal seam, I usually use a hybrid of Mattress Stitch and Grafting, which I’ll show you in a future post.)

Because Mattress Stitch is sewn with the right side facing you, you can easily tell that your stitches are lining up — or notice quickly that they’re not and fix them.

Let’s get started.

Mattress Stitch connects running stitches.  Those are the little horizontal bars of yarn that join two knit stitches together at their feet (on the back side).  In this picture, I’ve picked up every other row of running stitches.  If you look closely, you can see they connect to the bottoms of the V-shaped knit stitches on either side.

Running stitches -- the "feet" that connect knit stitches.  How to: Mattress Stitch.

To begin Mattress Stitch, grab a running stitch from bottom to top and pull your sewing yarn through.  Make sure that you’re picking up the running stitches from the same column each time.  Notice that the running stitches are actually hiding behind and between two columns of V knit stitches.  Don’t grab the horizontal bars that are in the middles of the V’s themselves.

(You can use a tail already connected to the project, or a separate pieces of waste yarn. You’ll need it to be about 12″ longer than the seam you want to sew. If you’re using a separate piece of yarn, leave a 6″ tail at the beginning for sewing in ends later.)

With a blunt darning needle, sew through one running stitch on one side of the seam, then on the other.  Like so:

Why I Love Mattress StitchBegin by sewing into the very first running stitches in the column above the cast-on edge.

Why I Love Mattress Stitch: A How To

Continue sewing into the running stitches, alternating sides, until you’ve reached the last ones.

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You might notice that your seam is a little loose at first, like this:

Mattress Stitch: Invisible Vertical Seams! #sewknitting #finishing #knitting #tutorialsAll you need to do to fix that up is give the sewing yarn a good tug from both ends.  (If you’re sewing with the tail from the cast-on edge, then just give the one end a tug and it’ll do the same thing.)  Then, voila!  It will look like this:

2014-03-15 001 2014-03-15 011An alternative way of working Mattress Stitch is to catch two running stitches at a time on each side of the seam instead of one.  It sews up a little faster that way.  There is a small risk that it could pull the rows off a bit so they don’t line up as perfectly, but I haven’t found that to be the case so far.  Just keep an eye on it as you go, and if you’re not satisfied, switch back to picking them up one at a time.

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Mattress Stitch: An Invisible Vertical Seam for Knitting. #tutorials #knittingYou can also begin and end the seam by sewing one at a time while picking up two at a time in the middle.  It’s your knitting.  It’s your choice.

When you’re all done, the right side will look like this:

Mattress Stitch: An Invisible Vertical Seam for Knitting. #tutorials #knittingEven though I used bright coral yarn, you can’t even see it on the right side!  I would, of course, use the same colour yarn as my project if it were a sweater and not a sample swatch.

And here’s the wrong side.  Notice:  you still can’t see the coral yarn!  It’s like magic.

Mattress Stitch: An Invisible Vertical Seam for Knitting. #tutorials #knittingWhen you’re all done, just sew in your ends on the wrong side.  I use duplicate stitch to sew in all my ends now.  It looks fantastic.

What do you think?  Will this help relieve some of your finishing stress?  Feel free to pin this post or share it if you find it useful.