How Do You Do The Mattress Stitch In Knitting

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How to mattress stitch your knits

Published on 28 March 2019 2 min read

So you’ve decided to knit a snuggly jumper, and you’ve done an amazing job so far. Except your jumper is still in several pieces, and now you need to sew it up! Don’t worry – we’ve all been there, and once you’ve mastered how to mattress stitch, you’ll be good to go.

Follow our super easy step-by-step guide to mattress stitch knitting and you can finish up projects with invisible stitch lines and a perfect professional finish!

What is a mattress stitch?

A mattress stitch is a vertical invisible seam that joins two knit pieces together side by side. The seam itself is flexible, neat and firm, making it perfect for finishing up several projects – from jumpers and cushions, to that vibrant patchwork blanket you’ve always wanted to finish.

When should I use a mattress stitch?

A mattress stitch only works when the two pieces have an identical number of stitched rows. It’s perfect for patterns that use the stockinette stitch or ribbing. You’ll want to use it whenever you’re looking for a flat join. Because the stitch is externally invisible, it can even come in handy to make any necessary size adjustments.

How to mattress stitch step-by-step

Lay down the knitting.Place the two pieces to be joined side-by-side, with the right side facing you.

Cut your yarn.As we want this stitch to be invisible, use the same yarn you’ve knitted with (though we’ve used contrasting yarn to show you how to do it). Measure out a piece about three times the length of the seam you want to join, and thread it through a blunt darning needle.

Thread your yarn through the first stitch.Beginning with the left side of the knitting, take your darning needle and insert it into the bottom right hand corner of the first stitch.

Insert your needleupwards from back to front.

Repeat on the right side.Find the first stitch on the bottom left, and insert your needle from back to front.

Thread back through your first hole.Go back into the same hole as you originally inserted your needle through from back to front, and pull the yarn through. Great work: you’re ready to start your mattress stitch!

Thread beneath the two bars.If you pull your knitting slightly apart you will see two horizontal bars. Take your darning needle and thread it beneath the two bars, pulling it through from front to back.

Continue in the same pattern.Match the rows from each side as you zig zag from edge to edge for about 2 inches.

Pull the thread up.Hold the base of the seam until the seam is joined and the stitches become invisible. Try not to pull it too tightly as you don’t want to distort your work.

Continue to the top.Secure the ends by sewing them in. You should be left with a perfectly flush finish, and invisible seam line.

How to Join Knitted Pieces with the Mattress Stitch

Mattress stitch makes a practically invisible and nicely flexible seam for joining pieces side to side. You can’t use mattress stitch successfully, however, on pieces that don’t have the same number of rows or a difference of only 1 or 2 rows.

1 Lay out your pieces next to each other, right sides facing up, bottom edges toward you.

You seam from the bottom edge up. If you’ve left a tail of yarn at the cast-on edge, you can use it to get started.

2 Locate the running thread between the first and second stitches on the bottom row of one piece.

Gently pull apart the first 2 edge stitches to see the series of little horizontal — running — threads connecting them.

3 Thread the tail of yarn or a fresh piece on a tapestry needle.

Make sure your tapestry needle is blunt to avoid piercing the yarn.

4 Join the bottom edges of the pieces, using a figure eight.

Work through the two threads on the cast-on row.

5 Bring your needle under the thread; then pick up the running thread between the first and second stitches on the opposing piece.

This step begins your mattress stitch pattern.

6 Work back and forth from running thread to running thread to running thread, keeping the tension easy but firm.

Check the tension by pulling laterally on the seam from time to time. The amount of give should be the same as between 2 stitches.

Mattress Stitch – How To Seam Knitting

Mattress stitch is a great seaming technique to use for sewing seams in knitting.

One of the most important things to learn with knitting is how to sew knit seams.

After all, you’ve spent hours, days, weeks and maybe even months knitting up something wonderful and it can be ruined so easily if it isn’t sewn up properly.

And the mattress stitch is very easy to learn. It’s best known for sewing vertical seams like the sides of a sweater. But you can use it wherever you think it will work.

Seaming Knitting Tips

  • If you know ahead of time that you will be sewing your knitting you can leave a long enough tail so that you can use that. It will save you from weaving in another yarn end
  • Try using the same yarn you knit your pieces with. If it’s really thick you might want to either find a yarn a bit thinner that comes close to the same color you used. Or you may want to try some embroidery thread. Embroidery thread comes in many different colors so you’re sure to find one that matches.
  • Use a length of yarn no more than about 16 inches long. It does get worn from the sewing after awhile.

I have lots of pictures to help you. After all it may only take that one extra picture for you to completely understand how to work the mattress stitch.

As always I’m using a contrasting yarn so that you can see what I’m doing.

Mattress Stitch Instructions

If you take a look at your knitting, these are the edge stitches, sometimes called the selvedge edge. Lots of times it is kind of messy but no worries, it will all be sewn up and no one will see it.

Lay your two knitted pieces out with the right side facing you just like the photo.

What you want to do is gently separate the edge stitches from the knitting stitches beside it. See in the photo. Those bars are what you will be using to mattress stitch your pieces together.

Thread your yarn needle and push it through the very last stitch on one piece of fabric (above left photo) If you’d like to keep it in place push it through the same loop again (right photo) to kind of tie it so it won’t move around. (I don’t usually do this but you may like too).

Next, move over to the other knitted piece and push the yarn needle through the very last stitch just like the first. You don’t need to tighten the pieces yet, just keep it pretty loose like in my photo. You’ll see why in a bit.

Sometimes you may find that when you start to sew your knitted piece you have one lonely bar at the beginning of your seaming. If you do see one bar you can put your yarn needle through that one bar.

Just keep in mind that whatever you do on one side of your knitting needs to be done the same on the other side to keep them even.

So move over to the other side and push your yarn needle through that one bar as well (above left photo). Bring the yarn through.

This will keep it even with the other side

Some knitters like to go through one bar all the way up their knitting and others go through 2 bars. It’s just a matter of preference. I like going through 2 bars so from now on I will be going through 2.

Now move over to the other piece of fabric. Always go back to the same place you came out of previously.

Push your yarn needle through those next 2 bars. And bring the yarn through.

Move over to your other piece and go into the same place you came out of before (above left photo), pushing your needle through those next 2 bars and pull yarn through (right photo).

Keep on mattress stitching back and forth for about an inch and then stop a minute.

Here’s the magic moment.

Take your yarn and firmly pull on it to bring your knitted pieces together. Try not to pull too tightly but if you do just stretch it back into shape. Isn’t that cool? You can’t even really see the red yarn. I just love the mattress stitch.

Now just continue seaming up your knitting going from one side to the other side. Every inch to inch and a half pull on your yarn to bring the pieces together.

Keep on seaming all the way up to the top. Pull on the yarn to bring the pieces together.

Here’s what I do at the top. I put my yarn needle through the loop on the other piece like in the photo. Tighten it up a bit.

Then just bring the needle through the loop to kind of knot it and pull. Now you can weave that end in as well.

There ta-da. Looks really good doesn’t it? You can’t even see the red yarn. Oh I know that my poor swatch is stretched but even still it looks pretty cool.

When you actually work the mattress stitch on your knitting it will look excellent and you won’t even see the seam.

And this is what it looks like on the wrong side. I know it is quite a big looking seam right? It’s OK you won’t notice it and it’s not noticeable or uncomfortable at all. Best thing is, it hides the ugly edge stitches.

For those of you who prefer watching I found a great mattress stitch knitting video.

How to Sew Crochet Pieces Together Using the Mattress Stitch

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If you have two pieces of crochet to sew together, you may want to use the Mattress Stitch. A favorite when it comes to joining crocheted granny squares or crocheted clothing.

How to Sew the Mattress Stitch

When joining crochet pieces you can either slip stitch them together, single crochet them together, whip stitch them together or mattress stitch them together. I find that the mattress stitch creates the most seamless and invisible seam, and it does so without the ridge inherent in most other methods of joining crochet pieces.

See a video tutorial using this stitch below.

To join two pieces of crochet together:

1. Lay out the two edges that will be sewn, lining up the corresponding stitches on each side.

2. Thread your yarn needle with the main color of yarn.

3. Work from the inside/bottom out, sew through each side as if you were lacing a pair of tennis shoes.

4. Continue sewing back and forth from the inside/bottom out between both pieces to end.

5. When finished sewing two pieces together, weave in the yarn end as usual.

That’s it! I love how this method of joining eliminates the ridge you get when using most other methods of joining two pieces in crochet such as the single, slip or whip stitch.

I use the Mattress Stitch to join the two shoulders together in the Painted Canyon Cardigan as well as the child sizes of the Unicorn Hoodie! See a video of the Mattress Stitch in action:

What is your favorite way to join two pieces of crochet?

Mattress Stitch

The Mattress Stitch is a finishing technique for vertical seaming. It creates an invisible join between pieces worked in stockinette stitch or ribbing, perfect for so many things, such as sewing the front and back of a sweater together. For demonstration purposes, we have used a different yarn in a contrasting color, but typically you would use the same yarn as your knit pieces.

First, align the two pieces you wish to seam. Bring your threaded tapestry needle from the back of your work to the front at the location where you wish your seam to start. (I began with the knit piece to the right and brought my needle to the front just above my cast on edge.)

For Mattress Stitch you sew two knit pieces together by grabbing a strand of yarn from each edge, alternating back and forth, working vertically along the edges. The strand of yarn you grab is a horizontal bar that runs between the knit stitches (or “V”s). If you gently tug on the right and left edge of your knit piece, you can see these horizontal bars (or “ladder”) between the Vs. Picking up a bar from each side draws the edges together, making it appear as though it is one knit piece.

Next, draw the needle under the bar between the two most outer Vs of the second knit piece, right across your entry of the first edge. Beware of the outermost column of knit stitches; it tends to curl to the back. The farther in from the edge that you work, the bulkier the seam will be.

Take the tapestry needle back to the first piece and pick up the bar just above your initial entry point.

Now, take the needle back to the second piece and pick up the bar above the last one your picked up on this side.

NOTE: Depending on the gauge or density of the fabrics, sometimes it is just as effective to pick up every other bar, rather than ever bar. It is a personal choice.

Continue working vertically along the two edges, drawing the tapestry needle under each bar of each piece.

Above you can see the many red stitches connecting the two columns of Vs. The goal is to bring those Vs together.

Just as with knitting, the more even you can keep your tension, the better. An even tension will prevent pulling and puckering along the seam.

To close the seam, gently pull the length of yarn from either the top or the bottom. If you are working a long seam, it is best to sew a few inches, then pull to close, again sew a few inches and pull, continuing in this fashion to the end of the seam, being careful to maintain a consistent tension throughout.

If you turn your work over so the wrong side is facing, you’ll see the seam.

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