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Let’s say you want to knit something the size of a queen bed, or perhaps big enough to cover your dining room table. With all the leaves in. Something chock full of bits and pieces. Something like this:

And let’s say you book a comfy room at a nice hotel on Project Fantasy Island. You stay there, dementedly knitting away and ordering from room service until you have 80 squares done.

All the sane people are no longer with us. It’s just us nuts, pondering how to sew up such prodigiousness of squares. Being the self-proclaimed Mattress Stitch Queen of the Northern Hemisphere or At Least My Own Mind, I chose:

Mattress stitch, aka ladder stitch, aka invisible seam. The advantage of mattress stitch is that it makes the stripes of the squares come together very neatly on the right side.  This is because of the First Principle of Mattress Stitch: There is a stitch-for-stitch, row-for-row correspondence. Since each of these squares has exactly the same number of stitches and rows, mattress stitch should result in perfect joins. (Key word in previous sentence: “should”.)

The wrong side, however, is another story. On the wrong side, mattress stitch leaves highly visible ridges. Nice, neat ridges, but a bit unkempt even for the wrong side of something. We won’t worry about that. We’re hell-bent for mattress stitch.

Here are two strips of mitered squares. Each square has already been mattress-stitched out of four mitered corner squares, then mattress-stitched to the other squares to form the strips. 

In order to sew these strips together, you must navigate two kinds of Intersections.

The Straight Intersection

At a Straight Intersection, you have the four pieces coming together at right angles, like a cross. Easy-peasy.

Unless you screw up. Whoopsie! This bumpy join results from forgetting the First Principle of Mattress Stitch: stitch-for-stitch correspondence. You have gotten one stitch ahead of yourself. Go back to the last tidy intersection, and re-seam. Pay attention this time, OK?

Remember not to let your needle go any deeper than the stitches that are on top of the fabric. Do not dig your needle down into the seams that you made when you joined the corners to make the squares. When you cross from one square to the next on one side of the seam, you must cross from one square to the next on the other side of the seam on the very next stitch.

The Mitered Angle Weirdo Intersection

This type of intersection is more challenging. You are joining four angled corners where you have made miter decreases. (The decrease lines form an X.) In the series of photos that follow, I attempt to show how the X intersection can be traversed successfully. I cannot really explain it in words, other than to repeat that once you cross from one square to the next on one side of the seam, you must cross immediately with the very next stitch you take on the other side of the seam. And remember to keep your needle on top of the fabric.

Danger: you are approaching the intersection. (See the X?)

Easy does it; you’re safely across. See? Nice and tidy.

When you pull the “ladders” of the mattress seam taut, some futzing may be necessary to straighten out the seam. Who among us cannot benefit from a little futzing?

So much of life is just Good Futzing.


  • “Who among us cannot benefit from a little futzing?” indeed.

    New website (gorgeous, by the way) and deep philosophy. Loving it!

  • “So much of life is just Good Futzing.” Put that one on a bag and I’ll buy it 😉 So nice to have you back in my feedly feed 😉 Off to futz my way through the day.

    • too many emoticon smileys — sorry.

  • Truth!

  • Just beautiful. Does everyone think this method is better than picking up and knitting the next miter square?

    • Absolutely. Plus, when you pickup and knit, you have to commit to your each color choice square by square. Mattress-stitching lets you make squares (or other shapes) and then decide how to array them. Much better. And (for me) no ridges!

    • It is more portable- especially when you get always in. You could pick up a strip or 4 squares worth, then seam those.

      • I meant “aways in” – thanks autocorrect for screwing me again. I’m so happy that my knitting doesn’t attempt to autocorrect !

        • Sometimes I wish it would, less reverse knitting!

  • wow

  • There is no knitting without futzing !

  • And what about all those ends?!!!!!

  • I have mattress=stitched multiple afghans together, including 3 sock yarn blankies of 500 3″ mitered squares each. I mattress stitch specifically to AVOID the ridge that picking up and knitting produces. Why are you getting a ridge with mattress-stitching?

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