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Knit Maker: Skills & Technique

Lesson 7 of 11

Mattress Stitch


Knit Maker: Skills & Technique

Lesson 7 of 11

Mattress Stitch


Lesson Info

Mattress Stitch

So the first thing that we're gonna do is we're gonna talk about seaming two pieces together, and we'll be doing that using a method called mattress stitch. So for this skill you need to have two swatches. And if you're at home and you're like, oh, shoot, I didn't make swatches ahead of time, go to your little swatch pile, I know you have one, under your bed, in the closet, in a drawer, just pull out two arbitrary swatches. It may not be pretty, but just grab what you can. So you wanna have two swatches. You wanna have the same strand of the same weight yarn. I'm gonna use a totally different yarn, it's the same weight, but a different color, just because it'll be easier for you to see. But at home, you would use the same yarn, if possible, that you actually knit your garment or whatever it is that you're working on. You also want a large-eyed tapestry needle. I love the ones that have these little curves on them. I find them just to be really easy to work with. And you can find these,...

this particular one is by the brand Clover, but you can find these or similar at just your local craft store, your local yarn store, wherever. Okay, so, what you wanna do is you want to lay your pieces out side-by-side. So you can either go rogue and not pin them together at all, or not hold them together at all, or, I really like these wonder clips. They're also by Clover, but you could also use straight pins. And you could hold your pieces together. It's totally up to you. You don't really need it when you're working with small swatches, but if you were working with something like a garment, where you need the underarm seam to meet at the exact same place, I recommend using something like that, or I have these really beautiful, I don't think I have them out right now, wooden straight pins, something to make sure that you make all of those points so that you don't end up sewing, and all of a sudden you have four inches left that hasn't been seamed on one side, and none on the other. All right, so go ahead and thread your tapestry needle. You'll see, in patterns, that sometimes this is referred to as a tapestry needle. Sometimes it's referred to as a yarn needle. They're interchangeable terms as far as knitting goes. Okay, I've placed a small knot. There's technically no knots in knitting. I go crazy sometimes and break rules, and that is one of them. You don't have to. You can weave in all the ends, but I do it as a safety. So on one side of my fabric, I'll turn over the piece, and I kind of just weave in and out. And this, by the way, is why you don't really need the knot. I'm just doing it 'cause I'm being overcautious. You're actually weaving in to create a solid foundation. Yes, Olivia. Do you have a rule of thumb for how long you make your tail of yarn for your...? Do you totally measure it? I usually go like two to three, depending on the weight of the yarn, two to three lengths longer than the finished length is gonna be. It's kind of an art more than it is a science, 'cause there's variables, like weights of yarn, but that's just kind of a good rule of thumb. Okay, so I've got my yarn established and I've come out towards one end. So I'm matching up the two pieces, and, let me see how I'm gonna show you this. All right, so, you'll notice that, in the middle of a stitch, there are these little bars. You see that? They look like a little ladder, almost. These are what we're going to be working with. So we're gonna insert the needle, as I did, up through the stitch, and we're gonna pull the yarn through. Okay, so then we're gonna go to the opposite side. We're gonna look for that little bar. There it is. And by the way, I'm not going through this first stitch. You'll see this is basically a salvage stitch, so that gives you a nice stability. So it's really after the first stitch, the bar after the first stitch. You could work in the loops instead of working in the bars of that first stitch, but I find that it's not as stable, and not as clean. Okay, so if I pull it apart a little bit, you can see already that it's kind of ziggy-zaggy. I should also mention that your pieces should be right-side up, 'cause this is an invisible join, and it'll automatically create that nice, curved-in end. Okay, so I'm going to my other side, pick up the next bar, pull it through. Oh, I just heard a "Oh, geez!" What just happened in the studio? I'm just having trouble seeing. Trouble seeing? Yeah. Yeah, a well-lit room is ideal for this. And you're just gonna continue in that manner, I'm gonna turn the pieces this way, just because it's easier for me to sew, for the length of the piece. So at home, go ahead and continue working, and we're gonna do the same in here. When you're seaming together, you should also, what did I just do with my stitch? There we go. You should also keep in mind that it works a lot better to use a yarn that is plied, and you can see, exaggerated, the plies here, versus a roving yarn, which is an sort of untwisted yarn, because you're gonna be pulling on the yarn a little bit, which means that it could break if there aren't plies. So this is a roving yarn, what I actually knit with. So even though I said, oh, you should seam together with the same yarn that you've knit your project with, if I work with roving, sometimes what I'll do is I'll find a similar weight yarn, in a color, like I would probably go with a deep purple for this particular one, that is a little sturdier of a yarn, to do the seams. Sometimes, I don't. Sometimes, I'll use the roving yarn, just knowing full well it may break, and I may have to join it in at some point. Do you always do every single bar, or every single stitch, or do you ever skip? The answer is yes to both. So, I don't always do either. I find that I ease the fabric. For me, personally, it makes a difference what gauge yarn I'm using, if I'm using a finer weight versus a heavier weight. It also depends on what the stitch pattern is. For me, what I do, I am going through every bar in this case, 'cause I want it to be really tight, but if I notice at all, it's a little bit of a guessing game to make sure that you're getting the corresponding bar on each side. I stop every couple of stitches, and give it a little pull, to make sure that the fabric isn't buckling. If I notice that there's some bunching happening, I'll go ahead and I'll pull it out, and I might skip. So go ahead and go with your intuition, and take the time to lay it out flat on the table, and pull it. Not only are you pulling it so you can see if it's buckling at all, but you're also giving it a chance for the yarn to go into a resting place of how it will stretch when it's being worn, or getting any wear. So it'll, overall, be a more stable, nice, flat-laying seam. Two quickies: Do you recommend blocking before you do this? Again, it would depend on, so the short answer is yes. If you're gonna block at all, your project, I always recommend doing it before you piece them together. And if your pieces are not exactly the same, should you be adjusting, length that is, should you be adjusting as you go down? So that you don't- So let me ask you this. Let me counter your question with another question. When you say they're not the same length, are you trying to make them the same length? Or do you want them to match up? Or are you saying you want your pieces to sit like stairsteps? No, I want them to match up, but I went longer on one than the other. Okay, so that's called ease. So what you need to do, it's very similar, I don't know if there's any people that sew in this course here, or at home, but, so if you're working around a curve, you have to do what's called easing, where you have to slowly kind of pull and turn. Same thing, we're not turning, but it's the same thing that would happen here. You would pull your fabric a little bit, and you would try and adjust. I wouldn't recommend doing it to great lengths, because what's probably gonna happen, is then it's gonna contract. Because of the way, the construction of a knit stitch, you're probably gonna get a little bit of gathering. But not if we're talking a matter of one or two rows. You can totally fudge that, and I recommend faking it 'til you make it at all points in life, right? So, give it a try. But just know that, if you're trying to accommodate for two inches in different length, you're gonna be real hard-pressed to get it to lie flat, even if you block the crap out of it. It's gonna be a little bit difficult. So a question that came in is, do you always seam on the right side? For mattress stitch, yes. If you're using a different method, no. And the reason that you do it for the right side with mattress stitch, is you can see here, when I'm pulling it, it is curving those edges in. See, that's pretty seamless. I mean, I can feel it, but it's pretty seamless. If you use another method where you have wrong sides together, let's say you were crocheting together, or you were whip stitching, you'd want to work on the wrong sides, because you'd want this ugly area to be hidden so that you would get that nice, folded-over area. But because of the nature of this stitch, it grabs on the bars in between, so it naturally has the fabric roll in. Over the break, my producer said that there's actually a couple of women from Croatia watching right now, and one of them said that her mom is watching, but she doesn't speak English, so she's sitting there and translating the whole thing for her, and I love that. So thank you for being here from Croatia. That just makes my whole heart happy. I wish that I could say something to you in Croatian, but all I can say in English is thank you. Okay. So we'll keep going. In studio, how are we doing? Do we have any more questions? We're good. Okay, I'm gonna just keep seaming. I have a really quick question. Yes, dear. So I'm able to get the seam looking really nice, but, at the beginning, are there any tips for preventing there being a little gappy area? Yeah, I did the same thing when I started. That just means you didn't start low enough. I would almost make your first stitch just to the left, or right, depending on what side you're gonna wear. So, if your first stitch is, let me turn it around. Let's pretend like I haven't seamed anything. So if this is really your first stitch, I would almost recommend that, at the beginning, taking a step in, just to, and it'll pull it in. It'll seam it in. The other thing that you can do is, if you're working on something where you're compensating with an edging and picking up, you can hide that there, or you can come back and take a reinforcing whip stitch. Sometimes, what I'll do, is I'll do just a tiny reinforcing whip stitch when I start. And what that means, a whip stitch is just, this is gonna look weird, 'cause it's on the wrong side, but you just go through the loops at the same time, and just whip around, and that's it. So this might be a point where I might wanna use a clip, because I just wanna make sure that my edges, that I am not accidentally getting them to be uneven, because I've gone at different ratios or whatever. So just as a safety, I might actually pin there, just so I can make sure that I'm at the general area. You'll find out what works best for you the more practice that you get. It's not supposed to show, is it? It is not. Is yours showing? Yes. Hmm. Here's the thing about things. You have to practice. I mean, that's really normal too. Ideally, this is supposed to be a relatively, I don't wanna say invisible, because invisible would mean that there was no seam at all, and in the back there is. You are gonna, you're gonna actually be able to tell that there's a little bit of a bump or whatever. You can block it out, but it's supposed to be pretty, that's pretty seamless. But it just takes practice. So probably what you're doing, actually, let me come over and see what you're doing. I don't know why I'm trying to stand from there and guess what you're doing. Okay, it's showing, A, 'cause you're using a contrasting color. Yes. So, that wouldn't really be a problem. That's the only reason. Oh, oh cool. Yeah, I think that's the only reason. Cool, thank you. How's it going over here, Olivia? Oh, that's perfect! I wanna show it in a solid. Can I grab your piece? Are you connected? Here. I'm gonna bring this over. I kind of cheated, using a really busy yarn like this, because it's really easy to hide things with it, but I wanted to show what it looks like. One of our in-studio, this is a nice yarn. One of our in-studio students, this is upside-down, has been working on her piece, and that's really nice. Look how nice that looks. And this feels like it has a little bit of cotton in it, so she can block that, and if you see any sort of irregularities at all, though I'm not seeing much, of loop sizes or whatever, that'll block out. I cover blocking in my Knit Maker 102 course, too, if you're interested in learning a little more like that. How we doing over here, ladies? Good, good. Mine's not showing. Oh, that's beautiful. No, it's great. Check you out! I'm gonna show them that. Oh, don't look at the back, though (laughs). All right. I went in too far in the back. I can make you that promise. I can do that. Okay, so she joined two different pieces using a third color, and it's still invisible. I mean, that's pretty rock-starry right there. I mean, we need to take a knitting moment for that. That's really beautiful. Way to go. Hooray! High five. Thank you. Looks good. Oh! That reminds me. I wanted to talk about something. At home, keep stitching your little happy hearts away. I wanted to bring up a really good point that we were talking about over break. Sharon was talking to me, and she was talking about, this goes back to drop stitches, so keep working, I'm going back a little bit. When you do the yarn over drop stitches that we had talked about, she found that she was getting these big loops on the back, and her question was, is that normal? Is that okay? It is both. The only thing that you need to do is take your fabric and pull at them. It just means that the yarn hasn't settled. This is acrylic, so you're gonna have to, you're not gonna be able to block it out, so you'll see a little bit more of that. But see how I'm slowly, see how it's slowly nestling in? They will always be bigger. They'll be bigger because they're not at the same gauge. They've dropped. But you have to just kind of pull and tug them in. It's totally normal. Thank you. You're welcome. All right, why don't we go ahead and round up with that? And I'm gonna get set up for our next step.

Class Description

It can be hard to set aside time for your creative outlet, and even harder to put time and energy into doing the research and legwork to advance your skills. Vickie Howell turns this formula on its head. Your craft should be your inspiration, and learning new techniques should be fun, attainable, and energizing.

Vickie is an expert, easy-to-follow knitter who can help you master the just-out-of-reach skills you need to tackle advanced patterns. Join this class, and you’ll learn:

  • How to get started with the provisional and cable cast-ons.
  • How to create button holes, fix dropped stitches, and more.
Vickie will also teach you advanced seaming techniques like the kitchener stitch, mattress stitch and the 3-needle bind-off. You’ll learn how to work the picot bind-off, add an applied i-cord edging, and incorporate SC edging. Take the time to invest in your knitting skills, and invigorate your creative practice!


Toni Imwold

Thanks Vicki for teaching a great class. I consider myself to be an advanced knitter but I still learned some great tips and ideas from you. The cowl patterns look great and I plan to knit one soon.

a Creativelive Student

This was an outstanding, intensive workshop by Vickie Howell. She covered a wide variety of techniques and I am amazed at how much I learned in just a few hours. I started practicing some of the new skills I learned and am happy to report that they are indeed now part of my knitting knowledge.

Chris Lopez

This was an amazing class. I've been a knitter for 40+ years but still picked up some new skills and refined some existing ones. Vickie is a wonderful teacher and her enthusiasm for her craft shines through in all she does. Please keep adding more classes with her.

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