Mattress stitch

Mattress stitch makes a practically invisible and nicely flexible seam for joining pieces side to side. You can't use it successfully, however, on pieces that don't have the same number of rows or a difference of only 1 or 2 rows. It's worth keeping track of your rows when working backs and fronts to be able to join them at the sides using this wonderful technique.

To join knitted pieces with the mattress stitch, 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.

^ To work mattress stitch, you need to be able to recognize the running threads between the first 2 edge stitches. If you gently pull these stitches apart, you'll ■ foj ■ see the series of little horizontal — running — threads connecting them (see Figure 16-16).

Thread the tail of yarn or a fresh piece on a tapestry needle. Working through the two threads on the cast-on row, join the bottom edges of the pieces using a figure eight, as shown in Figure 16-17. The direction you work the figure eight depends on whether you begin on the right or left side. If you begin from the right piece, you work your figure eight to the left; if you begin from the left piece, you work to the right.

Figure 16-17:

Join the bottom edges with a figure eight for mattress stitch.

Figure 16-17:

Join the bottom edges with a figure eight for mattress stitch.

Faggot Stitch Steps

To work the mattress stitch, follow these steps:

  1. Locate the running thread between the first and second stitches on the bottom row of one piece (refer to Figure 16-16).
  2. Bring your needle under the thread; then pick up the running thread between the first and second stitches on the opposing piece, as shown in Figure 16-18.

Figure 16-18:

Pick up the running thread in mattress stitch.

Figure 16-18:

Pick up the running thread in mattress stitch.

3. 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.

When you've finished your seam, take a moment to admire it.

Mattress stitch on other stitches

As long as you can find the running threads between the first 2 edge stitches, you can use the mattress stitch invisibly on a variety of knitted fabrics.

l Reverse stockinette: By now, you're probably familiar with purl bumps. If you look closely at the back of stockinette fabric, you see that the purl (or "over") bumps are separated by "under" bumps. The under bumps are the running threads between stitches. For the mattress stitch, locate the under bump between the two edge purl bumps and alternate picking them up on each piece.

I Garter stitch: For garter stitch, you need to pick up only one running thread every other row — the one that's easy to see. The rows in garter stitch are so condensed that the fabric will actually stretch along the seam if you try to pick up the running stitch on every row. So give yourself a break.

I Ribbed borders: Working the mattress stitch on a ribbed border is no different from working it on stockinette or reverse stockinette. Study the stitches until you can recognize the column of running threads between the first 2 stitches (knit or purl). Then pick up one running thread at a time as you go back and forth between pieces.

Always take the time to figure out how your ribs will come together where they meet so that your rib pattern will circle around unbroken. If you're working a knit 2, purl 2 rib, begin and end each piece with 2 knit stitches. When you seam them by using the mattress stitch, you'll have a single 2-stitch rib. For a knit 1, purl 1 rib, as long as you begin with a knit stitch and end with a purl stitch, you'll have an unbroken sequence when seamed.

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