Mattress Stitch

I love me a good seam.

A lot of knitters tell me that they tend to avoid projects that require seaming because they lack confidence in their finishing techniques.

Now, there is a lot of good stuff you can knit that requires only minimal finishing work – scarves, mittens, socks, lace, for example – but by mastering proper seaming you can open up a whole new world of amazing projects.

Garments, of course, but also pieced blankets like the amazing Lizard Ridge, and outfits for your dolls, and toys.

It’s not at all difficult, but the technique doesn’t seem to be well known.

Theresa has an excellent series of articles in Knitty on various finishing techniques.

Finishing is one of the most popular classes I teach. I taught a weekend’s worth recently at Shall We Knit, a lovely little shop in New Hamburg, Ontario.

I demo all the seaming techniques, and always begin with the same one: mattress stitch. Mattress stitch is used to seam together the sides of pieces – side and sleeve seams in a garment, for example.

And the response to my demo is always the same: a gasp.

Mattress stitch creates an amazing invisible seam and it never fails to impress.

How cool is that?

More amazing, even, is how easy it is to do. Try it! You’ll knock your own socks off, I promise!

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15 thoughts on “Mattress Stitch

  1. Pam

    I’ve only made a couple of sweaters and I seamed them with the whip stitch, which I wasn’t happy with. I’m going to give the mattress stitch a try with my current sweater. I can’t wait to see how it works!

  2. Wool Free and Lovin' Knit

    I LOVE the mattress stitch and wondered why nobody had ever told me about it before. It makes such a difference. I used it for the LR afghan and love how it turned out. “Shall We Knit” is my LYS when I’m visiting my folks for the holidays. Karen runs a great store!!

  3. Adriene

    This is my FAVOURITE seaming technique, and it’s truly magical! I think it’s one of those things you assume people know about, but it’s not as well-known as you would expect. Excellent work spreading the word!

  4. Jamie Wang

    I almost always seam with mattress stitch (or three needle bind-off). I always get compliments on the quality of my finishing work, and I think 90+% is because of my use of mattress stitch.

    One disappointment I’ve had over the years is that many of the “how-to’s” out there actually are incorrect — they have you pick up row 1 & 2 of one side, then row 1 & 2 of the other side (which will skew your seam by 1 row — any patterning won’t line up!). That method only works when the first stitch of every row has been slipped, so the edge stitches are slightly offset. Since I like to have my edge be stockinette or garter (not slip), I pick up row 1 on one side, then row 1 & 2 on the other, then row 2 & 3 on the first side, and so on. The rows end up perfectly aligned.

    1. cashgora

      that’s a great tip. my only complaint about mattress seaming has always been how hard it is to get it to line up without fudging somewhere.

  5. Helen

    If you set up a selvedge stitch every time you purl it makes the mattress stitch even easier.

    There are a couple of ways to do this that I know of, but here’s the one I use. On the purl row, always knit the first and last stitch.

  6. Seanna Lea

    I always love mattress stitch when I do it, but I forget in between garments. The rest of the time I put off the seaming, because I don’t think I do it very well though it is hard to do mattress stitch poorly.

  7. Mary Lou

    I teach beginning knitting using a two-needle mitten pattern. When those beginners learn mattress stitch and see what it looks like they leave that night walking on air.

  8. Jill

    I learned to mattress stich on machine knitting, which has very neat edges. I find the best way on handknitting is to have a stocking/stockinette stitch edge (knit the 1st and last stitches on RS rows, purl them on WS rows). I particularly like it on raglan seams, but I don’t think it’s strong enough on shoulder seams so I use backstitch there. Mattress stitch is really easy once you know how, and you can sew up garments quite quickly and without using any pins, which might be a consideration if there are small children or animals about.

  9. Patti

    I love mattress stitch too, but run into trouble when there are decreases along the side. or like a project I’m working on now.. stripes and decreases along the side.. add in not so great yarn and I’m ready to bury the whole mess is the back yard!

    1. cashgora

      it sounds like you’re doing your increases & decreases in the edge st. try moving shaping in to the 2nd or 3rd st from the edge (full fashion shaping).

  10. jennygirl

    I don’t love to seam, but now that I know how, thanks to a video from Norah Gaughan, it is much easier. Now I consider projects that require seaming 🙂

  11. cashgora

    mattress stitch makes all the difference in the world to your finishing. it’s the only way i like to seam side edges. when it comes to shoulders i like to kitchner as it’s as strong as the knitting itself so for me it has never come undone. the only time i “seam” the shoulder is for heavy knits that require added stability to prevent stretch.

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