Mattress Seam Delirium
November 1, 2004
So, 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 chockfull of bits and pieces. Something like this:
And let’s say you book a comfy room at a nice hotel on Project Fantasy Island (this brilliant bon mot courtesy of today’s serving of CurlsandPurlsNYC). 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 advantages of Mattress Stitch are (a) I’m the Queen of it, meaning I sort of know how to do it, and (b) 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”.) (For a picture illustrating Mattress Stitch, go here and scroll down to ‘Invisible Seam’.)
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’ll think about that….later. We’re hell-bent for Mattress Stitch.
As I sewed away, I took many photographs. Some of them tedious and instructional, and others worthy of National Geographic Magazine in that they will transport you to a weird and wonderful world far, far away. So come with me, my nutty little friends.
Here are two strips of mitered squares. Each square has already been mattress-stitched out of 4 mitered corner squares, and then mattress-stitched to the other squares to form the strips. As you can see from this picture:
….in order to sew these strips together, you will have to navigate 2 kinds of Intersections. The first type is the Straight Intersection:
At a Straight Intersection, you have the four pieces coming together at right angles. Easy-peasy. Unless you:
…..screw up. Whoopsie! This kind of screw-up results from forgetting the First Principle of Mattress Stitch. Somewhere along the way, you have forgotten about stitch-for-stitch correspondence. You have gotten one stitch ahead of yourself. All you have to do is, go back to the last intersection (which is all nice and neat and holier-than-thou), and re-seam. Pay attention this time, okay?
See? All better. The only real trick with Mattress Stitching over this kind of intersection is to 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 more challenging type of intersection is the Mitered Angle Weirdo Intersection, where you are trying to join neatly four angled corners where you have made miter decreases. (These intersections look like ‘X’s.) In the series of photos that follow, I attempt to show how the MAWI 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. (Click on these photos to enlarge.) And remember to keep your needle on top of the fabric.
Danger: you are approaching the intersection.
Easy….does it; you’re safely across.
See? Nice and tidy.
When you pull the ‘ladders’ of the mattress seam taut, some jooging may be necessary to straighten out the seam. Who among us is so perfect that we cannot benefit from a little jooging? So much of life is just Good Jooging.
People ask me, Kay, did you get sick of this project? After all, my short attention span for sweaters is well known; I have had two fully-knitted sweaters in my Finish Up (Sometime) Basket, with only a seam or two left, for at least 9 months. But in this case, I have sewn all the seams, I am on the third of four border edges, and I have yet to get tired of my fabulous Beach Blanket. The bigger it gets, the more exercise I get turning it around to start another endless border row, but the scenery along the way is always delightful.