Learn how to crawl: the New York City Yarn CrawlΒ is on through Sunday, September 25.

Mattress Seam Delirium

Dear Ann,
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.
Happy Monday!
Love, Kay




  1. The blanket is gorgeous…really, really gorgeous! I have seen the squares before on other blogs, but never put together. I love it!!

  2. wow, what a beauty! a really stunning blanket, kay!
    i am speechless at your vision, talent determination and patience…

  3. Spectacular!

  4. gosh now that it’s all together I really really want to make one! it looks so great Kay! LOVE the colors!

  5. The blanket is deliriously beautiful. I hope it’s washable because there are gonna be a whole lotta people drooling over its gorgeousness at the beach. I bet Mr Rourke is kicking himself for ever letting that blanket escape from the Island.

  6. Fan-bloody-tastic !!!

  7. Holy cow. I think you might be a little bit nutso, but I sure do appreciate the photos on the blanket seaming. It’s mighty impressive! But still. Wow. That’s a lot of seaming.

  8. I always have a reason to smile here. πŸ˜€

  9. Dreamy! Can we see a close-up of the the border?

  10. See, that’s what I was waiting for. Now I can go and make one myself. Thank you. It is gorgeous, Kay.

  11. I have lusted after that pattern for a long while – but now that I’ve made it (and seamed it) vicariously though you, I’ll just lust after your finished blanket! It’s spectacular.

  12. …why… you’ve made those psycho squares positively sane!….i’m in awe!….whatever did you do with your family while you went along dreamily on this creative venture?…. it is perfection personified!…

  13. Oh.My. I’m so speechless I just had to comment(does that make ANY kind of sense?). The blanket is crazy fabulous!

  14. So I’m hightailing it back from a quick jaunt to Grundy County, and I’m checking out my virtual life on my Blogphone 2000, and I’ve just passed the exit that takes a person to Bonnaroo when it’s June, and I just about swerve into the Purdue chicken truck beside me and almost die with a blogphone in my hand and Loretta Lynn wailing away in the background. WHAT A BLANKET! What a seaming effort! That thing just blows my mind, it really does.
    You take the cake!!! xoxoxo

  15. Friends don’t let friends DRIVE BLOGGY.
    Ann. What are we going to do with you?

  16. abso-frickin-lutely beautiful!

  17. where in the world did you find this beautiful blanket pattern? I love the colors that you used. It’s just stunning to look at.

  18. Oh Kay! Your blanket is so much cooler than my monochrome poncho – I am truly seething with envy. This must be what VERY attractive middle-aged women work on when they have left the poncho stage of life. It’s a fabulous blanket and I’m so happy to see it, since I’ve been wondering where it went. (To the basket of unseamed sweaters? To Afghanistan? To..Nashville?) You are truly the queen of the mattress stitch. Bravo!

  19. i have been dangerously in love with that blanket since you first posted pics of the squares…it’s a good thing i live in texas or else you’d be minus one fabulous beach blanket πŸ˜‰

  20. Kay, I’m SO jealous!! I absolutely LOVE that blanket. It really is psychodelic. Definately a beach blanket, not a wake up with a hangover and see it on your bed blanket!
    Excellent tutorial too, and I think you probably are queen of the mattress stitch!

  21. Kay, it’s gorgeous. I love your color combos. I am assuming that this is the blanket you were telling me about while in Nashville? With the Tahki yarn? What is the pattern for the squares?
    Thanks for the seaming play by play.

  22. Psycho seamer, qu’est que c’est.
    I’m glad you work with a plastic needle.
    xo, c.

  23. That is a truly awe-inspiring blanket – so fantastic! I love it!

  24. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
    You caused some quivers in my heart, though, at the sight of this much awesome seaming, which is not my strong suit on afghans/throws/blankets (or whatever it next will be chic to call them). However, after a few Stewart Smalley exercises in the compact mirror that’s kept in my desk drawer, I have concluded that doggone it, I am a secure enough person that I am not going to pick apart the seams on the Chicago afghan and attempt any heroics with mattress stitch. Really. It’s o.k.

  25. Yep, still loving that blanket. And Evelyn, crikey you should see what sin I committed on the afghans we sewed up in Nashville–looks like a myopic goofball did the seams. Oh wait, I AM a myopic goofball.
    I have no doubt that Chicago Afghan is going to be fantastic. Can’t wait to see it.

  26. Yes, Evelyn, you are good enough! Since the afghans for afghans are sewn up by committee, we did not attempt anything like mattress stitch or backstitch. We went with ‘universal default’ stitch, aka whip stitch, aka the stitch that pre-K kids know how to do without being taught (I learned that when I showed up to guest-teach a ‘sewing workshop’ in Joseph’s class, which was OVERSUBSCRIBED even though the guest teacher was UNDERQUALIFIED). Just as a mistake that is repeated becomes a pattern, a wonky whip stitch becomes a lovely motif on the afghans. So RELAX. xoxox Kay

  27. Good lord ! That is one scary blanket – gorgeous but scary ! So Kay, ever thought you might have a mild case of obsessive / compulsive disorder in relation to this particular project ?? ;0)

  28. the blanket is soooooo niceeeee!! can you please tell me where to get the pattern and what yarn you used. think i might like to make it for my grand daughter.

  29. Ohhhh, Evelyn, I had the same thought–wish I’d remembered the Stuart Smiley exercises. But I think we should calm down and listen to our Fearless Leaders. Besides, I’m almost done with my strips! I need to focus, focus, focus.
    Kay, last time you gave us a tutorial this beautiful, I took off on a log cabin blanket. Now 1/4 done. I reached a kind of peace with weaving in all those ends, but this kind of seaming seems best left to you, the Queen. IT’S GORGEOUS.
    From At Lease Obama Won Land,

  30. Oops, I meant At Least Obama Won, with a T, duh…

  31. Oh, that’s so pretty it hurts. Please say no one is going to spill red wine on it…

  32. i love it! the colors are great and i am in awe of your mattress stitch skills. keep it up!


A bit of news from us, every now and again.

(Your email is safe with us.)