“I just want more of her.” A wonderful piece on the late lamented food writer, Laurie Colwin.

No-Sew Mitered Square Blanket: An Epic Tutorial

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Dear Ann,
This is the story of a hardheaded woman and her dream of making a mitered-square blanket without sewing a stitch.
It is not a short story.
But it has plenty of pictures. Feel free to take a break any time you need to.
Old-School Mitered Square Blanket
Let’s review: A regular mitered square blanket is composed of blocks of 4 miters that are sewn together like this:
psychohammock.jpg
It’s not that hard to sew up 4 miters into a block, but each block is 3 straight seams (2 short and 1 long). Multiply that by 20 blocks, and you’ve got 60 seams, or 120 ends to weave in. You’ve already got a lot of ends from the stripes and the whole Joy and Spontaneity of Changing Colors Whenever You Feel Like It.
So, the first strategy in achieving the No-Sew Blanket is to eliminate the sewing of the blocks together. This turns out to be EASY. You just pick up and knit 4 miters onto each other to form each block of 4 miters.
Clip n’ Save: How To Knit 4 Miters Together
Step 1: Knit Miter 1
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You knit the first miter the regular way, with one exception: Use the backward loop method of casting on. (Note to fretful ones: I know this cast-on looks loopy and sloppy, and that we don’t ordinarily use it, for that reason. But in this case, it’s an absolute necessity that the cast-on be loose. Trust me–it will not look sloppy in the end. All will come right! Believe!) Purl the first row (WS), and then knit the miter in the usual way.
When you’re finished, orient the miter as you see in the photo above, with the cast-on edge along the top and left side, like a backwards number 7.
Step 2: Knit Miter 2 Onto Miter 1
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With RS facing, pick up 36 stitches (or half the number of stitches that were cast on for Miter 1) along the top cast-on edge of Miter 1.
blockmiter2caston.jpg
Using the backward-loop method, cast on another 36 stitches.
Purl the next row (WS).
Now you are on the RS, and you will knit Miter 2 exactly the same way that you knit Miter 1. Have at it!
Step 3: Knit Miter 3 onto Miter 2
blockmiter3.jpg
Turn your block (now it has 2 miters!) so that the cast-on edge of Miter 2 is at the top. With RS facing, pick up 36 stitches along this edge, and use the backward-loop method to cast on another 36 stitches. Purl the WS row, and then knit Miter 3. Knock yourself out!
Step 4: Knit Miter 4 onto Miter 3 and Miter 1
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This is the part where you get to feel like hot stuff. Orient your 3-miter block as shown in the photo. Pick up 36 stitches along the top edge of Miter 3, and pick up 36 stitches along the remaining cast-on edge of Block 1–no need to cast on any stitches for Miter 4. Purl the WS row, and knit Miter 4 exactly as you have knit the previous miters.
Wa-la! You have a block of 4 miters that are joined together with NO SEWING. Because you were so smart and used a loose backward-loop cast-on, there is no tight ridge showing where you picked up stitches. The thing is SEAMLESS. It’s wonderful. You’re happy.
But …. do you notice something? If you can bear it, read on.


Laying Out The No-Sew Blocks To Form Squares
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The block you’ve just knitted has the miters facing outward, as shown.
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The old-school mitered square was a regular square, as shown.
If you want a ‘square’ motif for your blocks of miters–meaning you want complete, enclosed squares–you will have to plan and lay out your blanket in a different way. It took me a while to get my head around this, but here’s how I did it.
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I knitted 8 ‘main blocks’ composed of 4 miters knitted together…..
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….12 ‘side blocks’ composed of 2 miters knitted together (following Steps 1 and 2 above)….
cornerblocks4.jpg
…and, finally, 4 ‘corner blocks’, which are single miters. (Yes, one could knit them into the corners later, but they wouldn’t face in the direction I wanted them to.)
Hello. Are you still with me? A couple of you? Good. I love you guys.
Joining the Blocks
We come now to the Heart of the Matter, where the rubber meets the road. Remember, I started out trying to knit a NO-sew mitered square blanket. I have a deep need to show my work here, to prove to you how hard I tried, and to show you the alternatives as they played out, so that you will not judge me too harshly, gentle readers.
My plan was to KNIT the blocks together, by picking up stitches along the adjoining edges of blocks, and then doing a 3-needle bind-off of those stitches. I had done this previously with great success, when I joined the blocks for the Jamie Blankie. But here’s the thing: the blocks for the Jamie Blankie were already sewn into squares. Why is that significant?
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Because this is what happens when you do a 3-needle bind-off. In effect, you are knitting one row on each side of the bind-off. This creates a small band of visible knitting (on the right side) and a cast-off edge (on the wrong side). It’s attractive, and if the squares were already sewn together, it would form a lovely windowpane border between the squares (as it did on the Jamie Blankie). But in this case, I really wanted those striped miters to be joined so that they form squares. I wasn’t happy with this method. It looked fine, but it didn’t look like I wanted it to look.
What was the alternative? I considered admitting defeat and getting out the Chibi. Mattress stitch looks impeccable on the right side. It’s gorgeous. I’m good at it (I’ve had practice). But the wrong side of mattress stitch — not so much. And I still clung desperately to the wreckage of the NO-sew dream. (Thank goodness I’m not prone to melodrama.)
There was only one remaining no-sew solution. A solution I did not want to face.
Yes. We’re talking the Anti-Knit. The Big C.
(Crochet.)
In her seminal work, ‘On Crochet and Crocheting’, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross outlined the now-familiar Five Stages of Crochet. This model has been widely adopted and applied to many other situations where someone suffers a loss or change in social identity, such as when a knitter is confronted with the soul-killing possibility of having to crochet.
The five stages go in progression:
Stage One: Denial (“The Kay does NOT do The Crochet.”)
Stage Two: Anger (“I hate crochet! Crochet must die!”)
Stage Three: Bargaining (“If we can put a man on the moon, and if Lion Brand has a knitting pattern for the Martha poncho, surely there is a way to knit this. Work with me.”)
Stage Four: Depression (“20-20-20-4 hours crochet-ay-ay….I wanna be sedated.”)
Stage Five: Acceptance (“Give me the hook: I’m going in.”).
OK, crochet people, calm down. Retract the hooks. I’m just kidding! The Kay loves the crochet! I don’t indulge, personally, but I respect it, I admire it, I would never talk trash about it or even mention its long association with petroleum-based fibers and beer-can hats.
I put my head down, picked up the hook, put right sides together, and set to work. Here’s what I got: up close,
right side, wrong side, and…
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…long shot.
It’s not bad. It’s one heckuvalot less fiddly than the 3-needle bindoff, and it looks really neat on both sides. But it’s still not as clean and crisp, on the right side, as mattress stitch.
So I threw in the blankie. I shut up and sewed. Here’s the result:
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I’m sorry it’s not the NO-sew mitered square blanket. But it is an alternative that gives the same effect with much less sewing and lots fewer ends than the old-school way. Both of the no-sew methods–3NBO and crochet–would work really well to join knitted squares, especially in situations where a small visible strip of stitching will melt into the background.
Now, I embark on the border of this thing. In the round, mitered at the corners. Not a single stitch of sewing, I promise you.
prebordercushion.jpg
(The cushion is the handiwork of the multitalented Lisa of Bird in the Hand. When I was taking photos I was shocked at the similarity in the colorways of cushion and blanket. Without even knowing it, I return to my favorites again and again.)
Love, Kay

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72 Comments

72 Comments

  1. GENIUS! I finished 20 or so miters months ago, and then found myself paralyzed at the propect of all those seams. The remaining squares shall be no-sew, and the version 1 miters will work perfectly for the outer edges.
    By the way, the book is genius, too. I’ve been a warshrag snob for years, and now I find myself racing to finish an even half-dozen in time for Mother’s Day. Talk about instant gratification!

  2. Wow. The work. The stamina. The tears. The trying every last thing and not even slandering crochet! And then, the beauty of the results! It’s a good thing. Thanks for the tutorial!

  3. This may be a stupid question, you’ll have to forgive me as my mind is not all here by a long shot lately.
    Would it not be possible to in some way pick up stitches and knit more squares onto the original block, thus ending up with one big knitted blanket instead? Or perhaps knit some solid squares that were the size of 4 mitered squares, thus increasing the number of edges available to be picked up in the same way that you did on your blanket?

  4. Aw crap. I’ve sewn up 12 blocks already. It will look odd if I change how I’m doing it now. If I ever do another–not too damned likely–I’ll try the seamless method.

  5. Hi Anne, yes, you could pick up and knit on more miters, but they wouldn’t face the correct way for the design I wanted for this blanket. At least that’s what I think. But you could definitely do other arrangements of miters (kind of like an overlapping look) in that way. xox Kay

  6. Your crochet together looks a lot better than the crochet together I have been doing, but I have enjoyed putting my squares together in blocks that way. I really will have to send you a picture of this masterpiece when I finish, because I think it will look very interesting…

  7. f that.
    my brain hurts and i stopped at some backwards cast on thingy.

  8. Bravo, Kay! I love the mitred squares blanket, but the sewing up was a stopper for me. Your finished product looks amazing! I’ve made 2 felted boxes from “the book” and plan to try many more of the projects — kudos to you and Ann for a terrific book!!

  9. so very clever. i’m a big fan of the mitered square because you can get away without sewing. although i’m not against sewing. or crochet.
    love the book by the way. you have both validated what i’ve known for years (and tried to convince people) — peaches n cream (and sugar n cream) rock.

  10. The picking up of stitches really forces you to plan out your square placement/colors ahead of time, that will help me a lot. I’m going to copy out that schematic – who am I kidding? that thing’s HUGE! I’m copying out directions for 1-6 and then the little add-ons! I love those turquoise and dark green squares SO much and that neutral color second from the bottom with the thin dark stripes – gorgeous – how long did this take? does it require a road trip to get it done?

  11. That was better than Chariots of Fire.
    Your brilliant blanket with Lisa’s amazing pillow looks like Japanese craft book matter. Do you have a deal you’re not telling us about, Grasshopper?

  12. I’m very new at this, so please excuse the stupid question, but would it be possible to invisibly kitchener-stitch the squares together? (I’ll go back to lurking now.)

  13. Yay Kay! The Becky does not like the crochet either. Shall we adapt the serenity prayer to our own particular neurosis? “God, give me courage to knit the things I can, strength to crochet the things I can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

  14. I will come back to this because I CAN’T STOP WITH THE LOGCABIN-ING!!!!! What have you DONE?!?!

  15. Fantastic! I have dreams of mitered blankets, log cabin blankets, all matter of blankets dancing in my head (my quilting mother is proud!) but, alas, asI sit here and read I knit a warshrag (and I love it more than I thought possible, now I have dreams of cleaning EVERYthing: body, house, car, cats with warshrags!)

  16. Yes! It’s so wonderful! It truly is A Thing of Beauty, Kay. Both I and the Tahki Cotton Classic are weeping for joy.
    Thank you!

  17. I just finished my first linen hand towel. ooooo I love it. Now I want to know, just how big of a circular needle do you need to knit a continuous border on a huge blankie??? Obviously, I have not yet tried this…. But your blankets are so beautiful, I would like to try one someday! Thanks for the tutorial on part 1.

  18. Adoooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrre it. When Squeekster is five, and there’s no # 2, I’ll make one.

  19. I am laughing.out.loud. at the five stages of crochet!
    Epic tutorial? You weren’t kidding! Will return, many times…I’m sure.

  20. what a wild and wonderful knitted painting, kay! how ever did you make your centers meet and match with such utter perfection? a tutorial for the daring. i’m breathless….

  21. Oy. My head hurts. In a good way, though. Pure genius.

  22. Okay, I still haven’t figured out how to post on Cristina’s KAL blog, however 2 notes, 1, I love the crochet option, Kay has seen a photo of my poor mattress stitch in a baby blankie, but I delivered it yesterday and he doesn’t seem to care (not that I have crocheted in 20 years) but it can’t be worse. 2. I just picked up yarn for a log cabin bathmat but I can’t help but offer that if sewing the purl wise slip stitch at the beginning makes it easier.
    PPS, I went to seaport yarns with some work friends today (we work close-by) and the husband management scenario was remembered and discussed.
    I heart the no sew or crochet idea, it’ll be perfected here, i’m sure.

  23. OMG! Is there a Nobel Prize for fiber? Such dedication, such perseverance. That is amazing…and I got it! I agree with Cristina…I think I heard the Chariots of Fire theme as I read!

  24. I HATE sewing up and will do ANYTHING to avoid it. I appreciate the effort you also will go to. Thanks for the tutorial!

  25. how many hanks of the TCC did you use? as IF i need to make a blanket now, what with finals looming and all. sheesh.
    it’s great!

  26. There’s got to be a law against catchy phrases from old songs on knitting blogs. I wanna be sedated?! I can’t walk around all day humming that!
    The colours of the blanket are great, and I like how there’s the big orange square, but mostly it’s just a swirl of delight. No excess symmetry, if you know what I mean!

  27. You’re so good at these tutorials you could write for a living! (What’s that? You do?). Anyway. It’s lovely. Love the colours. So lovely that even though you didn’t finish it in the timespan originally intended (and I admit to trying my best to keep you busy for some of that time) I shall send you the ‘prize’ of 250g custom-bleached denim anyway. I’ve nearly finished knitting the 5 balls into squares ready for the bleaching. I particularly like the middle square, bottom row – pinky brown (?)with dark stipes, blue grey with dark stripes, green / blue grey. So what colours are you doing the border? x

  28. Wow. It’s gorgeous.

  29. Also, I note that the ‘demo’ mitred square is not in the blanket! Is this the start of Another One, or is it a cushion cover? Brain only just in gear….

  30. I spent my weekend cranking out warshrags and now I’m salivating over the low-sew mitered blankie. Jumpin’ jehosephat and holy crap that’s beautiful!

  31. I really dislike sewing up (babies have finished school before I’ve faced up to sewing up their itty bitty baby clothes) so good for you for finding another way. I had to go back and study the “different” block setting as I’m spatially confused and just don’t see whether something is rotated/inverted/plain wrong.

  32. I think that beautiful blanket is the PhD of knitting and that my weeping is brought on by equal doses of the beauty and of the sheer and utter fruitlessness of someone like me, who had great trouble casting off the scribble scarf last night, even thinking of creating such a masterpiece.
    It’s gorgeous!
    It’s so hard!
    I weep!
    (seriously, amazing amazing blanket)

  33. Well, I’m just honored to have been in the presence of some of this masterpiece when it was in the works. Wow. I swear I’ll start one this summer. Still on the boxes at present; will felt them at Mom’s over the weekend visit. XXO

  34. You have more perseverence than anyone I’ve ever met! Your pursuit of perfection is admirable. I LOVE the blanket, but don’t know if I’m up to such a large challenge. A baby version may be in my future, though. Thanks for all the great photos and tips!

  35. Okay! You’ve got me! I’m in.
    I think it was the use of the Ramones that finally pushed me over the edge. You’re a tricky one, Kay.

  36. Lovely! Now I’m inspired to jump in and do it. You are a no-sew genius!! I could feel my I.Q. rising a point or two just by reading your incredible instructions. (I’m addicted to y’all’s baby bibs, so I’ll have to wait a week or two before I can bear to put those down.)

  37. Kay, hon, you’re making me dizzy.
    I need to go lie down for a bit. Then back to the shelter of the moderne baby blanket, which I have realized I am knitting for someone who ISN’T EVEN PREGNANT YET.

  38. Hmmm–Cotton Classic is on sale at WEBS. Let’s see, if I started one of those blankets today–this is Thursday, right?–I could be finished by–what?–Monday?
    2 years, Monday, that is.

  39. Without a doubt, some of the most fantastic knit-thinking I’ve ever seen. Clear, concise directions that make me want to lunge into the stash and make my own Blanket. (Funnily enough, I had the same response to your book) Thanks for a great inspiration!

  40. I was waiting and waiting for this post to hear what your no-sew ideas were. I’ve started on a blanket, although I’m a turtle knitter compared to you. I ended up doing a three needle bind off to join the blocks with smaller needles (size 3 compared to size 6 for the squares). The seem doesn’t show when it’s just sitting there. Of course I’ve only got two squares done, but here they are joined: http://static.flickr.com/48/140806137_de9c8bb7bd_o.jpg

  41. Here’s that link as you know a clickable link:
    Picture of joined squares

  42. Kay, you are the Queen of the Mitered Squares in my book! I knew there was a reason that I hadn’t started my Psychedelic Afghan yet!! I had a feeling that someday you’d come up with a way to eliminate some of the sewing!! Thanks a ton! Now I’m going to run home and start sorting through my loads of loads of Cotton Classic that I’ve been hoarding!

  43. a-HA! i wondered about that whole no-sew business but trusted that if anyone would see the project through for the good of handknitters everywhere, it would be kay. second mitre ever on the needles now, suddently realizing why everyone is on the mitre crack lately…

  44. Okay, I started these mitered squares at least a year ago and have about 20 so far. Do you think it would work if I picked up stitches on the edges of my existing squares and just added on?

  45. Must. Make. Mitered. Square. Blanket….
    And don’t you mean the Heart of the Miter?

  46. I am a big fan of no-sew seaming. Depending upon the method I always, always knit or crochet seams together. Love this tute.

  47. holy crap–the thing is gawgeous! i bow down, lady. i am also jealous of your cushion. must not covet others’ pretties…

  48. AT LAST–IT IS SUCH A DRAG TO HAVE TO SEW PIECES TOGETHER AFTER KNITTING TONES OF SQUARES AND NOW THIS–NO SEWING–IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER – EDNA

  49. “The way the blog follows you in slo-mo
    The way it looks to us all
    The way we look to the mitered constellation
    That is spreading on a corner of Kay’s bed
    These are the days of miracles and wonder
    And don’t cry baby, don’t cry, don’t cry
    Don’t cry ”
    You DID it!

  50. Hot Dang, Kay! I’m so glad you worked this out before I started on the husband’s blanket even though he wants the log cabin. At least if he changes his mind, I now have a viable alternative. I hate seaming too.

  51. Kay, you ROCK. “20-20-20-4 hours crochet-ay-ay.” Brilliance.

  52. Wow. Apparently I am in the presence of greatness. It is with a certain amount of humility, then, that I post. I found your site through my wife, whom I am trying to help out with a knitting project. Please consider visiting my blog, http://www.dragonpastor.blogspot.com and scroll down to “Close to Home” to find out about Socks for Sheep. Please?

  53. Of course I should be thinking about job-like things, but on my way to grab a cup o’ joe this afternoon, I wondered if you could knit a group of four mitres *in the round*, mitering down to make four corners and ending up with the four miters pointed inwards. It would involve the dreaded iNtArSiA, but would it work? I assume that you tried that and rejected it, no? You are a supergenius, both of you!

  54. that is one beautiful blanket. Would you post directions for the backwards cast-on, and how to knit a basic mitre square. This may be my next blanket project.
    thanks much!

  55. Funny stuff and a beautiful blanket. I don’t line sewing thing together, so I’ll probably never make it. I don’t mind crocheting, though.

  56. Ah, yea, baby, you ROCK IT with them low-seam blankets! It’s funny – I don’t mind the seaming myself, it’s that I don’t like the outcome of the seams – I HATE HATE HATE to give my items a “wrong” side.
    Natalie – it is entirely possible to knit a mitre from the outside in & just have one seam to do. Or if you knit it in the round… I dunno. I have done them in the round, though, and it worked fine. I skipped the intarsia so it’s just concentric squares, not as interesting, perhaps, as the off-set stripe action and Kay’s superfly color scheme (whoa! – so much amazing!), but as proof of concept, they’re quite nice.
    Also, Kay, you don’t mention, but check out that photo where you’ve got it laid out on the floor all -ahem- seamed up – the awesomeness of the diamond cross lines formed by the decreases in the centers of the mitres is Not To Be Missed. Wowza.

  57. Also, dimensions on that puppy? How big we talking, here?

  58. Gorgeous blanket! I’ve been wanting to to the mitered square thing for a while, since I saw Maryse’s, actually. I love the colors you chose.
    So, uhhh . . . does this mean you’re not jumping on the petroleum-based fibers and beer-can hat bandwagon? It’s getting really lonely on this thing.
    *chugs another beer for crafting purposes*

  59. I’m super-impressed, kay! I probably will go with the mismatched mitres just so I don’t have to sew. Heeeeee.
    Hey, think the blanket would be ok in peaches and cream? Its stitch definition in the warshrag is superb… Hmm.

  60. I love that your Mitered No Sew is photographed on a parquet floor! So appropriate!!! You are the Geometry Queen! And yes, I read it all the way through!!

  61. WOW! The tutorial is impressive, and the blanket is really wonderful.
    Btw. Thanks for both of you for stopping by and commenting on my Log Cabin blanket. So nice of you! :-)

  62. Hi. I’ve been reading your post for about a day now and have finally finished it.
    YOU FREAKY BANDWIDTH HOG!
    It’s dead brill, start to finish. I’m not even going to try to keep up with you anymore. I’ll just show my little crappy doodahs from time to time. Post a photo of a child, ball of yarn I got somewhere. I’ll be over here on the sidelines, cheering you on in a wistful way.

  63. Wow – absolutely beautiful – and i have to agree with another commentor – the diagonals that are created by the mitered decreases across the blanket are just way too cool.
    One suggestion: Have you tried the knitted on cast on? It leaves lovely jubbly little holes to pick up from, and is just *nicer* than that horrid backwards loop cast on. I don’t mean the cable cast on where you put the needle *between* the last 2 stitches of the needle – just pull a stitch out of the slip knot and put it back on the right needle.
    You have really inspired me – and I was so very very very pleased to get Anne’s comment on *my* blog the other day – I was seriously bouncing. Of course my BF just looked at me like, that’s nice honey.
    My OCLC is coming along nicely – and I am determined to get it finished sometime this year! Have fun!!
    Abi

  64. Dude. I love you.

  65. I adore you and your mitered squares.

  66. Total geniouses, both of you! You have me thinking in a whole new way about my knitting now! Wonder what else I can use this technique for? Hmmm…..
    Ang

  67. Gorgeous! Thank you for the tutorial and the incentive to start working on my afghan once again.

  68. Just the inspiration I needed to cast on a blanket for my friend’s October baby TODAY! I think it’s going to be a sort of mitered square and log cabin hodgepodge – with nods to the Gee’s Bend quilters in the best Mason Dixon fashion, I hope. Thanks a million for a beautiful, funny book that’s full of wisdom and attitude – I love it. Knit on, you awesome ladies!

  69. Thanks so much for answering my question. I’ve been thinking about knitting a blanket for a dear friend who’s going through a lot lately, and I think this will work wonderfully. I owe him a saddle blanket too, and I’ve been putting it off because *cough cough* I hate circulars. LOL
    Thanks again!

  70. Amazing.
    I think I love you and I dont even know who you are but only by your amazing knitting skills.
    Truly phenomenal.

  71. Speaking of SHORT STORIES, I was finishing up my O.Henry awards 2005 (yeah, I like to let them marinate for a while) and I get to the end where the jurors write about their favorite pick. And it’s all, “Ann Patchett on ‘What You Pawn I Will Redeem’”. And I’m like, “Hey that name sounds familiar.” Then it says, “…She lives in Tennessee”. I go, “Hunh. What a coincidence.” HELLO! Am I the only one to not know Ann is a fancypants author? I mean, besides the hottest knitting book, natch. Really?

  72. You would be interested by the book Dazzling Knits by Patricia Werner. I can’t be certain, but I think she might have a solution.