No-Sew Mitered Square Blanket: An Epic Tutorial
May 10, 2006
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:
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
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
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.
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
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
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
The block you’ve just knitted has the miters facing outward, as shown.
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.
I knitted 8 ‘main blocks’ composed of 4 miters knitted together…..
….12 ‘side blocks’ composed of 2 miters knitted together (following Steps 1 and 2 above)….
…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?
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.
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…
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:
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.
(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.)