Learn how to do mattress stitch with our video tutorial

mattress stitch
How to use mattress stitch to sew up your projectsHearst Owned

When you’ve finished a knitting or crochet project, the real make-or-break moment is in stitching all the parts together – the sewing up.

A poorly finished project can look haggard and lumpy, and after all that hard work in making your beautiful pieces, a professional finish is what’s deserved.

While many of you crafters will be familiar with the neglected piles of knitted pieces hidden under the bed waiting to be joined together – this needn’t be a task you can’t face. You just need to be armed with the right techniques. And after watching the video above, you’ll know exactly what to do.

Is mattress stitch better than backstitch?

Many prefer mattress stitch to backstitch because it leaves a finer seam. We don’t agree – with a careful eye, you can create equally fine a seam with backstitch.

What you’re up against with backstitch, however, is that you’re looking at the wrong side of the work as you stitch, whereas with mattress stitch you work with the right-side facing you. This makes it a dream for lining up stripes and patterned fabrics.

In fact, when mattress stitch is done well, it mimics the structure of your knitting and you’ll find that you shouldn’t see where the fabrics are joined at all.

Is mattress stitch invisible?

Yes, mattress stitch creates invisible seams! If done well, you could use a totally different coloured yarn for mattress stitch to that of your fabric and still not be able to spot it. Try it sometime and watch the magic as stitches vanish into the fabric.

What should you use mattress stitch for?

Mattress stitch can be used on any knitted or crocheted projects – but on ready-made woven fabrics this seaming technique will cause fabrics to buckle a bit.

It’s best used with yarn knitting, as the way you place your yarn using this stitch mimics the elasticity and structure of knitting stitches, particularly in stocking stitch.

How to get perfect mattress stitch seams

It’s tempting to yank really hard when you’re sewing knitted pieces together, but don’t pull too tight – while tighter might feel more secure, what you’re aiming for is to replicate the elasticity and tension of the fabric you’ve created. Anything too tight will cause the fabric to ripple and the seam to feel stiff.

Try not to split your yarn by using a blunt needle. Avoid stitching back into the knitting you’ve already created as you go – when it comes to that satisfying tug to bring the seam together, you’ll soon find that the fabrics stick and don’t pull together and will have to go back and undo what you have already done.

How to do mattress stitch step-by-step with images

Think ahead – try and leave a long length of yarn behind when you cast on or cast off a project. It’ll save extra ends for you to darn in later.

Always work two loops in from the edge. This could be one full stitch at the row-end edge, or the cast-off or cast-on edge. Going further into the work will create chunky seams – but going too close to the edge will create gaps.

Step 1:

Lay your work side by side with the right side facing you for both knitted pieces, and arrange them so that you will be stitching away from you.

mattress stitch
Sarka Novakova - Hearst Owned

Step 2:

Coming up from the reverse of the work to the right-side, use a blunt-ended darning or tapestry needle to bring your working yarn from the back to the front of the work. If you’re joining in new yarn for sewing-up, leave a tail of a few inches to darn in later.

mattress stitch
Sarka Novakova - Hearst Owned

Step 3:

On the other piece of fabric you’re joining, insert your tapestry needle down from the front surface and come back up a couple of stitches or rows along, picking up the bars of yarn in the fabric as you go.

mattress stitch
Sarka Novakova - Hearst Owned

Step 4:

On the opposite piece, insert your tapestry needle down from the right to wrong sides of the work into the same point where your yarn came up previously, again coming up a couple of stitches or rows along, as you did before.

mattress stitch
Sarka Novakova - Hearst Owned

Step 5:

To continue seaming, repeat steps 3 and 4 until your fabrics are joined. You can keep the seam open and loose for a few stitches at a time before giving the yarn a tug to pull the stitches closed.

mattress stitch
Sarka Novakova - Hearst Owned

Ready for more sewing-up techniques? Check out the slip stitch (sometimes called whip stitch) used for joining granny squares in our handy tutorial video.

What's your favourite knitting project? Share your makes with us by tagging @primamag in your photos on Instagram!

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