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Mattress Stitch Tips to Help You Finish!

Dec 13, 2010

Working the mattress stitch
I was visiting a friend a couple weeks ago and she sheepishly said that she had something knitting-related to show me. Susan took me into her den, opened up a cupboard and took out three huge Ziploc bags full of knitting.

It wasn't quite clear what exactly was in those bags, but it looked suspicious.

Turned out that what was in the bags were three sweaters, all of the pieces knit, none of the pieces seamed.

Lots of knitters dislike the finishing process, and seaming in particular, but Susan's feeling bordered on phobia.

She went so far as to offer to pay me to finish them for her. (I should never have mentioned that I enjoy seaming; I get sort of mesmerized by the mindlessness task of it). I declined the offer, and counter-offered a finishing course to her, free of charge of course, in our favorite non-threatening coffee shop.

In preparation for our "class," I knit up a few small swatches from a cream-colored yarn and put them in a baggie with a ball of contrasting-colored blue yarn of the same weight. I also packed up my laptop loaded up with Eunny Jang's Knitting Daily Workshop Getting Started: Basics and Beyond (now available as a download!). Eunny does a great seaming tutorial in this workshop, and I thought that would be a good way to start. (And I sent my friend home with the DVD, too!)

I also printed out the following graphics and directions on a 4 X 6 index card that Susan could keep in her knitting bag.

Figure 1 Figure 2 Figure 3
With RS of knitting facing, use threaded needle to pick up one bar between first two stitches on one piece (Figure 1), then corresponding bar plus the bar above it on other piece (Figure 2). *Pick up next two bars on first piece, then next two bars on other (Figure 3). Repeat from * to end of seam, finishing by picking up last bar (or pair of bars) at the top of first piece.

I'm an over-prepared teacher, I know, but I always strive to give my students the support they need to be successful!

We settled down at a table and I started out by showing Susan Eunny's video. Then I demonstrated the process on the swatches I made—working the seam with the contrasting color makes the process really easy to see.

I had Susan practice on the swatches until she had the process down. She couldn't believe how easy it was!

Then we started in on one of her sweaters. We began with the side seams, which I think are the easiest because they're worked from vertical seam to vertical seam. And I have to day, Susan took to it like a fish to water. (We haven't had our set-in sleeve lesson yet, that's a little more involved, yes?)

Are you a beginning finisher? Do you dislike seaming? Well, Here's Eunny's seaming tutorial for you—I think it'll change your mind!

Here's to finishing! After knitting all of those pieces with care, finishing with care will make your sweater look professional—not store-bought, it's a beautiful handmade piece, after all, but smooth and well-fitting. Just like you pictured it while you were knitting it!

And be sure and download Getting Started: Basics and Beyond with Eunny Jang; you'll find these wonderful finishing tips and so much more!


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eelzia wrote
on Oct 6, 2011 3:38 PM

eunny jang

what is the name of the knot that you demonstrated on tv that you used to tie together very short lengths of yarn. the yarn lengths were only about 12 inches long.  i want to learn this knot so that i can use up a lot of my yarn ends.  it made a beautiful pattern.

i do volunteer work and i have a lot of left overs.  help please.


JanetM@4 wrote
on Feb 6, 2011 12:48 PM

Kathleen, I have looked everywhere for instructions on seaming two separate pieces together vertically.  They are done in seed stitch.  Any suggestions?

on Dec 15, 2010 5:53 PM

That really looks easy and neat.  I always  have the seams looking shorter than the rest of the say blocks for a blanket that I put to gether.  I want to make prayer blankets from the left over knitting materials that I have left, but surely can not send them in when the seams seem to be shorter than the blocks.  I hope you can understand what I am trying to say?  

laurel n wrote
on Dec 15, 2010 3:56 PM

Her instructions on the video sample are nice and clear but I am hesitant to purchase the video as I am left handed and am not too sure if the rest of the tips and instructions would work for me

DonnaW wrote
on Dec 14, 2010 12:22 PM

Good information.  Maybe you could also post a link to Sandi Wiseheart's seaming tutorials from her Knitting Daily blog, What's on Sandi's Needles.  Very helpful.

And keep up the good work, Kahtleen!  I really enjoy your posts.

sbullock wrote
on Dec 14, 2010 12:09 AM

Perfect timing!  I'm starting a  sweater next week and figured I would "learn the right way" to seam when I got to that point.  This has given me the confidence to move beyond sweaters knit in the round.  ~ Sarah

barbara26 wrote
on Dec 13, 2010 2:12 PM

Great video! How do I save it? I tried to download it, but when I went to play it back it said"Invalid address"

on Dec 13, 2010 2:10 PM

+my name is maggie ...i have been knitting most of my life [i bought a learn how to book ]...but i never knew                  how to put         things together         thank you so much .,,i am great grandmother to17 now ...i have a lot of knitting left to do   ...thank you so very much

Pam@144 wrote
on Dec 13, 2010 12:45 PM

Great post, thanks for the information.

dsundes wrote
on Dec 13, 2010 10:19 AM

Thank you so much.  This has always been an issue with me.  the knitting has come easy for me but creating seams has always been difficult.  Thank you again.  Deborah

thiagram wrote
on Dec 13, 2010 9:25 AM

This is so awesome! I've been making seams for a long time, thinking all along that I knew what I was doing. This helped greatly! I am always learning something. Thank you very much! Cynthia

mkc1 wrote
on Dec 13, 2010 8:26 AM

I think the best shoulder seam is the three needle bind off.

Please do an instruction session on how to weave in ends of yarn that don't pop back out and do you ever use fray check on the ends?  Thanks.  I love your site.  I read it every day.  

PhoebeJ wrote
on Dec 13, 2010 8:22 AM

I came to knitting after a lifetime of garment sewing - and so automatically have put in my sleeve heads first, then stitch up the long side/sleeve seam. It is so easy and -so far- has always worked!

Mimi wrote
on Dec 13, 2010 8:07 AM

please, please, please, Katheline  give us HELP for PICKING UP STITCHES on cardigan borders ! MY personal phobia. truly desperate S.O.S

maak wrote
on Dec 13, 2010 7:57 AM

Please do a similar blog on Kitchener stitch! Thanks!