Flags Tradewind Knitwear Designs by Lucy Neatby

Refinements to Mattress Stitch

Don't heave on it fiercely when taking out the slack in the sewing yarn. The sewing yarn should undulate gently from side to side within the seam, which gives it the necessary elasticity to cope with unexpected stresses and strains.

Use only short (15 - 20") lengths of yarn to sew up with. Knitting yarn wasn't designed to withstand the abrasion of sewing and will quickly lose its strength. Keep retwisting it as it untwists. When the yarn is nearly done, leave the tail of yarn on the RS of the work. With a new piece of yarn, retrace the last thing the old yarn did (the one sewing stitch is doubled), and leave a tail, again on the RS, and continue to stitch.

Leave neatening all the tails of yarn until the entire seam is complete, so if you are not happy with the seam, any of the sections can easily be removed by pulling gently but firmly on the tails. If all is well, darn each tail through to the WS of the work, and use the tail to oversew the seam on the inside, one tail in each direction to spread the bulk - this has the unexpected bonus of holding the garment together at this point should your Mattress St. yarn ever break.

To cope with situations where one side has more rows than the other, either by accident or design, tack together the places that must match with a scrap of yarn. Commence Mattress stitching on the long side, going under two horizontal bars at once every now and again, until the inequality is rectified. It will be very hard to spot!

Since Mattress St. is so invisible, it isn't necessary to use the original yarn to sew up with. I like to use wool on wool, and cotton on cotton, but crewel wool or embroidery floss can be used in place of the original yarn as a way of reducing the bulk in the seams.

You'll see now that using Mattress St. hides the outermost stitch of the fabric. These stitches are effectively selvedge sts. If you plan your knitting accordingly, once these stitches are incorporated into the seam, the pattern can run unbroken across the seam line. This is one of the reasons that I like 2 x 2 ribbing. If you begin and end the row with K2, (any multiple of 4 + 2sts), when you seam the pieces together the ribbing pattern remains unchanged across the seam line! If the pattern you are using doesn't have a seam stitch, put one in yourself and make it a duplicate of the st following or preceding it.

When stitching the side of a sweater, I start at both the cuff of the sleeve and the lower edges. These are both important areas visually, and if any fudging has to be done, it can be done in the underarm area - not a popularly viewed site!

How best to Mattress Stitch sleeves ?

This is a situation where preplanning comes into play. Plan your sleeve incs or decs to be 2 sts in from either edge. I call the outer 2 sts the "sacred" sts - you don't mess with these guys.

This sounds as if it will spoil the pattern of your sleeve horribly, but the seam is neat and there will only be two sts out of pattern with the other two disappearing into the selvage. The seaming is easy, in fact it is a pleasure to sew, and the column of stitches is so neat that it is attractive.

I frequently make neckline shapings visible rather like fully fashioned raglan shapings, again 1 or 2 sts in from the edge which makes picking up the stitches a breeze.

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