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Mattress Stitch Tutorial

After our comparison of seamed and seamless sweaters from a few weeks ago, I thought it might be nice to talk about the best methods of seaming a sweater.

The  mattress stitch is arguably the best way to seam handknit projects.  Whether we’re talking sweater pieces or blocks for an afghan, mattress stitch joins pieces simply and beautifully.

This tutorial is especially timely for those who’ve been participating in the Building Blocks and Building in Color groups.  I know several of the ladies in the Tuesday evening Open Knitting Group are doing one or both of those and several of them haven’t done mattress stitch before.  This tutorial is for you!

Shelly recently brought her Building Blocks pieces in to our Tuesday group to show off and get some help with putting everything together.

Mattress Stitch
Shelly putting together her Building Blocks afghan. Doesn’t it look good?

If you’ve never done mattress stitch before, take a deep breath and gather your supplies.  It’s really pretty easy, and I know you’ll be pleased with the results.

For our tutorial today I’ll be piecing a baby sweater I’m making for my new son.  It’s the Little Luxury Kimono.  This is knit from an Aran weight wool yarn that I had in my stash.  I’ve lost the ball band, so I can’t tell you what it is.  But, I’d recommend knitting it in something like Malabrigo Twist if you don’t mind handwashing or Berroco Vintage if you want something easier to care for.

How To Do the Mattress Stitch on a Side Seam

Sweater back and right front set up for mattress stitch.
Sweater back and right front.

 

1. Lay out the pieces you’ll be seaming together.  Cut a piece of yarn a little longer than the pieces you’ll be seaming.

Beginning the mattress stitch on the right front.
The bar between two columns of stitches.

 

2. On the right hand piece, find the bar between the two columns of stitches on the edge of the piece.  Pull the yarn through, leaving a six inch tail.

Beginning the mattress stitch on the back.
Yarn through the right hand piece, and finding the bar on the left hand piece.

 

3. Find the bar between the two edge columns on the left hand piece.  Pull the yarn through, loosely attaching the two pieces.

Loose mattress stitch.
Loose mattress stitch.

 

4. Continue in the same way, attaching each row and only pulling the pieces loosely together.

Mattress stitch pulled snug.
Mattress stitch pulled snug.

 

5. After you’ve sewn an inch or so, hold the tail of the yarn and pull the working yarn so that the two pieces come together side by side.  You want them to be snug, but not tight.  It should look seamless on the right side (there will be a visible seam on the wrong side).  Continue with the mattress stitch until you’ve seamed the two pieces together, pulling the yarn snug after each stitch.  If you accidentally pull it too tight and cause the work to pucker, just smooth it out along the seam until it lays flat and smooth.

Mattress stitch seam, right side.
Mattress stitch seam, right side.

 

Mattress stitch seam, wrong side.
Mattress stitch seam, wrong side.

How to do Mattress Stitch on a Shoulder Seam

You can do mattress stitch on two pieces of knitting vertically, as well as side by side.  This works well for shoulder seams or for two blocks stacked on top of each other, rather than next to each other.  It’s slightly different than the side by side mattress stitch and not quite as seamless, but still provides a nice seam.

Back and left front setting up for mattress stitch on shoulder seam.
Back and left front at the shoulder.

 

1. Lay out the pieces you’ll be seaming next to each other.  I like to lay the pieces out so I’ll be seaming from bottom to top rather than side to side.

When you seam pieces vertically, you seam the columns of stitches to each other, rather than the bars between columns.  So you’ll need to choose whether to choose the column oriented as a V or an A.  Make sure you choose the same column on each piece.

Finding A column for mattress stitch.
A column

 

Finding V column for mattress stitch.
V column

 

Starting mattress stitch on left front.

2. Choose your column on one piece.  I chose a V column.  Pull the yarn through.

Beginning mattress stitch on back.

3. Choose the corresponding column on the other piece. Pull the yarn through, pulling the two pieces snug.

Completed shoulder seam with mattress stitch, right side.
Completed shoulder seam with mattress stitch, right side.

 

Completed shoulder seam with mattress stitch, wrong side.
Completed shoulder seam with mattress stitch, wrong side.

 

There you have it!  Now, you can confidently seam your handknits together.

Have you tried the mattress stitch before?  Will this be your first time?  Let us know how it goes!

Learn to Crochet With This Free Tutorial

We have created a visual step by step guide to help you learn about the basics of crochet. Whether you’re new to stitching and would like to learn how to crochet or if you’re a knitter looking to diversify your skills today we’ll teach you how to get started crocheting!How to Crochet by Alpaca Direct

Make A Slip Knot

Before we begin we’ll need to start with a slip knot. Hold a loop of yarn in your right hand, with the yarns crossed. Pick up the strand that is still attached to the ball. This is underneath the cut end of the yarn and is called the tail. How to crochet by Alpaca DirectPinch the strand of yarn that’s still attached to your ball of yarn and pull through the loop on your right hand, holding the ends in your left hand. 
How to crochet by Alpaca DirectPlace this loop on your crochet hook, you’ve created a slip knot! Pull the ends of the yarn to tighten the knot on your crochet hook. Now we’re ready to crochet. 
How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

Chain Stitch

Step 1: Bring the yarn over your crochet hook, making sure that the yarn is coming from behind the hook and towards you over the hook.

How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

Step 2: Pull this loop through the stitch on your hook. You’ve chained one stitch! How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

Continue to chain stitch until you have enough stitches for your pattern, or you’re happy with the width of your crochet piece.
How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

 

Single Crochet: First Row

Step 1: Skip the first stitch down from your hook, and insert your crochet hook into the second stitch from the hook, inserting through the center of the stitch. How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

Step 2: Bring the yarn over the hook, making sure that the yarn is coming from behind the hook and towards you.

How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

Step 3: Pull this loop through your chain stitch, you’ll now have two stitches on your crochet hook. How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

Step 4: Bring the yarn over the crochet hook again, then pull the loop through both stitches on your hook. How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

Step 5: You’ll be left with one stitch on your hook, you’ve just completed your first single crochet stitch! Insert your hook into the next stitch, and repeat from Step 2 until you’ve worked a row of single crochet into all of your chain stitches.

How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

Single Crochet: Next Row

This is what your piece should look like after completing your first single crochet row.
How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

Step 1: Turn your work, and chain 1 stitch by bringing the yarn over the hook, then pulling it through the stitch on your hook. This will give height to the edge of your work so that you’ll have straight edges and clean corners.
How to crochet by Alpaca Direct

Step 2: Insert your hook into the first stitch of the first single crochet row, going through the center so that you’ll have two strands over your hook. Single crochet as before, going back to Steps 2-5 of the Single Crochet First Row. How to crochet by Alpaca DirectAll consecutive rows are started like the this, and the single crochet is the same throughout. It’s important to remember that on the first row you skip the first chain stitch, and then on consecutive rows you chain 1 stitch at the beginning of each row.

To finish cut your yarn, and pull the stitch on your hook up until the cut end of the yarn comes out the other end of your work. How to crochet by Alpaca DirectDon’t forget… when learning a new skill it will take some practice. Soon you’ll be crocheting like a pro!  Have you tried crochet? We’d love to hear your thoughts on learning to crochet.

AD heels

How to Choose Your Sock Heel

AD heels

When knitting socks there are a lot of options. You can work your socks on double points, magic loop, or two circulars. You can knit one at a time, two at a time, or two at a time with one nested inside the other. You can choose to knit toe up, top down, side to side, or from the heel out.

Today’s post is about the heel of your sock. This is a part of your sock that takes a lot of wear, and is critical in the comfort and the fit of your sock. To become a true sock expert we encourage you to try as many sock constructions as you can–and we’re here to help you review some of the options! All of the options we cover today were worked from the bottom up, as if you were working a toe-up sock. However, there are top-down equivalents for all of the techniques.

Afterthought Heel

afterthoughtThe afterthought heel allows you to knit the whole sock as a tube, then work the heel afterwards.
Pro: It makes knitting your sock super easy–whether you’re working from the toe or from the cuff  90% of your sock will just be knitting without any shaping.
Con: It’s not the most comfortable heel, and has a tendency to slip off the foot.
A great tutorial from The Yarn Harlot on the afterthought heel, and another one from Knitting Up A Storm.

Heel Flap

heelflap

A sock with a heel flap is the classic knit sock. You can work a slip stitch pattern on the flap to make it even more durable.
Pro: Fits well and it’s easy to customize and work a pattern on the heel.
Con: If you’re working with a self striping yarn the yarn will pool on the heel.
Here’s a great tutorial from Miriam Felton on creating a better fitting toe-up heel flap, and here’s one from Knit Better Socks on how to work a top-down heel flap.

Short Row Heel

short-row

The short row heel is a quick and easy heel that doesn’t require a gusset. That means it’ll probably be faster to knit. The fit is usually more comfortable than an afterthought heel.

Pro: It’s fast and fairly simple to work, there are many variations so you’re sure to find a technique that works for you.
Con: It tends to create holes in the heel, and is less sturdy than a heel flap.
Here’s a detailed tutorial on working a short row heel on a top-down sock from Laura Chau. Here’s a no wrap version of the short row heel from Happy Knits.

Fleegle’s Heel

fleegle

Fleegle’s heel is a combination of the short row heel and the traditional heel flap.
Pro: Fleegle’s heel is more subtle in look than the heel flap and provides a heel without holes.
Con: Following the directions is not for the beginner knitter, we recommend knitting a more traditional sock before trying Fleegle’s heel.

Fleegle’s guide to her toe-up no-flap, no-hassle heel, and here a guide to working the heel from the top-down by Knitters Brewing Co.

We’d love to hear about your favorite sock heel! Leave us a comment and tell which of these is your favorite, or if there’s another technique you prefer.

super stretchy bindoff

Get Some Stretch With Our Super Stretchy Picot Cast On!

Today’s post is a wonderful cast on that looks similar to the Picot Cast on, but extremely stretchy! This cast on uses a double strand of yarn making it very sturdy too, and perfect for items that will get lots of wear. We love this cast on for socks and mittens, but you could use it on anything where you’d like a  beautiful and stretchy edging.

AD stretchy picot cast on
Stretchy picot cast on for socks and mittens by Alpaca Direct

Step 1: Measure out a tail that is twice the length you would need for a longtail cast on. Fold this in half and make a slip knot where the two strands come together. Be sure to leave a shot tail for weaving in later. AD stretchy picot cast on

Step 2: Place the slipknot on your needle. Hold the yarn in the slingshot position, with the single strand–the one connected to your ball of yarn–going over the index finger and the double strand tail around your thumb. Wrap the double strand counterclockwise twice around your thumb.

AD stretchy picot cast on
 

Step 3: Reach the needle behind the single strand of yarn (the one on your index finger), as if making a yarn over.

AD stretchy picot cast onStep 4: Insert the needle tip up under the two doubled tails on the thumb.

AD stretchy picot cast on

Step 5: Reach over the top of the single strand as you did in Step 3.

AD stretchy picot cast on

Step 6: Pull the loop through.

AD stretchy picot cast on

Step 7: Drop the earn from your thumb and pull on the ends so that stitches are snug on the needle.

AD stretchy picot cast on

You have just cast on 2 stitches! Repeat Steps 3-7.

AD stretchy picot cast on

Working the First Row
After completing your cast on you’ll notice that your first stitch (the slip knot) is a double strand. Depending on whether you need an even number of stitches or an odd number of stitches you’ll work this double stranded first stitch differently.

AD stretchy picot cast on

Purl all the stitches with bumps on them.

AD stretchy picot cast on

Knit all the stitches without bumps.

AD stretchy picot cast on

Alternate knit and purl stitches until you come to your last stitch.

AD stretchy picot cast on

If you need an odd number of stitches you’ll purl the two strands together.

AD stretchy picot cast on

If you need an even number of stitches you will p1, k1.

AD stretchy picot cast on

AD stretchy picot cast on

We hope you’ll give the Super Stretchy Picot Cast On a try! We’d love to hear how you’ve used it, and see your project photos, so please add your comments!

This cast on can also be used for a stretchy edging on stockinette and k2, p2 ribbing.

Two ways to reinforce your hand knit socks after knitting

Reinforce Your Knitted Socks!

After spending all that time on knitting beautiful socks for yourself and your loved ones it’s worth your time to put a little effort into reinforcing your socks! Reinforcing the parts of your socks that get the most wear will help prevent holes from forming and make your socks last longer.

One great way to reinforce the toes and heels of your socks is to carry a strand of darning thread along with your sock yarn as you knit those sections of the sock. But what if you don’t like to knit with two strands at once, or forgot? Not to worry! In today’s blog post we have two ways to reinforce your socks after the fact.

reinforcing your hand knit  socks For both methods we’ll be using darning thread to reinforce our knit fabric. If you’d like your reinforcement less conspicuous use a thread that matches your yarn, or you can even use a strand of the sock yarn you used to knit your sock. For both methods we’ll also be placing the thread on the wrong side of the knitting, so that if done with a matching thread it’ll be nearly invisible from the right side of your work.

Option 1: Weaving in yarn on the wrong side

Step 1: Thread your needle with your darning thread or piece of yarn from your sock. Turn your work so that the wrong side is facing out. In this example we’ve already worked a few columns of reinforcement.

reinforcing your hand knit  socks

Step 2: With the threaded needle pick up every other bump along the portion where you’d like to reinforce your knitting. reinforcing your hand knit  socks Thread the needle through every other bump throughout your desired section of fabric.
reinforcing your hand knit  socks Step 3: Pull the yarn through. reinforcing your hand knit  socks Step 4: In the next column work every other stitch as before, but staggering so that the bumps you are working through don’t line up. If you worked bumps 1, 3, 5, 7… in column 1, then in column 2 you will pick up bumps 2, 4, 6, 8… DSC_0164Continue repeating until you’re entire heal/toe/section has been reinforced.

reinforcing your hand knit  socks Snip your ends, turn you rework right side out, and admire your work!
reinforcing your hand knit  socks

 

Option 2: Duplicate Stitch On the Wrong Side

We talked a little bit about duplicate stitch in this post in reference to fixing split stitches. This is another great application for duplicate stitch! In the weaving method above we worked the reinforcement vertically in columns on the backside of the knitting, with this method we’ll be working in rows horizontally along the backside of the knitting.

Just like working duplicate stitch on the right side of your knitting you’ll want to trace the line of the stitches with your darning thread.

Step 1: Thread your needle through the purl bump, or base of the stitch, and through the bump below and to the right.
reinforcing your hand knit  socks

Step 2: Next trace the stitch along the curve and thread your needle through the bump on the left of your first bump, and then back through to the bump where you started.
reinforcing your hand knit  socks Continue tracing the stitches with your yarn, working across the row. In the illustration below the blue yarn illustrates where the darning thread goes to duplicate the stitches. Repeat with the following rows in the same manner until you’ve worked duplicate stitch along your entire section.

duplicate stitch drawing

reinforcing your hand knit  socks As you can see it’s nearly invisible from the front side. reinforcing your hand knit  socks

Which one should I use? 
The weaving method is great for wool yarns that will felt into the fabric. The duplicate stitch method is best for plant based yarns, since this is a much more stable and plant yarns don’t have the teeth and gripping power of animal fibers.

Have fun knitting your socks.  If you are looking for a nice technique to graft the toe of your sock, be sure to read our recent blog post on this!