Tag Archives: tutorial

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 Sockalong: Adding Patterns to Your Socks!

We’ve really enjoyed seeing everyone’s progress on their socks so far. We can’t believe it, but some people have already finished both socks! It’s not too late to join us–you can participate in the Alpaca Direct Ravelry Group. We’re knitting the Universal Toe-Up Sock Pattern Formula by Amy Swenson.

Today’s post is about adding a stitch pattern to your socks. We love basic sock recipes like this one because they give the knitter room to be creative. Rib patterns are great for socks because they provide lots of stretch. Besides your classic rib patterns we have three other ribbing patterns in today’s blog post.

You’ll work your stitch pattern on the top of the foot (which means just half of your stitches), and then after turning the heel the pattern can be worked on the leg (all of the stitches). When adding patterns it’s important to make sure that the number of stitches on your sock is compatible with the number of stitches required for your pattern. For example, if you’re working a k2, p2, ribbing you’d want a number that’s divisible by 4 .

Total number of stitches: 64, 64/4=16 –perfect!
Total Number of stitches: 70, 70/4=17.5–this isn’t going to work, as you’d end with either 4 knits or 4 purls. At this point you have you can increase two more stitches, work a k1, p1 rib that would work with any even number of stitches, or find another stitch pattern that’s compatible with the number of stitches for your sock.

Alpaca Direct stitch patterns for socks


For sock knitting we’ve written the directions for all of the patterns to be knit in the round. Broken Rib (Even number of stitches)
Round 1: *K1, p1*
Round 2: Knit

Cable Rib (Multiples of 4) This isn’t a real cable, but a mock cable that doesn’t require a cable needle.
Rounds 1-3: *P2, k2*
Round 4: *P2, k2tog but leave on the needle; then insert right-hand needle between the 2 stitches just knit together and knit the 1st stitch again; then slip both stitches from the needle together*

Waving Rib (Multiples of 6)
Rounds 1-4: *K4, p2*
Rounds 5-8: *K1, p2, k3*

We’d love to see your sock progress! Share photos in the Alpaca Direct Ravelry group, or leave us a comment on this post!

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


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


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’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.

Building in Color by Michelle Hunter

Building in Color – Block #2

Once a month we will construct a new Panel or strip of our sampler quilt using intarsia to complete our project. You may follow along with one Panel or a new Panel every month. You choose and enjoy the journey with us as we knit our way through Michelle Hunter’s newest book!

Building Panel #2- Learn Double Ended Knitting. This panel incorporates slipped stitches into a fun  pattern which allows two consecutive rows to be worked on the same side of the fabric. Learn a new skill while building this beautiful sampler panel.


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!


How To Fix A Split Stitch Knitting Tutorial

Oh no! You’ve Got a Split Stitch!

Sometimes you’ll find that you’ve split a stitch long after binding off when knitting. What’s a knitter to do?  Re-knitting the whole item doesn’t seem like a reasonable option, but don’t worry, there’s a much easier fix!

Step1 - split stitch
Step 1

Here you’ll see a split stitch. This happens when you don’t grab the whole strand when knitting a stitch. It’ll create a bit of a whole in your knitting, but more importantly this is a weak point in your knit fabric. If your item is going to get lots of wear (which we’re sure it will!) this spot is the first place that’s likely to get a whole in it. So prevent the hole from forming at all! Today we’re going to show you how to duplicate stitch over your split stitch to reinforce the area and hide the split stitch.

Step2 - split stitch in knitting
Step 2

First we’ll show you in another color yarn. This fix is so invisible that if we demonstrate it with white yarn there won’t be anything to see! Start by threading your tapestry needle with yarn and poke your needle through from the wrong side at the base of the stitch that you wish to duplicate. With the duplicate stitch method you are embroidering over a stitch, duplicating the yarn and placing another stitch on top of the one that was knit.

Step 3

Pull the yarn through the base of the stitch.

Step 4

Thread the tapestry needle underneath the stitch above. Be sure to go under both sides of the stitch.

Step5 - fixing a split stitch in knitting
Step 5

Pull the yarn through. You’ll see that we’ve already duplicated the right side of the stitch.

Step 6

Now thread the yarn through the same spot where you started your duplicate stitch–in the base of the stitch, and pull through to the wrong side.

Step 7

Now you’ve duplicated your stitch! Now it’s time to do it with the same color yarn as the swatch and cover up the split stitch.

Step 8

Follow the same steps, place the needle from the wrong side through to the from at the base of the stitch.

Step 9

Then work your needle underneath both sides of the stitch above, tracing the yarn with your needle.

Step 10

Pull the yarn through and re-insert back into your original starting point at the base of the stitch.

Step 11

And Voila! There’s no longer a hole in the knitting!

Step 12

On the right is the duplicate stitch in yellow, and on the left in white. As you can tell the stitch in white is indistinguishable from the other stitches.

Step 13

On the back you’ll see there are some ends. Just weave these in through your work just like any other end. Do not cut without weaving them in! If you cut your ends without weaving them there won’t be any friction to keep the yarn from falling out and exposing your split stitch again. The duplicate stitch is also used to make colorwork patterns, and can also be used to fix other common mistakes. If you’re working fair isle and worked a stitch in blue that was supposed to be white just duplicate stitch over the erroneous stitch with the correct color. If you have one purl that should have been a knit in ribbing just duplicate stitch over it!

This is a great technique that can help you to trouble shoot lots of different problems in  knitting.

Step 14

Happy knitting from your friends at AlpacaDirect.com



A Better Way to Graft The Toe of a Knitted Sock Tutorial

Here’s a better way to graft the toe of a knitted sock…

graft a sock
A better way to graft a sock

Step 1: Work your sock to the toe, stopping just before grafting the toe stitches together.


Step 2: You should have the same number of stitches on both needles.


Step 3: Before you start grafting you need to work the setup. Thread the tail of your yarn through a tapestry needle and insert the threaded tapestry needle into the first stitch on the needle closest to you as if to purl and pull it through, leaving the stitch on the needle.ad-toe4

Step 4: Then insert the needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit, leaving the stitch on the needle. Pull the yarn through.


Step 5: Now insert your tapestry needle into the first stitch as if to knit, slipping the stitch off the needle.


Step 6: Repeat with the second stitch, insert the tapestry needle into the second stitch as if to knit and slip off the needle, as if you were doing a ssk.ad-toe8

Step 7: Then insert the needle onto the next (3rd) stitch as if to purl, leaving the stitch on the needle. Pull the yarn through. You have now grafted two stitches off the front side.ad-toe9

Step 8: Insert the tapestry needle through the first two stitches on the back needle as if to purl, slipping both stitches off the needle.ad-toe10

Step 9: Insert tapestry needle as if to knit on the next (3rd) stitch, leaving the stitch on the needle.


 Pull yarn through. You have now grafted two stitches from the back needle. 



Continue grafting as normal. Remember on the front needle: knit off, purl on, and on the back needle: purl off, knit on.ad-toe15


Continue grafting until you have 2 stitches on the front and back needles. ( 4 sts total)ad-toe-17

Step 10: Insert the tapestry needle through the last 2 stitches on the front needle as if to knit.ad-toe18

Step 11: Pull stitches off the needle and pull the yarn through.ad-toe19

Step 12: Insert tapestry needle through last 2 stitches as if to purl.ad-toe20

Step 13: Pull off the needle and pull tight.ad-toe21

Step 14: Pull the end through to the inside of the sock and weave in your end! This technique is also great for the tops of mittens. Decreasing in grafting can also be helpful if you have an uneven number of stitches to graft.ad-toe22

 Have fun grafting your socks and say goodbye to Donkey Ears!


Have a dropped stitch? Don’t panic, you can fix it!


How to Fix a Dropped Stitch

(Stockinette Stitch)

step 1This is a familiar sight to all knitters. A dropped stitch!  But don’t worry, there’s an easy fix to get you back on track!


Step 1: Get your crochet hook, and pull up the stitch so that you have room to put your crochet hook in.


Step 2: Insert the crochet hook from the front towards the back. Each bar above the dropped stitch is a row that has been dropped. Here the stitch has been dropped three rows.


Step 3: Using the crochet hook, pick up the bar closest to the dropped stitch.


Step 4: Pull the bar through the stitch. Now there are only two bars above the stitch left to pick up!


Repeat Steps 3-4 until you have picked up all the bars.


Once you’ve finished picking up your dropped stitch it’s important that you put it back on the needle correctly. Put the right leg in the front, and the left leg in the back.


Now you are ready to continue knitting!

We all drop stitches from time to time, even the most experienced knitter!  Knowing how to get yourself going again is an invaluable skill.   Feel free to share this technique with others and let us know if you have any  techniques you would like us to share.

Happy Knitting!