What is the main thing to remember when seaming side edges of two pieces made in reverse stockinette stitch? We have to make sure the seam is not bulky. Why? Because a bulky seam enhances the natural tendency of reverse stockinette to curl up at the sides.
As a result, the seam looks like a valley running through the project, and this effect becomes even more visible if the project is made with chunky yarn.
Blocking helps (especially if the yarn is not too thick) but it does not fix this issue. The only sure way to tame reverse stockinette stitch is to reduce the bulk and make the seam flatter.
The most obvious way to reduce the bulk at the seam is to make that seam as close to the edges of the knitted pieces as we can.
Let’s see how we can do it when we use good old mattress stitch.
If you are a visual learner, click here to watch every step in a video tutorial.
1. Place two pieces that you plan to seam side by side so that the reverse stockinette side of the work is facing to you and the cast on edges are aligned.
Usually, the seam starts at the cast on edge. If you prefer to work from the bind off edge, place the pieces so that the bind off edges are aligned at the bottom of your working surface.
2. Cut a piece of yarn that is at least twice as long as the future seam and thread it into a wool needle.
I will use yarn in a contrasting colour to make it easier for you to see the process of seaming. Of course, in real life, it is better to use the same yarn as the one you used to make the project.
If you did some planning and left a long tail at the cast on edge, thread this tail into a wool needle and skip the next step because the tail is already attached to the work.
3. For those of us who don’t plan that far ahead and that’s why use a separate piece of yarn to make a seam, it’s time to attach that yarn to the work. I usually join the yarn at the very bottom of the left piece, but there is nothing wrong with joining the yarn to the piece at the right side.
To join the yarn, insert the wool needle from back to front under the strand that is at the very corner of the left piece.
Pull the yarn through leaving a small tail (around 10cm / 4″). We’ll hide that tail later on when the project is finished and it is time to weave in all tails.
There is no need to make a knot or secure the yarn in some special way. The yarn will stay put as soon as we join the pieces at the bottom in the next step.
4. Insert the wool needle from back to front under the strand that is at the very corner of the piece at the right side.
Pull the yarn through. Then insert the wool needle from back to front under the strand at the very corner of the left piece, the same way as we did in step 3.
Pull the yarn through and pull tight to join the bottom corners of the two pieces.
Now we are ready to make a seam.
Because we want to make a seam as close as we can to the edges of the work, we should look for the strands inside the stitches that are at the very edges of the fabric.
Surprisingly enough, these strands are fairly easy to find. When we look at a side edge of a piece made in reverse stockinette stitch, we clearly see the bumps that sit at the edge every two rows.
Every bump is formed by two interlocking strands, each belonging to a different row. One strand goes over the edge and is clearly visible, and the other one is located under the edge. This one may seem hidden, but once we realise that it is the second part of the same bump, we know where to look for this mysterious strand.
Now that we understand what we are up to, let’s get seaming 🙂
1. On the piece at the right side, insert the wool needle from front to back into the last “worked” spot.
“Worked” means a spot that we’ve already used while seaming. At first, it will be the spot where we previously inserted the needle when we joined two pieces at the bottom. Then it will be the spot where the yarn comes out after we completed the previous seaming stitch.
Hold the needle parallel to the edge and move it from the back to the front of the work lifting the strand that is above the spot where we inserted the needle.
It is the easiest way to locate the strands that form those bumps at the edges of the work. Even if we don’t see the strand, the wool needle will find it.
Pull the yarn through.
2. Let’s do the same manoeuvre on the piece at the left side.
Insert the wool needle from front to back into the last “worked” spot. Hold the needle parallel to the edge and move it from back to front up and around the first strand above the spot where we inserted the needle.
Pull the yarn through.
Now repeat these two steps to join every strand on the piece at the right side to a corresponding strand on the piece at the left side. After you make a few stitches, pull the yarn tight to bring the sides of the seam together, just as we do when we use the regular mattress stitch.
Once you finish seaming, make a stitch to join the top parts of the two pieces. Secure the yarn and hide the tail while you have it already in the wool needle.
If you want to make this seam reversible, don’t pull the stitches tight. Instead, make each stitch of the seam about as long as an average bar of the stitches that form the fabric.
Because I used yarn in a contrasting colour, you can easily see how the reversible version of this seam is formed. When we use the yarn in the same colour as the project, this seam is almost invisible on both sides of the work.
Here’s how it looks on the right side of the work:
And here’s a photo of the wrong side of the work:
Of course, if you decide to add slip stitch selvedges to the edges of your project, you can use the seam described in this tutorial regardless of the stitch pattern you use. This seam is not bulky so it will keep reverse stockinette stitch from curling up.
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.