Sunday, January 30, 2011

Invisible Mattress Stitch and Box Cushions

Several requests came in for more info on the mattress stitch and sewing a box cushion/pillow. Here are my lame explanations. I am sure there are better ones online, somewhere.

Here is a quick diagram of what this stitch looks like as you sew it. It is done from the right side, with the seam allowances neatly tucked under, and the pillow all stuffed. The gap is the part that you are closing with the mattress stitch. Using sturdy thread, stick the needle into the edge of the seam allowance and bringing it back up a short distance from where you entered, keeping the thread under the fabric, of course, then stick the needle directly across into the opposite side. It looks like a ladder, no? After a few ladders, pull on the thread and it will close the gap flatly. Practice makes perfect. WE knitters use this to make seams in knits.

Here is a side view of a box cushion. It includes welting in this case, but the construction is basically the same with or without welting. Two sides, exactly the same size, and a strip long enough to fit all around the shape, is the idea.
Sew one side and clip the corners as you reach them, and then before sewing the second half of the boxing, match the corners and clip those as well . Then line up the boxing to the corners assuring there will be no twisting. This assumes that the two sides are exactly the same size and the seam allowances of  the seams are the same also. I don't usually quilt the boxing, just interface it with fusible interfacing, for stiffness.
Here it is on the pillow.
And this shows the invisible stitches closing the welted seam.
 The strip is left slightly unsewn at the beginning so that it can meet its end, stitching the seam last and then using the invisible mattress stitch to close the gap.
It is easier to do it than to just look at these directions. Really.


  1. This is great! Thanks so much for taking the time to share with us.

  2. The same stitch is used for making a rolled hem. Instead of two lips gaping open, one of the lips has a single fold and when you pull up the ladder, the fold line is pulled down to the body of the cloth and magically you have a rolled hem.

    I always have a heck of time making a nice corner in a scarf, though. The meeting of two rolled hems at a 90 degree angle is messy.
    Any suggestions, Queen of the Needle?

    Blogger is so annoying...

  3. Thanks so much! If I can "see" it than it makes sense :)

  4. Thanks, Melody. I am a very "beginner" knitter, but a long-time sewer and I had never seen this demonstrated before. Thanks much - I always learn so much from you.

  5. Thank you for this tutorial! I have always hated my closures and could never get them this invisible. Hoorah! Now I can!

  6. Thanks for posting the demo on this most useful stitch. As far as I know, it's called the "Ladder Stitch". The history I heard for it is that it was developed by doll makers to close up the stuffed toys bodies. It's a stitch that's good to be in everybody's "toolbox of tricks". I even use it for applique as well as for hand stitching the binding down.

  7. Your work always makes me feel so happy when I look at it.

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