Knitting Blog

The Magic of Miters: How to Knit a Modular Square

There is a sense of wonder when you see simple knit stitches turn into something completely unexpected and beautiful. A mitered square is one knitting style that feels almost magical to me. You start with a straight row of knitting and it transforms into a square shape before your eyes, thanks to two easy decreases.

How to Knit Mitered Squares step by step tutorial

Free Memory Blanket Pattern via Craftsy member Georgie Hallam

All about mitered squares

Mitered squares create a directional texture that is a great showcase for multi-color yarn and stripes. Their modular design makes them versatile — you can use them in all kinds of projects, from stash-busting patchwork afghans (like the pattern above) to high-fashion garments and accessories.

Mitered squares are name after the beveled joint between two pieces of wood. In knitting, decreases cause the knitting to appear to turn at right angles and form a diagonal line of stitches from corner to corner.

Mitered Square Close-up

You can achieve different effects by placing mitered squares in different positions beside one another.

Positioning Mitered Squares

Learn how to knit and use a mitered square with this step-by-step tutorial.

Step 1: Cast on.

Cast on the number of stitches you need for one side of the square. Place your stitch marker. This is the halfway point of the cast-on and will be the corner of the square.

Complete the cast-on by adding on another set of stitches equal to the first set. Each set of cast-on stitches on either side of the stitch marker will form an edge of the square.

Casting on Mitered Square

Step 2: Start the miter stitch pattern.

Row 1 (WS): Knit across, slipping the marker.

Row 2 (RS): Knit to two stitches before the marker, k2tog, slip marker, ssk, knit to end of row.

Need a little more detail? Here is a step-by-step walk-through of Row 2

1. Knit to two stitches before marker.

2. Then knit the next two stitches together.

3. Slip the stitch marker from the left needle to the right needle.

How to knit a mitered square k2tog, slip marker

4. Slip the next two stitches knitwise. Then put your left needle in through the front of the slipped stitches on the right needle, wrap the yarn over the right needle and pull the yarn through both stitches to knit them together.

How to knit a mitered square - ssk

For row 2, you can substitute other decreases. The first decrease should be left-leaning decrease and the second decrease should be a right-leaning decrease. If you prefer a different right-leaning decrease like s1, k1, psso, you can use that instead of ssk.

Stumped by the stitch abbreviations? Use our handy FREE stitch dictionary.

Step 3: Repeat these 2 rows until you have 4 stitches left.

After a few repetitions, you will see the corner forming as the decreases pull the fabric on either side of the center of the work.

Mitered Square after a few repetitions with corner forming

When you are halfway through the square, you will start to see the square take shape.

Half completed Mitered Square

Step 4: Complete the square.

Knit until you have have four stitches left on the needle after completing a wrong-side row.

On the right side, knit your first decrease, remove the stitch marker, knit your second decrease. You now have two stitches left.

On the wrong side, bind off with the standard knit bind-off. You now have completed one mitered square!

Completed mitered square

Joining multiple mitered squares

Although you can use a single mitered square as coaster or dishcloth, it’s more likely that you will be connecting your mitered squares to other squares or other pieces of knitting to complete your project. 

You can connect the squares by seaming or by seamless joining as you go.

Seaming

Use mattress stitch or other seaming technique to join the squares. You can reduce the finishing workload by using the tails to sew the seams, eliminating the need to weave in ends.

Sewing the mitered squares together is a good option if…

  • You prefer to keep the project portable by knitting one square at a time.
  • The sections are large.
  • The sections are part of a garment with other seams.
  • Tou want to decide later how to place the mitered squares in relation to each other, as in a patchwork project.

In the Mitered Cardigan, for example, Norah Gaughan created a jacket design from large mitered sections that are sewn together.

Knitting pattern for Mitered Cardigan

Mitered Cardigan pattern via Craftsy member Vogue Knitting

Joining as you knit

Many knitters prefer to join mitered squares as they knit by using stitches picked up from previous squares to start the next square. If you are new to picking up stitches, check out this step-by-step tutorial.

Joining as you go is a good option if…

  • You want to avoid seams (though you still have to weave in the ends).
  • The mitered section is not a distinct square but flows into or overlaps other areas, as in the Fifth Floor Walk-Up poncho below.
Knitting pattern for Fifth Floor Walk Up Poncho

Fifth Floor Walk-Up pattern via Craftsy member Yarn Over New York

Adding a new square involves a combination of picking up stitches and casting on, depending on where your mitered square is located in the project. Most patterns will provide a schematic to show you where to cast on and pick up stitches for different locations of your square.

The diagram below is for the free Memory Blanket pattern pictured at the beginning of this post.

Mitered square diagram from Memory Blanket

Photo via Craftsy member Georgie Hallam

Example: Adding a second square to the right

In this example, the second square is placed to the right of the first square.

1. Place your first square so that the right side is up with the cast-on edge at the bottom.

2. Cast on enough stitches for one side of your square (half the total cast-on for your first square). Slip a stitch marker on to your needle.

3. Starting at the bottom right of the first square’s cast-on edge, start to pick up stitches along the right edge of the first square. These stitches will go on the right needle after the stitches you cast on in Step 2. Pick up enough stitches to form the left side of the second square, half the stitches of your original cast-on.

In the illustration below, I picked up a stitch every knit row. I find it easier to use a crochet hook to pull the yarn through and then transfer it to the needle.

Casting on and picking up for second mitered square

4. Knit the first row along the wrong side, knitting the picked-up stitches and the cast-on stitches.

5. Knit the second row of the square pattern and continue repeating the rows as you did for the first square.

Here is the second square, half complete:

Adding a second mitered square half complete

Here is the completed second square:

Two mitered squares completed

Adding mitered squares in other positions

Left of a square

With the right side facing you, start at the top left edge of the square and pick up half the stitches of the original cast-on to form the right edge of the new square. Place a stitch marker, then cast-on the rest of the stitches for the left edge. I’d recommend a cable cast-on. Continue as above.

Between squares

To add a mitered square between two squares if you are building up, pick up half the stitches from upper left edge of the right square and then the other half the stitches from the upper right edge of the left square. Continue as above.

Making the most of miters

Mitered stripes

The directional nature of mitered knitting creates striking V-shaped stripes when using two colors in one square. In the Swirl Miter Skirt, the designer, Jane Slicersmith, turns fashion into art by varying the stripe pattern with some squares fully striped and others half striped, half solid.

Knitting pattern for Swirl Miter Skirt

Swirl Miter Skirt pattern via Craftsy member Vogue Knitting

Miters as accents

Instead of using mitered squares for the whole project, you can feature them as an eye-catching focal point or design detail. This FREE pattern for Angularities Armwarmers uses mitered squares to add a stylish flare to fingerless gloves.

Knitting pattern for Angularity Armwarmers

Angularities Armwarmers pattern via Craftsy member TheSexyKnitter

Experiment with stockinette

You don’t have to stick to garter stitch for your squares. You can keep the directional look and add a new texture by alternating stockinette with garter ridges as in the Mitered Obsession Cowl. This cowl also showcases the rainbow effect of using two colorways of multi-colored yarn.

Knitting pattern for Mitered Obsession Cowl

Mitered Obessions Cowl pattern via Craftsy member SKNITSB

Felt your miters

With felting, the ridges and miters disappear to create a smooth fabric with amazing geometric designs as in this Rainbow Squares Felt Mat. Get ready for awed comments of “How did you do that?”

Knitting pattern for Rainbow Felted Square Placemat

Rainbow Squares Felt Mat pattern via Craftsy member Claire Fairall

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5 Comments

Sallie

Bless you all for showing me this!!!
Some of us don’t read them di-rec-shuns so good.
Thank you, thank you!!!

Reply
Linda Beresford

Whoa! This is great—thank you for posting this–I love it! My only problem now is I don’t have time to go food shopping anymore due to the knitting factor!

Reply
Ludmilla

Thank you very much. This took time and thought to be such a
detailed, in depth explation.

Reply
Joanna Worthington

Thank you for these easy to understand instructions! It has taken time and a lot of effort to produce and is great for someone like me! X

Reply
Lori Bell

Thank you for this tutorial. I’m adding this to my personal challenge for 2017 🙂

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