Grafting Adventures

I practiced grafting in-pattern with mixed results. I’ve been designing & making a lot of infinity cowls this spring. Most of them start with a provisional cast on and end by grafting the working edge to the provisional cast on. I’ve grafted k1, p1 ribbing in pattern successfully, and moss stitch, and knew that grafting herringbone stitch was going to be just a little bit different.

To start, a lesson on grafting, aka Kitchener stitch. I’m not including diagrams – please feel free to find a video youtube or look at the tutorial on Knitty if you are unfamiliar with grafting and need a visual.

When you graft two pieces of knit fabric (knit 1 row, purl 1 row) together, you hold the backs of the fabric together with the live stitches on separate needles (or opposite ends of the same circular needle) with tips to the right, and thread a darning needle with a length of yarn about twice as long as the the width of your knitting – I usually just leave a long tail at the end. To set up, insert the darning needle in the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl (from back to front) and pull the yarn through. Then insert the needle in the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit (from front to back). To graft:

  1. On the front needle, insert the darning needle in the first stitch as if to knit, pull the yarn through and slip the stitch off the needle, then insert the darning needle in the second stitch (now the first stitch) as if to purl and pull the yarn through.
  2. On the back needle, insert the darning needle in the first stitch as if to purl, pull the yarn through, and slip the stitch off the needle, and insert the darning needle in the second (now first) stitch as if to knit and pull the yarn through.

Repeat these two step to the last 2 stitches (one on each needle). To finish, on the front needle, insert the darning needle as if to knit, pull the yarn through and slip the stitch off the needle, and on the back needle, insert the darning needle as if to purl, pull the yarn through and slip the stitch off the needle. When you pull the needle through the stitches, you have to be mindful of the resulting tension of the grafting in the knitting; too loose and it looks loose and sloppy, too tight and it looks like the two rows are tied together with a tight drawstring. The goal is to simulate the same stitch size as your knitting so the graft blends in.

You may notice that to process the knit stitches on the front needle you enter them with the darning needle as if to purl first, process the next stitches, then when you come to the stitch again, you enter it as if to knit and slip it off the needle. Something similar is true for the back needle, which looks like purl stitches from your perspective of holding the fabric back to back. You insert the darning needle into purl stitches as if to knit, then then next time as if to purl and then off the needle.

Instead of following the steps, it’s easier for me to just look at the stitches as they are on the needle and work them accordingly, remembering to process 2 stitches on each needle before switching needles (except for the set up and ending steps). The first time you put the darning needle through a stitch you do it in a way that’s opposite the stitch type (as if to purl for knit stitches and as if to knit for purl stitches). The second time, you put the darning needle through a stitch the same way as the stitch type (as if to knit for knit stitches, as if to purl for purl stitches). This made it easy for me to graft ribbing and moss stitch – you just have to keep track of what type of stitch you’re processing and whether or not you’ve gone into it yet, not which step in the process you’re on.

Patterns that would be more difficult (impossible?) to graft are those with increases, decreases, or slipped stitches in every row. Lace and cables and just about everything else can be grafted using a wrong side row of purl stitches or a mix of knit & purl. But the herringbone stitch pattern I’ve been working on is difficult (impossible?) to graft because it has decreases in each row; it’s is a two row repeat of:

  1. *k2tog TBL, slip first stitch off the needle* to the last stitch, knit.
  2. *p2tog, slip the first stitch off the needle* to the last stitch, purl.

IMG_5192You’re essentially working each stitch twice before slipping it off the needle. When I tried grafting herringbone stitch, I thought this would be a problem, but it wasn’t too difficult to put the darning needle through two stitches instead of one and dropping one while processing the other with the next stitch. I think the yarn I tried with was too sticky for me to get better tension in the grafted row.

But there’s another potential problem with herringbone stitch: not being able to simulate the slant of the stitches. On my sample swatch, the two grafted rows and the graft all look like they’re not slanted at all, just extra long stitches. I don’t know if it’s the tension of the yarn or if it’s just not possible to graft herringbone stitch. I’m going to try it again with smoother yarn and see if a) I just need practice to get the tension right or b) it’s just not possible or c) it’s not possible but this looks better than regular grafting (already true, IMO).

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Author: madgeface

I knit, crochet, spin, and have done some experimenting with weaving and natural dye. I’m also a technical writer, mom to 3 boys, and enjoy gardening.

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