Grafting in Pattern Tutorial10.23.2014
I mentioned previously that I’d be offering a sneak peek of the new grafting class I’m offering this weekend at Vogue Knitting Live! Chicago – “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Kitchener Stitch.” The class goes over in great detail how to graft your knits every which way, and so many different ways to remember the steps that you’ll never need to look up Kitchenering again. I thought I’d share one of the more advanced techniques covered in the class: how to kitchener live stitches to a provisional cast-on… in pattern. No, it’s not sorcery, I promise.
Before we get started, let’s talk about direction. Most all knitting is basically one- directional, knitted (for our purposes) from the cast-on at the bottom to the live stitches at the top, going up in direction, row by row. Of course there are things you can do to change direction in a finished garment – for example you can knit top-down or side-to-side, or you can pick up stitches and knit in a new direction – but for our purposes, and when you break it down, each basic block of knitting is going from the cast-on or picked-up edge, up.
When you graft two pieces of knitting together, most of the time, you’re either working two pieces of knitting from the cast-on up and grafting them together at the live edges, or you’re working in a tube and grafting half the live stitches at the top of the work to themselves (like you’d do for a sock toe.) Let’s call this kind of grafting top to top.
The thing is, grafting only really works perfectly if the direction of knitting is preserved in the two pieces being grafted. If you imagine how a row of knitting works, snaking through the rows above and below, you’ll see that the loops at the TOP are offset from the loops at the BOTTOM by one half stitch. It’s a structural thing. If you’re working in Stockinette or garter, it doesn’t matter, because it’s really difficult to see and nobody will ever, ever see it or care. It’s almost undetectable. But if you graft top to top in pattern, you might be able to mask that jog to some extent at least, but the jog will still be there.
Grafting top to bottom – where you graft the stitches at the top of one piece to the provisional cast-on at the bottom of another piece – is the only FOOLPROOF way to avoid the half-stitch jog, rather than disguise it. When you unpick the cast on and release the live loops underneath, you can join them to the live loops of the bottom piece without changing direction. This kind of grafting is a little different, but it’s great when you really need to avoid that weird jog, or when you need to graft patterns that have to travel in one direction continuously – especially cables or lace.
For the purposes of our tutorial here, we’ll graft the Loose 5-Rib Braid cable, from Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns. I’ve chosen this pattern because not only does it have plain knit/purl wrong side rows with no cable crosses, it also has a couple of RIGHT SIDE rows that also don’t include any cable crosses. The reason? When you are grafting top- to-bottom, you’re actually creating TWO rows instead of just one like regular top-to-top grafting. This is because your grafting creates one row, but the live loops of the provisional cast on ALSO make ANOTHER row.
So to make our 8-row cable pattern continuous, we’re ending our bottom piece on the right side with Row 8. Our graft will be carried out on the wrong side with Row 1, and then Row 2 – which does not include any cable crosses – will be made up by the live loops of the provisional cast- on. So since Rows 1 and 2 will be created by the cast-on and the graft, respectively, once we complete the provisional cast-on and start knitting the top piece of knitting to be grafted, we’re going to start on the wrong side with Row 3.
(A note about other patterns: if you’re grafting in lace instead of cables, it’s possible -though in my opinion too much of a pain in the ass – to include lace increases and decreases in your grafting row, but of course the row formed by your provisional cast on can’t be altered like that. So for lace grafting top tp bottom, just make sure you have at least ONE row of plain knits or purls, rather than two, and count so that the provisional cast-on constitutes one of those plain knit/purl rows. But that’s another story.)
So finish the row below where you want your graft on the bottom piece to be grafted, and when you’re done, place the live stitches on a stitch holder. Then provisionally cast on for the top piece to be grafted, and start knitting THREE pattern rows above the last row you knit on the bottom piece.
When you put them together they’ll look like this:
But you’ll be grafting this piece from the wrong side in this case:
so when you put them together to graft, they’ll have the WRONG sides facing out, with the right sides facing EACH OTHER, like this:
So now we’re ready to graft. The steps for top to bottom grafting are a bit different, but you only need to remember four steps (no setup required):
If the next stitch on the needle is a KNIT STITCH, perform ALL FOUR of these steps:
- Pass the needle purlwise through first stitch on the FRONT needle, and leave the stitch ON the needle.
- Pass the needle purlwise through the first half-knit stitch on the BACK needle, but take it OFF the needle.
- Pass the needle knitwise through the next half-knit stitch on the BACK needle, and leave the stitch ON the needle.
- Pass the needle knitwise through the stitch on the front needle, but take it OFF the needle.
If the next stitch on the needle is a PURL STITCH, perform ALL FOUR of these steps:
- Purlwise through first stitch on the FRONT needle, leave it ON
- Purlwise through the first half-knit stitch on the BACK needle, take it OFF.
- Knitwise through the next half-knit stitch on the BACK needle, leave it ON.
- Knitwise through the stitch on the front needle, take it OFF.
So here, our first two stitches are purls, so we go into the first stitch on the front needle purlwise,leaving that stitch on the needle,
then through the first stitch on the back needle purlwise, but only slip the stitch off the BACK needle;
then through the next stitch on the back needle as if to purl, leaving it on, and then again through the stitch on the front needle as if to purl, slipping that stitch OFF the needle.
The next stitch on the front needle is a purl stitch again, so we do the same four steps all over – but then the stitch after THAT is a purl stitch, so we reverse the instructions: (1) knitwise through the first stitch on front needle, leave it on; (2) knitwise through the first stitch on the back needle, take it off; (3) purlwise through the NEXT stitch on the back needle, leave it on; (4) purlwise through the first stitch on the front needle again, take it off.
Then we alternate according to the stitches that present on the front needle, following all four steps for each purl or knit stitch. Because we’re grafting on the wrong side, it’s going to look like a bit of a hot mess:
But once it’s all finished, and once you’ve adjusted the tension by tugging gently at each stitch til it looks neither too loose or too tight, it will look surprisingly amazing!
And there you have it: a very nicely grafted cable. If the grafting yarn wasn’t yellow, which I obviously chose for visibility, the graft would be almost totally undetectable. The same trick works in ribbing or in any other pattern you’d like to graft top to bottom – provided you have those all important rows with no shaping or cable crosses. Happy knitting, y’all!