Kitchener Stitch -- Feel the Fear and do it Anyway

comments (0) July 1st, 2008     

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Cranky_Daphne Daphne Adair, contributor
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Pseudo sock toe, with working yarn in back.
Step A, prepping the first stitch.
Step B, prepping the second stitch.
Pseudo sock toe, with working yarn in back.

Pseudo sock toe, with working yarn in back.

Photo: Daphne Adair

Have you heard the term “grafting” or “kitchener stitch” before? Perhaps it was in the context of “The socks are thisclose to being done, I just have to [pause] graft the toe [shudder].” Yeah, there’s a sock like that hanging out at my friend's house, and let me tell you, it’s all I can do to leave it on the coffee table instead of swooping it up and finishing it off for her. It wasn’t always this way; though I’ve never hated the graft, I just couldn’t always remember how to do it, until I memorized it—like memorizing poems in school. So here’s how it works.

You finish your knitting to the point indicated in the pattern. This is usually a sock, but sometimes an underarm seam, two halves of a scarf or shrug, or, in the case of one baby set I designed, a ruffle. You start with two sets of “live” stitches, knit-sides showing, with the yarn coming from the “back needle”—I put that in quotes because the needle’s not in back until you put it there. Here’s an illustration above shows what I mean.

Now you’re ready to graft. (As an aside, I prefer to think of this in the gangster context of the word, myself—it makes the whole process more lighthearted.)

Cut your yarn and thread it onto a yarn needle. Put the yarn needle in the first stitch on the front just like it’s a knitting needle and you’re purling a stitch—in other words: Pull yarn through first stitch as if to purl, leave stitch on needle. (I’m bolding that as it’s the direction you’ll see in almost all explanations of grafting.) This means you’re threading the yarn through the first stitch, but not dropping it off the needle.


Step A, prepping the first stitch.

Now you’re going to put the needle through the first stitch on the back needle as though to knit and leave the stitch on needle. Again, this means you’re putting your yarn needle into that stitch just like your yarn needle’s a knitting needle—but you’re going to pull the yarn through the stitch without pulling it off the needle.


Step B, prepping the second stitch.

Now, you’re going to start removing stitches. How this works is, first of all, you’re emulating the knit stitch between two pieces of knit fabric. Here’s what it'll look like when finished (I've used a contrasting color here and stretched it out to show the stitches clearly):


Finished pseudo "toe," stretched. The blue yarn shows the path of a knit row.

If you’ve ever duplicate stitched, or otherwise eyeballed your knitting closely, this should look familiar—it’s just the shape your piece of yarn makes to create a row of knitting. It looks like ribbon candy, doesn’t it?

So, to carry on: You’ve threaded your yarn through the front stitch as if to purl, and then the back stitch as if to knit. You made sure the yarn wasn’t going around the needles in some extra crafty way, but just between them and through the live stitches. Now you start the “meat” of grafting.

1. Put your yarn needle into the first stitch again—as if to knit (yarn needle positioned like knitting needle, pointed front to back)—and pull the yarn through … and now drop the stitch off:

 


Stitch one again--knitwise this time.

2. Put your yarn needle through the next stitch on the front needle as if to purl; pull the yarn through, and leave the stitch on the needle:


Yarn through stitch 2; stitch stays on needle.

3. Now to the back needle: Put your yarn needle through that back stitch as if to purl; pull the yarn through … and drop the stitch off.

Photo 7: Purlwise through back needle and drop.


Purlwise through back needle and drop.

4. Now put your yarn needle through the next stitch on the back needle as if to knit; pull the yarn through and leave the stitch on the needle.

 


Knitwise through back needle and leave on.

You’ll notice that you’ve been working each stitch twice, but not one right after the other. What finally clicked for me about grafting was not so much the memorization, but that you’re always pulling the stitch off as you work it in the direction that matches what’s facing you—in other words, the fabric facing you on the front needle is stockinette stitch, with the knit rows forward—so you drop the stitch after you go into it knitwise (and then you immediately work the next stitch purlwise). The back needle is all reverse stockinette, with the purl side facing you—so you pull the stitch off when you’ve worked it purlwise with your yarn needle.

When you get to the end, you’ll have a couple of kinda floppy stitches:


Sloppy end.

 

Don’t worry; when you weave in the ends, they’ll sink right into the fabric:


Neat end.

This is how grafting clicked in my mind; doing lots of duplicate stitch helped me out as well. I recommend if this tutorial doesn’t quite click for you, try doing some duplicate stitch on light-colored swatches—and check out a few other tutorials! I taught someone to kitchener stitch in person a few weeks ago, and her rhythm was quite different from mine, but she got it. Smart knitters all over use different pneumonic devices to remember these steps—check out Nona’s trick, read the instructions in every book you come across, and if all else fails… take your work to knit night and leave it on the table near me—I can’t resist helping!

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