Grafting, sometimes referred to as Kitchener stitch, is a method of joining the live stitches of two pieces of knitting so that there’s no visible seam.
This is a great joining method for things like sock toes, where you may want to avoid creating a seam that feet might find uncomfortable. There are other times when grafting is a great idea, for example,
- Lengthening a sleeve by cutting it open, knitting more, and grafting it back together,
- Shortening a sweater by cutting it open at the body, frogging back, and grafting it back together, or
- Seamlessly attaching two halves of a scarf or shawl which have been worked in opposite directions.
It’s an important skill for a knitter to have.
Typically, grafting is done by sewing. You thread your yarn tail through a tapestry needle and sew it in and out of the live stitches in such a way as to imitate knitting. What’s essentially happening is that all this in-and-out sewing is creating one additional row of stitches in your work.
Many knitters dislike grafting. It can seem complicated; a common complaint from knitters is that they can never remember which way the needle is supposed to go through which stitch and when. Another reason is the perpetual difficulty of finding your tapestry needle. Others dislike it because grafting is sewing, and some knitters don’t like sewing.
I find sewing grafts tedious, so, to make the process more interesting and easier to remember, I figured out how to knit my grafts—and I’m going to show you how.
We’re going to cover this topic starting with the most common and fundmental method: grafting two stockinette stitch pieces together so that you end up with one big piece of stockinette stitch. In a second tutorial, we’ll move on to how to knit a graft in ribbing and more complex texture patterns.
Sewn Grafts Versus Knitted Grafts
If you’re used to sewing your grafts, especially if you’ve been doing it for a long time, you might need to prepare your brain and your hands for some key differences from what you’re accustomed to.
First, the beginning and end steps that you’re used to for sewn grafts are probably going to be different for knitted grafting. This is because each set of steps in knitted grafting corresponds to the creation of a single stitch as you’re looking at the work. Admittedly, where the steps start and stop don’t make a huge difference when you’re grafting plain stockinette stitch, which is what we’re going to start with. But once we start incorporating grafted purled stitches into the mix (to graft ribbing or texture patterns together), having a single set of steps to create one grafted stitch will become very important.
Another thing which may take some getting used to is the direction in which you insert your knitting needle into the loops when you’re knitting your grafts: It’s the exact opposite of the direction in which you would insert a tapestry needle into the same loops when you’re sewing the grafts. This is to be expected. It’s happening because when you use a knitting needle to graft, you’re only putting the needle through the loop so that you can wrap yarn around it and pull the needle back out again in the opposite direction from how the knitting needle went into the loop. It may help to remember that with both sewn and knitted grafts, you are taking the yarn on the same journey through the live stitches; the difference lies only in how you accomplish that journey.
All photos by Kathleen Sperling.