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Getting Back to Sock Knitting (Plus a Kitchener Stitch Tutorial!)

Jan 7, 2011

Scent of Lavender from Knitted Socks Around the World   
Scent of Lavender from Knitted Socks Around the World
I've just realized that I forgot a Really Important Resolution for 2011! And it's this: Get back to sock knitting.

I ran a sock club at my local yarn shop for a couple of years, but it's been on hiatus for several months, and I have to admit that I enjoyed being able to focus on larger projects instead of knitting sock after sock for samples for the sock club. I never knit two socks, either, just one to show the clubbers the pattern! That really fed into my version of "single sock syndrome"!

Last night I finished the hat project I was working on, and I was "casting about" for a new project. I'm moving next week, so most of my yarn is packed, and my current works-in-progress are at the new house. My sock yarn was accessible, though, so I started a sock! It's a toe-up footie, and I think I can safely say that I'll finish both socks. Footies are a good way to get back in the sock-knitting groove.

As I was looking through my sock yarn last night, I put together a few projects. One of my favorite, recent sock patterns is the beautiful Scent of Lavender pattern from Stephanie Van Der Linden's Around the World in Knitted Socks. I have a wonderful skein of Malabrigo Sock that I think will be perfect for this pattern.

My one hang-up about this design, though, is that it's a top-down sock. I've been doing a lot of toe-up patterns in the last couple of years for sock club and for myself, and I'm out of practice on the Kitchener stitch method of grafting a toe. After all of the socks I've knitted, you'd think I'd have memorized this process, but I can't seem to get it to stick!

   
The "cheater" toe.
I've used the cheater method of decreasing the toe down to 8 stitches and then pulling them tight to finish the sock (pictured at right), which works just fine but isn't as attractive as grafting is. I've resolved to commit the Kitchener stitch to memory so I can have it in my sock-knitting arsenal.

In Around the World in Knitted Socks, Stephanie provides a great Kitchener stitch tutorial with photos that I've copied to keep in my knitting notebook. I've never seen a really good photo tutorial until now, and I just have to share it with you.

The Kitchener Stitch

by Stephanie Van Der Linden

The Kitchener stitch can be used to attach parallel rows of live stitches to one another. Begin with the stitches to be joined on two double-pointed needles held parallel to one another with the stitches to be joined across from one another. There must be the same number of stitches on both needles. Thread a length of matching yarn on a tapestry needle; you will be mimicking the path of a new row of stitches with it.

Kitchener stitch step 1 Kitchener stitch step 2
Figure 1, step 1 Figure 2, step 2

STEP 1: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the first stitch on the front needle and pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle (Figure 1).

STEP 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the first stitch on the back needle and pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle (Figure 2).

Kitchener stitch step 3 and 4 Kitchener stitch step 5 and 6
Figure 3, steps 3 and 4 Figure 4, steps 5 and 6
   

STEP 3: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the next stitch on the front needle and pull the yarn through, dropping the stitch from the needle.

STEP 4: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the next stitch on the front needle and pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle (Figure 3).

STEP 5: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the next stitch on the back needle and pull the yarn through, dropping the stitch from the needle.

STEP 6: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the next stitch on the back needle and pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle (Figure 4).

Repeat Steps 3-6 to the last two stitches, then repeat steps 3 and 5 for the remaining two stitches.

My best advice to you when grafting a sock toe (or when grafting anything, for that matter!) is to make sure you have enough time to graft all of your stitches without being interrupted. Turn off the TV or radio, tell the kids you're unavailable (good luck with this one), and graft your entire row of stitches at one sitting. I have to do this every time I graft because if I set down my work I can't for the life of me figure out where I left off. I can turn a heel with tons of distraction and interruptions; I don't know what's wrong with my brain and grafting, but I'm determined to break through the barrier.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of Knitted Socks Around the World and get back to sock knitting with me!

Cheers,


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Comments

Merrily wrote
on Jan 28, 2011 1:56 PM

Here is another version of KendallF's shortcut to Kitchener.

When you look at your 2 needles,

your sewing needle sometimes heads  OUTwards, away from the other needle, (as in the figures above), and you leave the stitch ON.

and sometimes INwards , towards the other knitting needle, and you pull the stitch OFF

so you start with

front needle: out, on

back needle:  out, on

from then on, you go

front:  in off, out on

back: in off, out on

Making sure the radio is off the children are in another room, you keep muttering to yourself as you go from needle to needle:

in off, out on, in off, out on

At the very end is an extra  in off, in off.

KarlaF wrote
on Jan 8, 2011 4:59 AM

This is the Kitchener technique I've been using.  Having found it on the internet, I never use anything else and now love doing it because it's so easy.  As with any other type of knitting, if I have to stop or put it down, I always make sure I do it so that I'm ready to start from the beginning when I pick it up.  This way, it doesn't control me and I always know where I am.  Here is the website: techknitting.blogspot.com/.../easier-way-to-kitchener-stitch-also.html

Mary wrote
on Jan 7, 2011 12:21 PM

The "cheater toe"was probably the most common way to finish a toe (in Britain and America) before Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, devised his signature method. So, technically, it's not cheating, but more like... the pre-Kitchener toe. :o) Possibly the round toe.

JulieB@40 wrote
on Jan 7, 2011 11:55 AM

I have done many, many socks, and always use the Kitchener stitch, but I have never done those first two steps!  None of my Kitchener directions mention those first two steps.  Hmmmmm....

kim@59 wrote
on Jan 7, 2011 10:00 AM

Hi,

  I always had difficulty remembering the Kitchner stitch as well until a friend told me this trick.  When you have both needles in your left hand facing you the stitches on the front needle appear as knit stitches and the ones on the back needle appear as purls facing you.  So you will always knit the front stich off the needle as it appears as a knit, and then insert the needle purlwise in the next stitch.  you will purlthe stitches off the back (as they appear as purl towards you) then insert the needle knitise in the next stitch and go back to the front.  If you always remember to knit OFF the front and Purl off the backfollowed by the opposit inserting the needle in the next stitch and repeating it is easy!!

  The only other tricky thing to remember is that the first stitch of both the front and the back is only a "half stitch" and you begin in front with the last part of the formula and insert needle in purlwise, then in the back to insert the second half of the formula by inserting the needle knitwise.

kwkrantz wrote
on Jan 7, 2011 9:52 AM

I agree that it is best to graft your sock toes in one sitting without distraction and without interruption.  That being said, and knowing the realities of life, here's a way to remember where you were if  you are interrupted:

When putting your sock down to answer the phone or take care of a child's emergency, insert your needle into the next stitch in the correct direction  and leave it there.  When you return, you'll know whether you were purling or knitting and, depending up which needle the stitch is on, you automatically know if you are taking it off or leaving it on.

LoriS@10 wrote
on Jan 7, 2011 8:45 AM

Kathleen,   If you're knitting toes up socks, what are you using for your bind off?  I use the sewn/kitchner bind off because it gives me so much control over the elasticity of the bind off.  By default that means that  I have really got kitchner stitch down pat when it comes to doing toes.

on Jan 7, 2011 8:27 AM

The best sock toe method I've discovered is from Priscilla Gibson-Roberts's book Simple Socks Plain and Fancy. in which a Short Row Heel is also adapted for use as a toe.  I've never taken to toe-up sock knitting, and I've only rarely resorted to the Short Row Heel, but as a toe, it's present in almost every sock I've knitted in the 10 years I've used this book.

KendallF wrote
on Jan 7, 2011 7:48 AM

You need to learn the kitchener mantra.  Repeat after me:

Front needle:

Knt one take it off

Purl one leave it on

Back needle:

Purl one take it off

Knit one leave it on

Once you get the hang of it you can leave out the Front needle, Back needle lines.  Then it's just:

Knt one take it off

Purl one leave it on

Purl one take it off

Knit one leave it on

I was never able to remember how to kitchener until the Amazing Sherri in Tulsa taught me the mantra.  

PamV wrote
on Jan 7, 2011 7:33 AM

You need to try two at a time socks -- Melissa Morgan-Oakes did a great book about it.  I was lucky enough to take a class from her this past summer and the technique is BRILLIANT, completely takes away 'second sock syndrome' and her Kitchener mantra is worth the price of the book all by itself.  

It also translates well to other pieces - I knit a pair of mittens for Christmas using her method and plan to do the next pair of in-the-round sleeves that way too.