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5 Grafting Myths: MYTH #1

Jul 9, 2013

Today I'm pleased to be able to continue my exploration of what I believe may be one of the most misunderstood techniques in all of knitting: grafting. It's also one of my favorite knitting techniques to use and teach. My first 3 posts dealt with grafting top-to-top, top-to-bottom, and circularly. The next 5 posts will deal with some common misconceptions about grafting that can be confusing to knitters. Later in the series, I will show you how to graft yarn overs, decreases, cables, and many more stitches. So get out your yarn and needles and join the expedition!

Grafting is a seaming technique that is used to join two sets of live stitches while maintaining the stitch pattern of the pieces being grafted. When properly executed, the result is a seam that is nearly undetectable, and which can greatly enhance the look (and feel) of the knitted garment.

But its virtue as an invisible seam that perfectly mimics the stitch pattern can also make it a difficult technique to master. Recreating a stitch pattern using a tapestry needle and a long strand of yarn while joining two sets of live stitches can often seem like an exercise in futility. Moreover, the complexity of the grafting increases in direct proportion to the complexity of the stitch pattern. In spite of its inherent difficulties, however, it's a technique that's growing in popularity. More and more designers are constructing garments that call for at least some grafting (in a variety of stitch patterns).

Here are just a few of the projects from our past issues that call for at least some grafting:





 

 Eloen cowl
Knitscene, Accessories 2013
Admiral's Knot Halter
Interweave Knits, Summer 2013
 
Trellis Scarf
Interweave Knits, Spring 2013
 

As a result, the number of tutorials that attempt to explain the intricacies of grafting has increased dramatically in the last couple of years. On the one hand, this is a very good thing because there's more information available now than ever before, but it also has a downside.

A comparison of various tutorials reveals that the information is not always consistent from one to the next. So, if there is conflicting advice found in different tutorials, how does one go about determining which is correct? Sometimes, it can be helpful to look at the misconceptions and myths surrounding a subject in order to separate fact from fiction. There are several myths regarding grafting. Let's take a closer look at 5 of the more common ones:

Myth #1: Only knit stitches can be grafted. (Or this variation: It's much easier to graft knit stitches than purl stitches.)
Myth #2: Grafted ribbing will always have a half-stitch jog.
Myth #3: A grafted row is the equivalent of one pattern row.
Myth #4: There is a universal formula that can be applied to grafting any pattern.
Myth #5: The grafting yarn must come from the back needle.

I'm going to focus on Myth #1 in this post; check back for future posts on the other 4 myths.

MYTH #1: ONLY KNIT STITCHES CAN BE GRAFTED.
     Almost any stitch pattern that can be created using knitting needles can be recreated using a tapestry needle and a strand of yarn. It's even possible to recreate yarn overs (by skipping loops) and decreases (by drawing the grafting yarn through more than one loop at a time).
      Take a simple knit stitch, for example. To knit a stitch using knitting needles, the right needle is inserted into a loop on the left needle from front to back, or "knitwise" (Figure 1) to draw a new loop through from back to front (Figure 2). Both “legs” of the new knit stitch are in front of the old loop (Figure 3).





Figure 1
Figure 2 Figure 3
  
      When a knit stitch is recreated by grafting using a tapestry needle, the needle is inserted purlwise into the live loop (Figure 4), and knitwise into the same loop (Figure 5). The completed knit stitch is identical to the stitch created by knitting a stitch using knitting needles (Figure 6).





Figure 4
Figure 5 Figure 6

     To purl a stitch using knitting needles, the right needle is inserted into a loop on the left needle from back to front, or "purlwise" (Figure 7) to draw a new loop through from front to back (Figure 8). Both “legs” of the new purl stitch are behind the old loop (Figure 9) and the top of the old loop forms the familiar purl "bump."





Figure 7 Figure 8 Figure 9

      When a purl stitch is recreated by grafting using a tapestry needle, the needle is inserted knitwise into the live loop (Figure 10), and purlwise into the same loop (Figure 11). The completed purl stitch is identical to the stitch created by purling a stitch using knitting needles (Figure 12).





Figure 10 Figure 11 Figure 12

     If you've ever grafted the toes of socks using Kitchener stitch, it may surprise you to learn that you've already grafted purl stitches.

     During the grafting process, the right side of the work, the knit side, faces you on the front needle and the wrong side of the work, the purl side, faces you on the back needle (Figure 13).

     By following the steps for traditional Kitchener stitch, we can see how stitches are created on both the front and back needles. For purposes of demonstration, the needles have been removed and the grafted stitches on each needle are drawn as if they are two separate rows.

Two set-up steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the first stitch on the front needle and draw the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle (Figure 14).
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the first stitch on the back needle and draw the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle (Figure 15).

 





Figure 13 Figure 14 Figure 15

Repeated steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle, then purlwise into the next stitch on the front needle, leaving the stitch on the needle (Figure 16).
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle, then knitwise into the next stitch on the back needle, leaving the stitch on the needle (Figure 17).
Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until one stitch remains on each needle (Figure 18).

 





Figure 16 Figure 17 Figure 18

Ending steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle. (Figure 19)

As you can see, a knit row has been grafted on the front needle with the right side facing and a purl row has been grafted on the back needle with the wrong side facing (resulting in a knit row facing on the right side). 

How is it that a knit row can be grafted on one needle and a purl row grafted on another needle with only one grafted row? Notice in the drawings how the stitches on the back needle sit between the stitches on the front needle. In top-to-top grafting, the tops of the grafted loops on the back needle form the running threads between the grafted loops on the front needle, and the tops of the grafted loops on the front needle form the running threads between the grafted loops on the back needle (Figure 20).

Grafting a pattern such as k1, p1 rib top-to-top is simply a matter of grafting a knit stitch or a purl stitch as it faces you on the needle, regardless of whether it's on the front needle or the back needle. In the drawing below (Figure 21), the grafted stitches are again shown as two separate rows. The stitches on the front needle begin and end with a knit stitch, while the stitches on the back needle, which are seen from the wrong side, begin and end with a purl stitch.





Figure 19 Figure 20 Figure 21

The written instructions for grafting k1, p1 rib would look like this:

Two set-up steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the first stitch on the front needle and draw the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the first stitch on the back needle and draw the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle.

Repeated steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle, then knitwise into the next stitch on the front needle, leaving the stitch on the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle, then purlwise into the next stitch on the back needle, leaving the stitch on the needle.
Step 3: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle, then purlwise into the next stitch on the front needle, leaving the stitch on the needle.
Step 4: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle, then knitwise into the next stitch on the back needle, leaving the stitch on the needle.
Repeat Steps 1—4 until one stitch remains on each needle.

Ending steps:
Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 2: Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.

 

Figure 22
This illustration (Figure 22) shows what the grafting looks like from the right side of the work. The half-stitch jog in the pattern where the two pieces come together is more noticeable with a stitch pattern like ribbing than with stockinette stitch.

 Next up, Myth #2: Grafted ribbing will always have a half-stitch jog.  I'm looking forward to your participation in our study and always welcome comments and questions!

                                                             Best,
                                                         


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Comments

Inside Knits wrote
on Oct 15, 2013 10:08 AM

MYTH #3: A GRAFTED ROW IS THE EQUIVALENT OF ONE PATTERN ROW (PART 1). *Note The written instructions

Inside Knits wrote
on Oct 14, 2013 8:32 PM

MYTH #3: A GRAFTED ROW IS THE EQUIVALENT OF ONE PATTERN ROW (PART 1). *Note The written instructions

Inside Knits wrote
on Sep 19, 2013 11:09 AM

MYTH #2: GRAFTED RIBBING WILL ALWAYS HAVE A HALF-STITCH JOG. I ended the first post of this series with