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5 Grafting Myths: MYTH #4

Jan 31, 2014

MYTH #4: THERE IS A UNIVERSAL FORMULA THAT CAN BE APPLIED TO GRAFTING ANY PATTERN.

Formulas (in the form of short mantras or chants) are often used in grafting to make the steps easier to remember. A popular formula for Kitchener stitch (stockinette stitch grafting), for example, goes something like this: "knit off, purl on, purl off, knit on." But most of these formulas have one major drawback: they are so specific to the particular stitch pattern being grafted that a new formula must be used every time the pattern changes. A formula for reverse stockinette stitch would be, "purl off, knit on, knit off, purl on." If you are grafting in garter stitch, the formula would either be, "purl off, knit on, purl off, knit on," or "knit off, purl on, knit off, purl on," depending on how you ended the pattern on the front and back needles. And things can get even more complicated with stitch patterns such as ribbing or seed stitch that have both knit and purl stitches across a row. At some point, a "pattern-specific" formula isn't feasible. 

This is why some knitters use what is often referred to as a "universal" formula for grafting. The term "universal" implies that the formula, instead of being limited to a specific stitch pattern, is based on general rules that can be applied to a variety of stitch patterns (e.g., the first pass of the grafting yarn through a stitch will always be the opposite of the stitch that is being created; the second pass will always be the same). 

But just how universal are these formulas? (The fact that there is more than one formula might be a clue to the answer to that question.) In this post, we'll look at three popular grafting formulas to see how they work—and when they don't.

Note: Throughout this post, I'll be using a combination of charts, written instructions and illustrations to describe the grafting formulas. Since the grafting charts are my own invention, I thought I'd start with a brief tutorial to show how they work. You may even want to use them for grafting your own projects, as I do with all mine. They are very easy to create and don't require any special computer skills (I just use a pen and pencil) or artistic ability (you only have to draw squares, and you can use graph paper if you want the squares to be nice and straight).


I use a white square to represent a grafted knit stitch and a gray square to represent a grafted purl stitch.




As with any stitch chart, the number of boxes drawn will depend on the pattern multiple, with a minimum of two boxes each for the front and back needle. For top-to-top grafting, the boxes that represent the stitches on the back needle are shifted a half stitch to the left, just as they will be when the stitches are grafted.

The grafting yarn must pass through each stitch on each needle two times. I use letters to represent the knitwise or purlwise direction in which the grafting yarn is drawn through the stitch for each pass, the letter "K" for knitwise, and the letter "P" for purlwise. Since I'm right-handed and graft the stitches from right to left, I draw the steps for each stitch in that direction.The letter on the right side of each box represents the first pass through the live stitch (the stitch remains on the needle after this pass) and the letter on the left side represents the second pass through the stitch (the stitch is removed from the needle after this pass).

The relative position of the letters inside each box will determine whether it's a grafted knit stitch or purl stitch. In stockinette stitch grafting (Kitchener stitch), a knit stitch is created on the front needle when the grafting yarn is drawn through a stitch first purlwise (leaving the stitch on the needle), then knitwise (removing the stitch from the needle).

In stockinette stitch grafting, purl stitches on the back needle are grafted with the wrong side of the work facing, resulting in knit stitches on the right side of the work (just as stockinette stitch is created by knitting on right-side rows and purling on wrong-side rows). Since the chart represents the work as it's viewed from the right side, the squares for the back needle are also white (to represent knit stitches), but the grafting steps in each box are the reverse of those in the front needle boxes. Thus, on the back needle, the grafting yarn is drawn through a stitch first knitwise (leaving the stitch on the needle), then purlwise (removing the stitch from the needle).

To follow the chart, start at the right-hand side of the lower row and alternate between the front and back needle just as for traditional Kitchener stitch:

Two set-up steps
Step 1 Front needle: Purlwise, on.
Step 2 Back needle: Knitwise, on.

Repeated sequence (outlined in red)
Step 3 Front needle: (first stitch) Knitwise, off; (next stitch) Purlwise, on.
Step 4 Back needle: (first stitch) Purlwise, off; (next stitch) Knitwise, on.
Repeat Steps 3-4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.

Ending steps
Step 5 Front needle: Knitwise, off.
Step 6 Back needle: Purlwise, off.

The illustration below shows the stitches as they sit on the front and back needles, with the right side of the front needle and the wrong side of the back needle facing. The gray yarn shows the path of the grafting yarn through each stitch on the front and back needle. 

As the illustration shows, the grafting results in a knit row on the front needle and a purl row on the back needle.

The next illustration shows the grafting as viewed from the right side of the work, with two repeats of the four-step sequence shown.

A chart for k1, p1 ribbing (beginning and ending with a k1) would need three boxes for each needle because the pattern is a multiple of two stitches, plus one. Notice that the letters in the white squares that represent knit stitches on each needle are in the same position inside the boxes as for stockinette stitch grafting, but the letters in the gray squares that represent purl stitches are reversed on each needle. On the front needle, a purl stitch is created when the grafting yarn is drawn through a stitch first knitwise (leaving the stitch on the needle), then purlwise (removing the stitch from the needle). On the back needle, a purl stitch (as viewed from the right side of the work) is created when the grafting yarn is drawn through a stitch first purlwise (leaving the stitch on the needle), then knitwise (removing the stitch from the needle).

 
To follow the chart, start at the right-hand side of the lower row.

Two set-up steps
Step 1 Front needle: Purlwise, on.
Step 2 Back needle: Knitwise, on.

  Repeated sequence
Step 3 Front needle: (first stitch) Knitwise, off; (next stitch) Knitwise, on.
Step 4 Back needle: (first stitch) Purlwise, off; (next stitch) Purlwise, on.
Step 5 Front needle: (first stitch) Purlwise, off; (next stitch) Purlwise, on.
Step 6 Back needle: (first stitch) Knitwise, off; (next stitch) Knitwise, on.
Repeat Steps 3-6 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.

Ending steps
Step 7 Front needle: Knitwise, off.
Step 8 Back needle: Purlwise, off.

 This is what the grafted stitches (shown in gray below) look like when the stitches are on the needles. The knit stitch columns on the front needle will appear as purl stitch columns on the back needle, and vice versa.


This illustration shows the grafting as viewed from the right side of the work, with two repeats of the eight-step sequence shown.


GRAFTING FORMULAS

Same off, opposite on
With this formula, the grafting steps are determined by how the stitches present themselves on the needles as the work is facing you. It's the equivalent of "knitting the knit stitches and purling the purl stitches." The mantra, "same off, opposite on," refers to the repeated sequence. The set-up steps are the "opposite on" part of the mantra and the ending steps are the "same off" part.

Two set-up steps opposite on
Step 1 Front needle: (knit stitch facing on RS) Purlwise, on.
Step 2 Back needle: (purl stitch facing on WS) Knitwise, on.
Repeated sequence same off, opposite on
Step 3 Front needle: (knit stitch facing) Knitwise, off; (knit stitch facing) Purlwise, on.
Step 4 Back needle: (purl stitch facing) Purlwise, off; (purl stitch facing) Knitwise, on.
Repeat Steps 3-4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.
Ending steps same off
Step 5 Front needle: (knit stitch facing) Knitwise, off.
Step 6 Back needle: (purl stitch facing) Purlwise, off


The same formula can be used for k1, p1 ribbing.

Two set-up steps opposite on
Step 1 Front needle: (knit stitch facing) Purlwise, on.
Step 2 Back needle: (purl stitch facing) Knitwise, on.
Repeated sequence same off, opposite on
Step 3 Front needle: (knit stitch facing) Knitwise, off; (purl stitch facing) Knitwise, on.
Step 4 Back needle: (purl stitch facing) Purlwise, off; (knit stitch facing) Purlwise, on.
Step 5 Front needle: (purl stitch facing) Purlwise, off; (knit stitch facing) Purlwise, on.
Step 6 Back needle: (knit stitch facing) Knitwise, off; (purl stitch facing) Knitwise, on.
Repeat Steps 3-6 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.
Ending steps same off
Step 7 Front needle: (knit stitch facing) Knitwise, off.
Step 8 Back needle: (purl stitch facing) Purlwise, off.

Since the previous formula depends on matching the stitch as it appears on the needle, it cannot be used for stitch patterns such as garter stitch or seed stitch that change from row to row. For those stitch patterns, the grafting formula must be reversed

For the following examples of garter stitch grafting, I've included the last row worked on each needle to show that the stitches that are being grafted are the opposite of the stitches as they appear on the needle. Notice that the steps for grafting on both needles are the same because you're actually creating the exact same row on both needles, one on the right side of the work and one on the wrong side. 

 

Opposite off, same on
Garter Stitch (knit stitches created on the front needle with the right side facing, and knit stitches created on the back needle with the wrong side facing)
Two set-up steps same on
Step 1 Front needle: (purl stitch facing) Purlwise, on.
Step 2 Back needle: (purl stitch facing) Purlwise, on.
 
Repeated sequence opposite off, same on
Step 3 Front needle: (purl stitch facing) Knitwise, off; (purl stitch facing) Purlwise, on.
Step 4 Back needle: (purl stitch facing) Knitwise, off; (purl stitch facing) Purlwise, on.
Repeat Steps 3-4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.
Ending steps opposite off
Step 5 Front needle: (purl stitch facing) Knitwise, off.
Step 6 Back needle: (purl stitch facing) Knitwise, off.

The gray yarn in the illustration below shows the grafted stitches as they appear on the needles, with four repeated sequences. A knit row is created on each needle by going through each stitch purlwise and knitwise.

 


Here is the grafted row as it would appear when the work is laid flat. In this configuration, the work most closely resembles the charted grafting. Working a knit row on each needle results in a continuation of the garter stitch pattern.

 

Garter Stitch (purl stitches created on the front needle with the right side facing, and purl stitches created on the back needle with the wrong side facing)
  Two set-up steps same on
Step 1 Front needle: (knit stitch facing) Knitwise, on.
Step 2 Back needle: (knit stitch facing) Knitwise, on.
Repeated sequence opposite off, same on
Step 3 Front needle: (knit stitch facing) Purlwise, off; (knit stitch facing) Knitwise, on.
Step 4 Back needle: (knit stitch facing) Purlwise, off; (knit stitch facing) Knitwise, on.
Repeat Steps 3-4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.
Ending steps opposite off
Step 5 Front needle: (knit stitch facing) Purlwise, off.
Step 6 Back needle: (knit stitch facing) Purlwise, off.

The gray yarn in this illustration shows the grafted stitches as they appear on the needles, with four repeated sequences. A purl row is created on each needle by going through each stitch knitwise and purlwise.

 

Here is the grafted row as it would appear when the work is laid flat. Working a purl row on each needle results in a continuation of the garter stitch pattern.

Same, opposite, opposite, same
This formula comes closer to being universal than the other two formulas because, instead of being dependent on how the stitches appear on the needles, it is based on the type of stitch that will result when the stitches are grafted (which may or may not be the same as the stitches on the needles). Although this formula is very adaptable, I find it somewhat difficult to use because there is no visual reference that helps me to know what to do at any given step along the way. You simply have to remember what type of stitch needs to be grafted and adjust the steps accordingly. I like having something to refer to when I graft, especially if I'm grafting a stitch pattern that involves a lot of switching back and forth between knit and purl stitches.

The instructions don't include removing or leaving the stitch on the needle, only the directions for inserting the tapestry needle into each stitch on both passes, which will either be the same as or the opposite of the stitch that is being created. The four steps of the repeated sequence consist of the two steps on the front needle and two steps on the back needle.

Two set-up steps opposite, same
Step 1 Front needle: (knit stitch created) Purlwise.
Step 2 Back needle: (knit stitch created) Knitwise.
Repeated sequence same, opposite, opposite, same
Step 3 Front needle: (knit stitch created) Knitwise; (knit stitch created) Purlwise.
Step 4 Back needle: (knit stitch created) Purlwise; (knit stitch created) Knitwise.
Repeat Steps 3-4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.
Ending steps same, opposite
Step 5 Front needle: (knit stitch created) Knitwise.
Step 6 Back needle: (knit stitch created) Purlwise.

The same formula can be used for k1, p1 ribbing and garter stitch.

Two set-up steps opposite, same
Step 1 Front needle: (knit stitch created) Purlwise.
Step 2 Back needle: (knit stitch created) Knitwise.

 

  Repeated sequence same, opposite, opposite, same
Step 3 Front needle: (knit stitch created) Knitwise; (purl stitch created) Knitwise.
Step 4 Back needle: (knit stitch created) Purlwise; (purl stitch created) Purlwise.
Step 5 Front needle: (purl stitch created) Purlwise; (knit stitch created) Purlwise.
Step 6 Back needle: (purl stitch created) Knitwise; (knit stitch created) Knitwise.
Repeat Steps 3-6 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.

Ending steps same, opposite
Step 7 Front needle: (knit stitch created) Knitwise.
Step 8 Back needle: (knit stitch created) Purlwise.
Garter Stitch (knit stitches created on the front needle, purl stitches created on the back needle)

Two set-up steps opposite, same
Step 1 Front needle: (knit stitch created) Purlwise.
Step 2 Back needle: (purl stitch created) Purlwise.

Repeated sequence same, opposite, opposite, same 
Step 3 Front needle: (knit stitch created) Knitwise; (knit stitch created) Purlwise.
Step 4 Back needle: (purl stitch created) Knitwise; (purl stitch created) Purlwise.
Repeat Steps 3-4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.
Ending steps same, opposite
Step 5 Front needle: (knit stitch created) Knitwise.
Step 6 Back needle: (purl stitch created) Knitwise.
Garter Stitch (purl stitches created on the front needle, knit stitches created on the back needle)
Two set-up steps opposite, same
Step 1 Front needle: (purl stitch created) Knitwise.
Step 2 Back needle: (knit stitch created) Knitwise.
Repeated sequence same, opposite, opposite, same 
Step 3 Front needle: (purl stitch created) Purlwise; (purl stitch created) Knitwise.
Step 4 Back needle: (knit stitch created) Purlwise; (knit stitch created) Knitwise.
Repeat Steps 3-4 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.
Ending steps same, opposite
Step 5 Front needle: (purl stitch created) Purlwise.
Step 6 Back needle: (knit stitch created) Purlwise.

One thing that all three of these formulas have in common is that they only really work when the stitches are grafted top-to-top. They don't work as well when the stitches are grafted top-to-bottom, at least not when the grafting consists of a combination of knit and purl stitches (with stockinette and garter stitch, it doesn't really matter which direction the stitches have been worked, the grafting will be pretty much the same).


When a pattern such as k1, p1 ribbing is grafted top-to-bottom, the stitches on the front needle look the same as they do when they're grafted top-to-top, but the stitches on the back needle look quite different. Because the loops on the back needle are the bottoms of the cast-on stitches, each loop on the back needle will appear as half-knit/half purl, or half-purl/half-knit, and this creates a difficulty when you're trying to match the stitches on the needles or to create them in the same way as the stitches on the front needle.
 
 

In my next post, I'll show you how to graft a pattern that contains both knit and purl stitches top-to-bottom, without using a formula. If you'd like to join me in a GAL (Graft-a-Long), I'll be grafting the Partly Cloudy Cowl from Knits Winter 2014. Here's how I set up the pattern for grafting: I cast on using the crochet chain provisional method, just as the pattern directed, leaving a tail on the cast-on row long enough for grafting (about four times the width of the cowl). Then I skipped the set-up row and worked Rows 30-32 of the chart. I repeated Rows 1-32 until the cowl was the length I wanted, and then I worked Rows 1-27 once more. 

In future posts, I'll show you how you can graft other stitch patterns for which there are no formulas. These will include lace patterns that require actually working decreases and yarn overs on the grafted row (not grafting in stockinette stitch over a pattern row), cables, and even twisted stitches. There are all kinds of things you can do simply by drawing yarn through loops with a tapestry needle!


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Inside Knits wrote
on Dec 16, 2014 6:13 PM

Joni's Grafting Blogs Does a Grafted Row Count as One or Two Pattern Rows? (Part 1) Grafting In Pattern