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5 Grafting Myths: MYTH #4 (Part 2) More on Grafting Formulas

Mar 4, 2014

In this, the second part of my post about grafting formulas, I'll look at another popular formula for grafting ribbing (with any combination of knit and purl stitches). This formula uses the first two stitches on the front needle as a guide for the four grafting steps––two steps on the front needle and two steps on the back needle––to be worked at any given time. The idea is that, since there are only four possible pair combinations in any ribbing pattern (two knit stitches, two purl stitches, a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch, and a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch), it is only necessary to remember four four–step grafting sequences.

But, as with the other formulas we discussed in the last post, it's not quite as simple as some tutorials suggest. With this particular formula, because the focus is primarily on what is happening on the front needle, there is a tendency to ignore the stitches on the back needle and whether the stitches are being grafted top-to-top or top-to-bottom. But this is a very important distinction. The fact is, there are two different formulas, one for each type of grafting, and the correct one must be used if the desired effect is going to be achieved.

In this post, we'll look at both formulas and how they can be used when grafting k1, p1 rib and k2, p2 rib top-to-top and top-to-bottom. I'll also show you an alternate method for grafting stitches top-to-bottom that I feel makes the steps easier to follow. This alternate method is also more versatile, especially when the pattern contains stitches other than plain knit or purl stitches, or when the pattern that is being grafted on the back needle is different from the pattern on the front needle.

Grafting k1, p1 ribbing top-to-top


This simple chart represents the relative position of stitches on the front and back needles in top-to-top grafting, with five loops on the front needle and five loops on the back needle. The stitches on the back needle shift to the left a half stitch. (If you are a mirror-knitter and graft stitches from left to right, the stitches on the back needle will shift to the right a half-stitch, which means that the chart symbols representing the stitches on the back needle should shift that direction as well. And the grafting steps would be followed from left to right, instead of right to left.)


The shaded boxes represent grafted purl stitches on both needles (as viewed from the right side of the work) and the white boxes represent grafted knit stitches.

     When a knit stitch is grafted on the front needle, the grafting yarn goes through a loop on the needle first purlwise (and the stitch remains on the needle) and then knitwise (the stitch is removed from the needle). When a purl stitch is grafted on the front needle, the grafting yarn goes through a loop on the needle knitwise (the stitch remains on the needle) and purlwise (the stitch is removed from the needle). When a knit stitch is grafted on the back needle, the grafting yarn goes through a loop on the needle knitwise (the stitch remains on the needle) and purlwise (the stitch is removed from the needle). When a purl stitch is grafted, the grafting yarn goes through a loop on the needle purlwise (the stitch remains on the needle) and knitwise (the stitch is removed from the needle).

After working the first two set–up steps, the repeated sequences (the eight steps inside the red box on the chart) begin. This is where the formula kicks in. In k1, p1 ribbing, two different four-step sequences (eight steps total) will be repeated: one for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch, and one for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch.

Two set–up steps:
Front Needle Purlwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, on.

*Four–step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle
Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four–step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.

Repeat from * until one stitch remains on each needle.

Ending steps:
Front Needle Knitwise, off.
Back Needle Purlwise, off.

Grafting k2, p2 ribbing top-to-top

 For k2, p2 ribbing, four different four–step sequences (sixteen steps total) will be repeated: one for a knit stitch followed by a knit stitch, one for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch, one for a purl stitch followed by a purl stitch, and one for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch.         

Two set-up steps:
Front Needle Purlwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, on.

*Four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle
Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.

Repeat from * until two stitches remain on each needle.

Next four steps:
Work one four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a knit stitch.

Ending steps:
Front Needle Knitwise, off.
Back Needle Purlwise, off. 

Grafting k1, p1 ribbing top-to-bottom 

This chart represents the relative position of stitches on the front and back needles in top-to-bottom grafting. Here's where the difference between the two types of grafting first becomes apparent. While there are five loops on the front needle, there are only four loops on the back needle. When you pick up the bottoms of loops (which are actually the running threads between the live working loops) and place them on the back needle in preparation for grafting, there will be one fewer loop than the number of live stitches on the front needle. (If knitting directions tell you to pick up the same number of loops as are on the front needle, they generally assume that you will be able to fudge by picking up an extra stitch at the edge. This is an easy solution to the one-stitch shortfall.)
          

The other difference between the stitches on the front needle and the stitches on the back needle, at least when it comes to ribbing patterns, is the location of the transition points between knit and purl stitches. On the front needle, the transitions are between the stitches, and on the back needle the transitions are within the stitches themselves. In k1, p1 rib, each loop on the back needle is half-knit/half-purl or half-purl/half-knit. Many knitters mistakenly believe that the reason there is a half-stitch jog with top-to-top grafting and not with top-to-bottom grafting is because in the one case the stitches shift to the left a half-stitch and in the other they don't. In reality, the stitches are misaligned in both cases, but because the transitions on the back needle fall in the middle of the loops in top-to-bottom grafting, it's possible to align the transitions with those on the front needle.

 The grafting steps for the front needle are exactly the same as for top-to-top grafting, but the steps for the back needle are very different: the grafting yarn will go through each half-knit/half-purl stitch knitwise (the stitch remains on the needle) and knitwise (the stitch is removed from the needle) and will go through each half-purl/half-knit stitch purlwise (the stitch remains on the needle) and purlwise (the stitch is removed from the needle).

Looking only at the repeated sequence (the steps inside the red box on the chart), we can compare the steps to those of top-to-top grafting (with the differences noted in red below).

Four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle
Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle
Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on. 

Grafting k2, p2 ribbing top-to-bottom 

    This chart shows the transitions between knit and purl stitches and the grafting steps on both needles in k2, p2 ribbing. Notice how the transitions between knit and purls on both needles should align vertically.

     Looking only at the repeated sequence, we can see the differences between top-to-top and top-to-bottom grafting (with the differences noted in red below).

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle
Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle
Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on. 

A better approach to grafting top-to-bottom

Personally, I think the formula works best for grafting top-to-top because the repeated sequences follow the same half-stitch jog as the pattern itself (which can be seen by comparing the red repeat box on the charts to the knit/purl pattern on both chart rows). I find it much easier (and more versatile) to graft stitches top-to-bottom if I make the grafting repeat and the transition lines between knit and purl stitches consistent. The grafting formula described above tends to obscure the fact that the knit and purl transitions align vertically when that's the very thing that makes grafting top-to-bottom so much easier than grafting top-to-top.

     As we saw earlier, the alignment of knit and purl stitches on the front needle with half-knit/half-purl stitches on the back needle results in perfectly aligned knit and purl stitch columns. Notice, however, that there is a half-stitch "notch" at each side of the back needle stitches because of the one-stitch shortfall. This means that the knit stitch column at each side is missing one step.


These notches can easily be filled in by picking up a stitch at one edge and creating a stitch at the other edge using the cast-on tail. Not only does this complete the knit columns at each side, it also makes the edges nice and smooth. In my grafting charts, I usually represent the stitches on the back needle with dashed lines.

   

Each grafted knit and purl stitch column consists of four steps:
Knit stitch column
Front Needle
Purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off.
Back Needle Knitwise, on.
Front Needle Knitwise, off.

Purl stitch column
Front Needle Knitwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off.
Back Needle Purlwise, on.
Front Needle Purlwise, off. 

 

Notice how the repeated grafting sequences and the knit/purl transitions are now aligned with each other.
 

One repeated sequence can be deleted to make the chart even smaller.

If you compare this chart to the one above, you can see how much simpler the grafting becomes.     

 The same principles can be applied to k2, p2 ribbing grafted top-to-bottom.

    Pick up a half–loop at each side to complete the first and last knit stitch column.

The ribbing pattern begins and ends with two knit columns.

The repeated sequence consists of two knit columns and two purl columns.

     One of the biggest advantages of using this method is that each grafted stitch on the front and back needle can be directly applied to the stitch pattern charts from the project to create completely customized grafting cheat sheets. I'll show how I did just that when I grafted the Partly Cloudy Cowl from Knits Winter 2014 and the Hope Chest Scarf (which I converted to a cowl) from Knits Holiday Gifts 2013.

Grafting the Partly Cloudy Cowl from Interweave Knits, Winter 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

      
 I made this cowl, designed by Bonnie Sennott, and wanted to graft the two ends instead of using a three-needle bind-off. I cast on 42 stitches provisionally, leaving a tail about 40" long for grafting. (how to do a crochet chain provisional CO)

The Cowl chart consists of 32 rows. Because the grafted join will continue the pattern without interruption, I could start with any chart row that would work best for the grafting (usually two plain rows) and I chose Row 28 for the front needle graft and Row 29 for the back needle graft because both rows contain only knit and purl stitches. After casting on, I worked Rows 30–32 of the chart once, then repeated Rows 1–32 until the cowl was the length I wanted. I worked Rows 1–27 once more and broke the yarn.

 

 I placed the provisional cast-on stitches on the circular needle, beginning with the half-loop at the edge opposite the cast-on tail. 

   
I usually place the loops on the needle before removing the crochet chain so that I can be sure all the stitches are accounted for and that they are oriented correctly on the needle. This is especially helpful when there is a cable (as in this pattern) or yarnovers worked in the first couple of rows above the cast-on that can distort the cast-on loops.
Next, I created another half-loop at the edge using the cast-on tail, for a total number of cast-on loops on the needle of 43 (as versus 42 stitches on the front needle).
 Then I unzipped the chain.
I placed the needles together, making sure the cowl wasn't twisted, with the needle holding the cast-on stitches and grafting yarn in the back.

 

 

For my grafting "cheat sheet," I made a chart based on Rows 28 and 29 of the Cowl chart. I was able to reduce the grafting chart to just 7 boxes by combining symbols that were similar. The grafting chart begins with 2 stitches in garter stitch (a grafted purl stitch on the front needle and a grafted knit stitch on the back needle), then 1 stitch in reverse Stockinette stitch (grafted purl stitches on both needles), then 8 stitches in Stockinette stitch (grafted knit stitches on both needles), 1 stitch in reverse Stockinette stitch, 27 stitches in Stockinette stitch, 1 stitch in reverse Stockinette stitch, and ends with 2 stitches in garter stitch.


Here are the grafting steps written out:

Steps 1–4 (work 2 times)
Step 1: Front Needle Knitwise, on.
Step 2: Back Needle Purlwise, off.
Step 3: Back Needle Knitwise, on.
Step 4: Front Needle Purlwise, off.

Steps 5–8 (work 1 time)
Step 5: Front Needle Knitwise, on.
Step 6: Back Needle Knitwise, off.
Step 7: Back Needle Purlwise, on.
Step 8: Front Needle Purlwise, off.

Steps 9–12 (work 8 times)
Step 9: Front Needle Purlwise, on.
Step 10: Back Needle Purlwise, off.
Step 11: Back Needle Knitwise, on.
Step 12: Front Needle Knitwise, off.

Steps 13–16 (work 1 time)
Work as for Steps 5–8.

Steps 17–20 (work 27 times)
Work as for Steps 9–12.

Steps 21–24 (work 1 time)
Work as for Steps 5–8.

Steps 25–28 (work 2 times)
Work as for Steps 1–4.

This photo shows the first 17 grafted stitches.
This photo shows the completed graft.

 Grafting the Hope Chest Scarf (turned Cowl) from Interweave Knits Gifts, 2013

I love the twisted stitch pattern that Angela Tong used for her scarf, and thought it would also make for an interesting cowl. I cast on provisionally, just as I did for the Partly Cloudy Cowl, but in this case, I did not need to leave a long tail for grafting because I would be using the yarn from the front needle to graft the stitches.

 

 

                                                    
      
The Body chart pattern is a multiple of 4 stitches, plus 3, so I cast on 55 stitches. The chart consists of 6 rows and I used Rows 3 and 4 for grafting (Row 3 for the front needle graft and Row 4 for the back needle graft). (Notice that Row 3 has twisted stitches. Grafting these on the front needle is simply a matter of reorienting the stitch on the needle in a twisted position before grafting in Stockinette stitch as usual.) I worked Rows 5 and 6 of the chart once, then repeated Rows 1–6 of the chart until the cowl was the desired length. I worked Rows 1 and 2 once more. I broke the yarn, leaving a 45" tail for grafting. I picked up the two half-stitches at the edges of the cast-on row just as I did for the Partly Cloudy Cowl so that I had 56 stitches on the back needle and 55 stitches on the front needle when I started grafting. 
Again, for my cheat sheet I was able to combine chart symbols that were similar, thus reducing the grafting chart to just 9 boxes. I also outlined a repeated sequence (to correspond to the Body chart's 4-stitch repeat) in red. The grafting chart begins with 4 stitches in garter stitch (a grafted knit stitch on the front needle and a grafted purl stitch on the back needle), then a 16-step repeat: 1 stitch in garter stitch (a grafted purl stitch on the front needle and a grafted knit stitch on the back needle), 1 stitch in Stockinette stitch (with a grafted twisted knit stitch on the front needle and a grafted knit stitch on the back needle), 1 stitch in garter stitch (a grafted purl stitch on the front needle and a grafted knit stitch on the back needle), 1 stitch in garter stitch (a grafted knit stitch on the front needle and a grafted purl stitch on the back needle). The 16-step sequence is repeated until 7 stitches remain on the front needle and 8 stitches remain on the back needle. The next 3 stitches are worked as for the first 3 stitches of the repeated sequence, then the last 4 stitches are worked as for the first 4 stitches of the chart.

Here are the grafting steps written out:
Steps 1–4 (worked 4 times)
Step 1: Front Needle Purlwise, on.
Step 2: Back Needle Knitwise, off.
Step 3: Back Needle Purlwise, on.
Step 4: Front Needle Knitwise, off.

Steps 5–8 (worked 1 time)
Step 5: Front Needle Knitwise, on.
Step 6: Back Needle Purlwise, off.
Step 7: Back Needle Knitwise, on.
Step 8: Front Needle Purlwise, off.

Steps 9–12 (worked 1 time)

  Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl through the back loop and slip it off the needle.

 

 

 

Then return the twisted stitch to the needle and proceed as for Stockinette stitch grafting.

Step 9: Front Needle Purlwise, on.
Step 10: Back Needle Purlwise, off.
Step 11: Back Needle Knitwise, on.
Step 12: Front Needle Knitwise, off.

Steps 13–16 (worked 1 time)
Work as for Steps 5–8.

Steps 17–20 (worked 1 time)
Work as for Steps 1–4.

Repeat Steps 5–20 until 7 stitches remain on the front needle and 8 stitches remain on the back needle.

Steps 21–32 (worked 1 time)
Work as for Steps 5–16.

Steps 33–36 (worked 4 times)
Work as for Steps 1–4.

.
 This photo shows five repeated sequences completed
The marker in this photo indicates where the stitches were grafted together. The grafting should not be distinguishable from any other pattern rows.
And here's the completed cowl!


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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