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GRAFTING LACE INVISIBLY (it's easier than you think)

Jun 24, 2014

 
When I first saw Lisa Hoffman's lace shawl from our Interweave Knits Summer 2014  issue, I immediately added it to my project list. I was drawn to the three lace patterns used in the shawl, all very different but each one flowing seamlessly into the next.

 

 

 

The scalloped lower edges are formed by a Fan Lace pattern. (Actually, the fans reminded me more of the seashells I used to collect at Pawley's Island, South Carolina where we'd spend a week each summer when I was growing up.) That pattern merges into the Bluebells Lace pattern, with small bobbles that look like berries on the vine (another memory from childhood summers). The vertical panels of meandering vines are separated by a Ribbed Eyelet pattern that eventually forms the main part of the shawl.

Because the Fan Lace and Bluebells Lace can only be worked in one direction, the shawl is worked in two halves and grafted in the center of the Ribbed Eyelet section. One possible drawback of this construction method is that, if the grafting isn't done carefully, it can result in a visible line running down the center of the wearer's back.

                                                                                                                                                       
 I knit my version of the shawl using US size 2 needles and a lace-weight yarn.

                    

                                                                      

                                                                    
The trick to making the join invisible is to recreate as closely as possible the stitch pattern that is being grafted—in this case, the Ribbed Eyelet pattern—using a tapestry needle and a long strand of yarn. Grafting involves more steps than when the stitch pattern was created during the knitting process because it requires two steps for every one step in regular knitting. Not only that, but you are also working with two rows of live stitches at the same time. The more complicated the pattern, the more grafting steps will be involved. One of the simplest (and most common) grafting methods is Kitchener stitch. However, because there are no rows of stockinette stitch in the Ribbed Eyelet pattern, Kitchener stitch will interrupt the pattern and will be noticeable. Another option, since the Ribbed Eyelet pattern is essentially k2, p1 rib, is to use a rib graft. This will be somewhat less noticeable than a Kitchener graft because the purl columns won't be interrupted by knit stitches. But because the grafting would add two rib rows (not one row, as is commonly believed), there will still be a slight interruption to the pattern. The most invisible graft involves grafting both a rib row (Row 2 or 4 of the pattern) on the back needle and a row that contains yarnovers and decreases (Row 1 or 3 of the pattern) on the front needle.

   
Kitchener Stitch Graft K2, Pl Rib Graft Ribbed Eyelet Lace Graft
These three swatches were grafted using the three methods described above. The photos show a Kitchener stitch graft, a k2, p1 rib graft, and a lace graft in the Ribbed Eyelet pattern.

KITCHENER GRAFT
For this swatch, I ended with Row 3 of the Ribbed Eyelet pattern on the front needle piece and Row 1 of the pattern on the back needle piece, and then used Kitchener stitch to graft the live stitches.
Set-up Steps:
Front Needle: Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Kwise, on.

Repeated Sequence:
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Kwise, on.
Rep this sequence until 1 st rems on each needle.

Ending steps:
Front Needle: Kwise, off.
Back Needle: Pwise, off.
The grafting steps are pretty simple (only four steps in the repeated sequence), but using Kitchener stitch between two patterned rows is the equivalent of working two rows of stockinette stitch (and you probably wouldn't consider randomly adding two rows of stockinette in the middle of your shawl while knitting it). So if having an invisible join is a factor for you, you might want to consider one of the next two options.
 
K2, P1 RIB GRAFT
For this swatch, I ended with Row 3 of the Ribbed Eyelet pattern on both the front and back needle pieces, and then grafted in k2, p1 rib. Since it takes two steps in grafting to create one pattern stitch on one needle, a repeated sequence will contain four times as many steps as the stitch repeat of the pattern: 2 steps for each stitch in the pattern repeat, doubled because there are live stitches on each needle (and a different row of the stitch pattern is created on each needle). The pattern repeat in k2, p1 rib has 3 stitches, which means that the repeated sequence when grafting in this pattern will contain 6 steps for each needle, or 12 steps total.
Set-up Steps:
Front Needle: Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Kwise, on.

Repeated Sequence:
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Pwise on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise on.
Back Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Rep this sequence until 1 st rem on each needle.

Ending Steps:
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Pwise on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off.
Back Needle: Pwise, off.
 
RIBBED EYELET LACE GRAFT
Out of the 3 grafting methods, this one conforms most closely to the Ribbed Eyelet pattern, and therefore is the most invisible (in spite of the fact that there is a half-stitch jog where the two pieces meet top-to-top). Because the grafting is more complex than Kitchener stitch, I created a cheat sheet using the Ribbed Eyelet chart from the shawl pattern. It's a quick way to create step-by-step instructions for what would otherwise be a fairly complicated process.

To create the cheat sheet, I first made several copies of the chart and experimented with different scenarios to see which two rows of the chart to use for the grafting. Since the patterns were going to be grafted top-to-top, I turned one chart upside down.

I finally decided that this configuration most closely resembled the Ribbed Eyelet pattern when it was knit continuously because the decreases alternate between right and left-slanting. Here, the yarnovers look as if they will align vertically, but with the half-stitch jog that occurs when grafting stitches top-to-top, the yarnovers on the back needle will shift to the left a half-stitch.
I isolated the two chart rows at the juncture between the two charts to use for the grafting, one row below the juncture and one row above it. I will graft Row 3 on the front needle and Row 2 on the back needle. The shawl pattern also has a 3-stitch Seed stitch border at each side created by working k1, p1, k1 on every row, which I included in the grafting.
I then created a "cheat sheet" for the grafting using just those two rows of the chart (plus the Seed stitch borders), writing the grafting steps in each box. Where the chart contained dots for purl symbols, I shaded the boxes so that I could write in them. I also shifted the back needle graft over a half stitch to the left since that's what happens when stitches are grafted top-to-top. A knit stitch is created on the front needle when the grafting yarn is drawn through a loop purlwise, then knitwise so I wrote "P" then "K" in the blank boxes on the lower row (working from right to left, just as I graft across the row). A purl stitch is created on the front needle by drawing the grafting yarn through a loop knitwise, then purlwise so the shaded boxes on the lower row contain a "K" and a "P."  Grafting a yarnover is simply a matter of skipping steps so the boxes with yarnover symbols don't get any letters. K2tog decreases are grafted using the same steps as knit stitches, only going through 2 stitches at a time instead of one (as if to p2tog for the first pass and as if to k2tog for the second pass). The stitches on the back needle are grafted with the wrong side of the work facing, so the steps for creating knit and purl stitches (as viewed from the right side of the work) are the opposite of those on the front needle. Each knit stitch box receives the letters "K" and "P" and each purl stitch box receives the letters "P" and "K." The arrows show the path the grafting yarn takes through the stitches, starting with the first stitch on the front needle at the right-hand side of the chart. The first time the grafting yarn passes through a stitch (or stitches) on the needle, the stitch remains on the needle (this first pass is represented by the first letter in each box). The second time the grafting yarn passes through a stitch (or stitches) on the needle, the stitch is removed from the needle (the second pass is represented by the second letter in each box). The grafting repeat (outlined in red) begins and ends in the middle of a chart symbol because it starts with the second pass through a stitch and ends with the first pass.

 

 


Here are the steps written out. Notice that some of the steps on the front needle (either an "off" step or an "on" step) seem to be missing; this is where the yarnovers in the lace pattern occur (except for the first set-up steps and the last ending steps). The steps that involve going through 2 stitches at the same time are the k2tog decreases. The repeated sequence is worked over 12 stitches, just as for k2, p1 rib grafting. And just as for the Ribbed Eyelet pattern, the yarnovers balance the decreases so the stitch count remains the same.

Set-up Steps: 
Front Needle: Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Back Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off.
Back Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
 
Repeated Sequence:
Front Needle: Pwise through 2 sts, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise through 2 sts, off; Kwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Pwise, off. 
Back Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Rep this sequence until 5 sts rem on each needle.

Ending Steps:
Front Needle: Pwise through 2 sts, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise through 2 sts, off; Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Back Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off.
Back Needle: Kwise, off.
 
While grafting in pattern may involve more steps than grafting using Kitchener stitch, it doesn't have to be difficult. As with any other skill, it just takes a bit of practice. And if you have step-by-step instructions to follow, it shouldn't be more difficult than following any other knitting pattern. Here are some tips that might make the process a little easier:


Take it slowly and stop frequently. I usually stop after every couple of repeats of the grafting sequence to take a couple of breaths (it's important to stay relaxed!) and to check my last few grafted stitches.
Create "rules" for yourself that you follow consistently. Here are a few of mine:
--I mark off the four steps (two on the front needle and two on the back needle) that I'm going to work next and only if I'm going to work them right away. That way, I always know where to start again if I have to put down my work.
--If possible, I only stop after a completed grafting sequence.
--I also watch for signposts along the way to make sure I’m not getting off-track. For example, I might note how a grafting sequence will end and begin in relation to certain stitches on the needle (the single purl stitches in the Ribbed Eyelet pattern made perfect signposts) so that if I know immediately if I've missed a step.
--Everyone makes mistakes. At one point when I was grafting the shawl, I ended up getting out of sequence (fortunately, I caught it pretty quickly because of the above rule). Taking out grafting stitches is an essential skill to have. First, don't panic. (I admit I had a hard time following that particular rule and had to walk away for a few minutes.) The key is to pull out the grafting yarn slowly and stitch by stitch, replacing the live stitches on the front and back needles as you go, until you reach a point in the sequence you know is correct (that's where the signposts come in handy).
--And you should probably use a lifeline. Although I can't call this a rule because I don't always do this, but there have definitely been times when it would have made things easier.

The lace grafting maintains the open structure of the rest of the lace knitting.

Practice grafting this simple lace pattern on some swatches just to get the hang of it. I'm certain you'll find it's not as difficult as you thought it would be!

 

 


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Comments

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

DUCKY711 wrote
on Oct 27, 2014 12:27 AM

Hi Joni,

I tried the 'Three Needle Grafting' from the fionawinning.blogspot.com/.../three-needle-grafting-how-to-do-it.html and have to report to you that it worked very well for me.

I've tried the conventional way so many times... and every time I had so many problems with it.  NOT this time!  And the frosting on the cake was that I didn't have to go back and adjust over 200 stockinette stitches.  When I was finished, my project was finished and ready for ends to be woven in.

Thank you again for all of your feedback.  I still say you are AWESOME!

MJ

DUCKY711 wrote
on Sep 13, 2014 10:31 PM

Joni, you ARE AWESOME!  Being as dyslexic as I am, I hadn't even grasped the reverse nature of working the Kitchener Stitch with a knitting needle.  Perhaps if I'd tried the technique, made my mistakes and fumbled it, I would have realized.

I completely understand your hesitations considering the extra layer of instructions required to accomplish (what is supposed to be easy) Kitchener Stitch.  For me, personally, the Kitchener Stitch is a complete nightmare.  I've only accomplished it on a very few stitches and with much tinking and cursing.

Thank you very much for your feedback.  I'm going to try it and pay very close attention to its reverse nature.

Being self taught and not knowing any other knitters (in person) has made my road to success very long.  I owe everything I've learned from experts, such as you, on the internet.

Thank you again, Joni.  As the kids would say, YOU ROCK!

MJ

on Sep 13, 2014 8:54 AM

Hi MJ---

You raise an interesting question: what tool should be used for drawing the grafting yarn through the stitches, a tapestry needle or a knitting needle? The answer to that question depends on what knitters find most comfortable.

Keep in mind, though, that if you use a knitting needle instead of a tapestry needle, the steps you will find in most grafting tutorials (mine included) should be reversed. Notice, for example, that the repeated steps in the link you provided would be, "purl off, knit on, knit off, purl on," instead of the familiar, "knit off, purl on, purl off, knit on."

This is because when you use a knitting needle to draw the yarn through the stitches, you insert it into each stitch from the opposite side of the stitch from that of the yarn to pull the yarn through the stitch. Compare that to using a tapestry needle that is on the same side of the stitch as the grafting yarn and both needle and yarn follow the same path through the stitches. This is one reason I use the tapestry needle exclusively in my tutorials, it just makes describing the steps much easier (and I think causes less confusion when describing more complicated grafting) if I don't have to add the extra layer of instruction for inserting the knitting needle into a stitch.

But once a knitter has a good grasp on the grafting process and can adjust the steps as necessary, there's no reason a knitting needle can't be used instead.

Thanks for sharing!

Joni

DUCKY711 wrote
on Sep 11, 2014 10:34 AM

Hi Joni,

I hope this message reaches you, as I have something very interesting to share with you and all other frustrated Kitchener Stitch knitters.

Also, I hope I am not doing wrong by presenting another knitter and blogger on YOUR page.  If so, I apologize for my actions.

This is the link: fionawinning.blogspot.com/.../three-needle-grafting-how-to-do-it.html

This Kitchener Stitch technique solves all my problems in one masterful move.  Instead of using a needle to graft, a knitting needle is used.  That solves so much of my personal 'confusion' factor alone.  It also aids tremendously with getting proper tension rather than having to tinker with each stitch again and again.

I hope you and other knitters find this as wonderful a technique as I do.  Perhaps with your ability to reach so many readers word will get out.

Thank you so very much for all of your wonderful tutorials.  I am in complete awe.

MJ

DUCKY711 wrote
on Jul 19, 2014 6:57 PM

Hi Joni,

I want to thank you again for this EXCELLENT tutorial.  IT WORKS!

I finished my project (with my own hiccups, got past that) and am SO PLEASED with the results.

I will never be afraid of grafting in pattern again thanks to your sage wisdom.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Joni.

MJ

on Jul 13, 2014 10:21 AM

Old Red Wolf--

When grafting stitches top-to-top (or head-to-head), all the stitches on the back needle will be offset a half-stitch (not a full stitch) in relation to the stitches on the front needle.

Rearranging the border stitches as you suggest won't alter the fact that the pattern jogs, and will most likely accentuate the pattern mismatch. The jog is unavoidable with top-to-top grafting and will be more or less noticeable depending on the stitch pattern that is being grafted (with stockinette and garter stitch, the jog isn't evident at all, except maybe at the side edges). And with most lace patterns, the jog is going to be minimal, especially after blocking, if the yarnovers and decreases are included in the grafted row itself, as I describe in the post.

I hope that helps.

Joni

dancejunky wrote
on Jul 12, 2014 6:39 PM

Thanks, Joni. Yes, that helps.

Cheers,

Carol

dancejunky wrote
on Jul 12, 2014 6:38 PM

Thanks, Joni. Yes, that helps.

Old Red Wolf wrote
on Jul 12, 2014 4:43 PM

Great article. Thank you.

My only question is that since the yarnovers are offset by a stitch when you make the two pieces head  on, wouldn't the join be even less visible if you shifted one border stitch to the other side on one and only one of the two pieces. You would now have two places where the stitches do not line up perfectly instead of having every yarnover offset. I think that would have been far less noticeable. Just from looking at the patterns that is what it looks like to me. I have not knit a swatch to try it out.

Would that give you a slightly more invisible join? If not, why not?

on Jul 12, 2014 2:08 PM

garza--

I'd be interested to hear how your grafting turns out!

Joni

on Jul 12, 2014 2:02 PM

Juliest--

Getting the tension just right does take a bit of practice (and some adjusting as the stitches are being grafted). I actually find it much easier to maintain the tension when I'm grafting in a lace pattern, rather than a stitch pattern such as stockinette or garter stitch, because (with lace) the stitch size doesn't have to be perfectly uniform across the row. I find I can "hide" an uneven tension more easily in the yarnovers and decreases.

You might be thinking of Russian "grafting" (rather than Russian join, which is a method of joining a new strand of yarn). I have used it and it makes a lovely, decorative seam. But I don't find it the best technique to use when I want the join to be completely invisible, especially when the join is in a conspicuous place in the garment.

Joni

ozarkgypsy wrote
on Jul 12, 2014 1:37 PM

Amazing work and so well explained !

Juliest wrote
on Jul 12, 2014 12:36 PM

I heartily dislike grafting of any kind.  I can never get the tension of the grafted row perfect, so it always shows. I once made a lace weight shawl that cast on all around the outer edge, working into the middle with decreases on either side of the 4 corners.  Estonian pattern.  This left me with 400 live stitches at the center "spine" of the shawl at the end.  I knew I did not want to graft them together up the middle, so a friend taught me the Russian join.  Taking a very small crochet hook, like the ones we use for beading a lace weight shawl, I took a stitch from one side and then the other, pulling it through the previous stitch, back and forth until all were worked.  I started at the end away from the live working thread and finished by the working thread.  This involved slipping half the stitches first.   I cut the working thread into a 2 inch tail, pulled it through the last stitch, cinched it down and worked in the tail.  The resulting join has a pretty herringbone effect.  I liked it very much.

Have you ever tried a Russian join?

Julie in San Diego

garza wrote
on Jul 12, 2014 12:19 PM

Thank you so much for this excellent post! I recently made a complicated shawl from a Shetland book; their rectangular shawls are done with a "border" section at each end and a centre section. The pattern places the graft between one of the borders and the centre (which as it turns out is the traditional Shetland approach) but that didn't satisfy me because I wanted the centre perfectly symmetrical too, so I decided to place the graft in the middle of the centre, which is in a complex pattern. I figured out where the graft has to be in the pattern but I don't think I had fully grasped how to create two rows at the same time, so the project has been sitting on my kitchen table while I get up the nerve to try. Your instructions are so complete and clear that I really believe the project will be finished in the very near future! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

yarnhugger wrote
on Jul 8, 2014 4:10 PM

Absolutely brilliant and inspiring tutorial!! Thanks for showing how you made your cheat sheet.

DebbieF wrote
on Jul 7, 2014 4:48 PM

You deserve a raise. This is not only an excellent explanation of the graft, but also the process to figure out any graft. Thank you so much. Well done.

on Jul 7, 2014 4:29 PM

Leslie--

Using contrast yarn to knit the pattern rows that will be grafted is a method that many knitters use successfully. I have tried it, but it hasn't worked for me for a couple of reasons:

1. I find it quicker to create the cheat sheet than to work the extra rows in waste yarn (I also find it easier to follow step-by-step instructions rather than trying to follow the path of the waste yarn through two sets of stitches).

2. I have an easier time maintaining the tension of the grafted stitches when I just have the grafting yarn to work with (rather than waste yarn and grafting yarn).

3. I tended to split the waste yarn, which made it difficult to remove.

The best thing about knitting is that there are so many choices! What doesn't work for one person will be the go-to technique for another person. This is just another approach and one I hope some knitters might find useful.

And, speaking as a tech editor, I have always felt that pattern instructions should include the steps for grafting in pattern since it isn't a technique with which most knitters are familiar. That's why I've also been experimenting for the last few years with different ways to present instructions.

Joni

phutchinson wrote
on Jul 7, 2014 1:20 PM

This is brilliant!

AudKnits wrote
on Jul 7, 2014 12:22 PM

Brilliant article! I always wondered how to do this. Thank you for the helpful information; I love the "rules" suggestions, too!

spiknit wrote
on Jul 7, 2014 12:15 PM

Variation on the Kitchener option: On one side of the join, knit the pattern row 1 or 3; on the other side of the join, work the non-pattern row (2 or 4) with waste yarn. Lay the pieces on a flat surface, with edges abutting. The grafting "row" will replace the waste yarn, stitch for stitch. The waste yarn is removed as the grafting proceeds across the row. This lace pattern is a little more complex than some, since it is not a purl row all across. However, so long as each grafting stitch follows the waste yarn, the join should be invisible.

Leslie

on Jun 29, 2014 8:34 AM

mgrant7209--

Welcome back to knitting!

The two needles in this article (front and back) hold two sets of live stitches that are being joined using a method called "grafting." There are other ways to join stitches, but grafting in pattern will result in the most invisible join. It's a fairly advanced knitting technique and not one you'll need to learn right away as you venture back into the world of knitting.

Yes, I co-authored a book some years ago called VOGUE KNITTING: THE ULTIMATE KNITTING BOOK, which is a good beginner's book (and I believe is still available). Two other books you may also find very helpful are THE KNITTER'S COMPANION by Vicki Square and KNIT FIX by Lisa Kartus. These books are both published by Interweave.

Joni

mgrant7209 wrote
on Jun 28, 2014 6:22 PM

Hi Joni. Such an interesting article. I was crocheting and knitting decades ago. Having returned to crochet a few months ago, I want to take up knitting again, too. I only did simple patterns. I don't remember anything about a front and back needle. Did I miss something? Also, have you written books about knitting that are available?

on Jun 28, 2014 5:08 PM

MJ--

Glad you like the posts! Good luck with your project and let me know how it turns out or if you have any questions.

Joni

DUCKY711 wrote
on Jun 28, 2014 4:19 PM

Joni, you are an absolute LIFE SAVER!  This wonderful information you have so succinctly put together for us couldn't have come at a better time.  THANK YOU SO MUCH!  Now I am able to finish a project I've been tearing my yarn and hair out over for much too long.  It's been sitting off to the side for a couple of weeks just waiting for me to find a solution.

I thought your Grafting Myths posts were awesome, too.  I learned so much from them.  It will be through posts such as yours that I master my passion for knitting and feel confident enough to become a successful knitwear designer.

Thank you again for sharing your brilliance.

MJ

on Jun 28, 2014 3:49 PM

Hi Carol,

Some shawls/stoles start from a provisional cast-on and each half is worked from the center out to the edges. It all depends on the appearance of the lace patterns and the look that the designer is trying to achieve. In this case, the designer (Lisa Hoffman) wanted each half of the shawl to start with the Fan Lace pattern, which will have a different appearance at the cast-on edge than at the bound-off edge (if it's worked in the opposite direction).

Hope that helps.

Joni

TLL5 wrote
on Jun 28, 2014 3:03 PM

Thank you for this grafting option!  It is going to be a major game changer for future pattern designs.

dancejunky wrote
on Jun 28, 2014 2:44 PM

I'm very grateful for these instructions on grafting lace. But I'm wondering why you wouldn't have simply started the scarf with a provisional CO so you wouldn't need to graft. Is it because the CO will still interrupt the lace pattern the way kitchener does?

Cheers,

Carol

Cmm760 wrote
on Jun 28, 2014 2:41 PM

excellent information, good photos, diagrams and well written instructions.  Thank you.

Cmm760 wrote
on Jun 28, 2014 2:41 PM

excellent information, good photos, diagrams and well written instructions.  Thank you.

Imkehim wrote
on Jun 25, 2014 3:59 AM

I love your tech blog. Please keep them coming!