Tips for Joining A Shawl Worked in Two Halves
Some long rectangular shawls or scarves are worked in two pieces and then joined at the center. Why? Because certain lace patterns produce a lovely scalloped or patterned edge at the cast-on end, but do not produce a matching pretty scallop at the bind-off end. If you were to work the shawl or scarf in a single piece, the two ends would look very different–and most knitters prefer the swoopy fancy cast-on edge to the comparatively plain bind-off edge!
Designers resolve this by knitting one half of the shawl which is then set aside while casting on and knitting another matching half. The two halves are then joined, usually by…no, no, don't run away, not yet anyway…grafting them together using the Kitchener stitch.
There's that dratted Kitchener stitch again. Just when we all were having so much fun, knitting a gorgeous lace shawl, that silly grafting thing had to go and sneak up on us at the very end. The existence of that sentence, "Now graft the two halves together using the Kitchener stitch" has stopped many a knitter from knitting certain perfectly lovely shawl patterns.
Methods for Joining the Two Halves and (bonus!) Saving Your Sanity
You can substitute a three-needle bind-off for the Kitchener stitch. This is easy and quick, but it can produce a pronounced ridge right down the middle of your shawl.
Another method, suggested by Alice Halbeisen, the designer of the Lace Shawl pictured above (and this week's free pattern!), is to bind off each half very loosely, and then stitch the halves together. This second solution works quite well, with only a minimal ridge if you do it carefully.
Here are some tips for seaming success:
1. If there is a "plain knitting" row, bind off on that row instead of a "lace knitting" row.
2. Bind off in pattern, meaning: If there are a mixture of knits and purls, knit the knits and purl the purls as you work the bind-off row.
3. Use the mattress stitch to sew the seam.
4. Carefully match column for column as you sew.
5. Use pins or locking stitch markers to "baste" the halves together to help keep the stitches and columns matched up.
6. Be sure to catch the legs of the very last stitch in each column, and alternate columns as shown in this tutorial.
Ultimately, however, every knitter sooner or later should become proficient at the Kitchener stitch. It seems to be some sort of scary monster that intimidates a lot of us; but really…it's just another knitting technique, just like entrelac or turning a heel or short rows. We're all knitters, and that means we're smart enough to Kitchener! I admit: I can graft when I need to, but I still have to look at the diagrams and in the process there's a lot of words coming out of my mouth that my momma wouldn't approve of. And so this summer, I'm making it one of my personal goals to conquer that silly grafting thing, once and for all. After all, who's the boss of my knitting? Me, that's who. So stay tuned! And don't forget to download the free Lovely Lace Shawl pattern.
Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.
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