Learn it: The Kitchener Stitch

The Ardwinna sock knitting pattern is free! Download it today and make these beautiful, lacy socks.
    

I've talked before about how I struggle with the Kitchener stitch (also known as grafting). For the longest time, I've avoided it, and when I was forced to use it, my efforts were not rewarding. I ended up missing a stitch, working way too tight, or loosing my way mid-row and having to pick out all of my progress to start over.

I defaulted to the three-needle bind-off, which is a great technique, but it lacks the seamlessness, if you will, of the Kitchener stitch. The three-needle bind-off also leaves a ridge on the inside of your work, which isn't always desirable. On the toes of socks, for instance, you want a smooth, round finish, not a ridge that might irritate your toes.

Recently, I've decided to embrace the Kitchener stitch. If I have to try a couple of times to get it right, who cares? Practice makes perfect; avoidance will never help me improve. And like I said, there are times when you really need to use it!

Ardwinna, the sock knitting pattern shown at left, uses an afterthought heel (pretty cool!), which needs to be grafted in the middle. You really can't use any other stitch than the Kitchener. If I want to make this socks, I must get some practice!

On Knitting Daily TV with Vickie Howell, episode #1204, Vickie's Loose Ends segment is a Kitchener stitch tutorial. Here's Vickie to show you how it's done:

Here are my favorite illustrated instructions, from another fabulous Vicki, Vicki Square and her must-have reference book, The Knitter's Companion.

Step 1 (above left): Draw the yarn through the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit (from back to front), and slip this stitch off the needle.

Step 2 (above right): Draw the yarn through the second stitch on the front needle as if to purl (from back to front), but leave this stitch on the needle.

Step 3 (above left): Draw the yarn through the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl, and slip this stitch off the needle.

Step 4 (above right): Draw the yarn through the second stitch on the back needle as if to knit, but leave this stitch on the needle.

Repeat steps 1–4, striving to match the tension in the knitted work.

The Kitchener stitch is so useful. And once you get started, working it becomes kind of meditative because you repeat the same steps over and over.

Join me and conquer your fear of Kitchener stitch! Download KDTV episode 1204, "What a Heel!" today. Check out the other single episode downloads, too. I've already downloaded and watched several of them!

And if you're looking for more free sock knitting patterns, check out our free eBook!

Cheers,

P.S. Are you a Kitchener stitch expert? How did you get to be so darn good at it? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Knitting Daily Blog
Kathleen Cubley

About Kathleen Cubley

Hello daily knitters! I'm the editor of Knitting Daily. I've been obsessed with knitting for about ten years now and my favorite projects are sweaters. I like the occasional smaller project, but there's nothing like yards of stockinette with a well-placed cable or a subtle stitch pattern here and there. I crochet a bit now and then—especially when I need to produce a baby blanket in time for the baby shower. I've been in publishing for 20 years and I'm finally exactly where I want to be: at the crossroads of knitting and communication. I live in Spokane, Washington and when I'm not knitting I enjoy gardening, snuggling with my dogs, swimming, reading, and playing in the snow in the winter. But, really, I'm pretty much always knitting!

30 thoughts on “Learn it: The Kitchener Stitch

  1. I was always losing my place when doing Kitchener until someone pointed out that the front needle is the “knit” needle, and the back is the “purl” needle – referring to the first stitch in the sequence.

  2. The Craftsy free course: The ins and outs of grafting is a very good introducgtion to grafting. I also like Lucy Neatby’s sock chimney as way to follow waste yarn through the correct stitches in the correct order and orientation.

  3. The free craftsy course “The Ins and Outs of Grafting” is a good introduction to grafting. I also like Lucy Neatby’s sock toe chimney method of using wast yarn to knit a few extra rosw and then follow the path of the wast yarn when grafting.

  4. The free craftsy course “The Ins and Outs of Grafting” is a good introduction to grafting. I also like Lucy Neatby’s sock toe chimney method of using wast yarn to knit a few extra rosw and then follow the path of the wast yarn when grafting.

  5. The free craftsy course “The Ins and Outs of Grafting” is a good introduction to grafting. I also like Lucy Neatby’s sock toe chimney method of using wast yarn to knit a few extra rosw and then follow the path of the wast yarn when grafting.

  6. After knitting over 60 pair of socks, it’s second nature. Even after all that, I still like a quiet corner to work the kitchener stitch. It’s easy to lose my rhythm if distracted.

  7. I sat here and watched and rewatched this video to finish off a pair of mittens that I have been cowering over. My only dilemma is what to do with the last stitch. How do you finish that off? Excellent tute!

  8. Kitchener Stitch ….The bane of my life …..I’m left handed and whenever I attempt this form of grafting I end up with the stitches ‘twisted’ as though I’ve knitted into the back of the stitches. It looks so ugly. Please can someone help me master this technique .xxx ♥ ♥ ♥

  9. I personally LOVE the Kitchener Stitch. It always seems like magic when both edges of my fabric seams together so perfectly. The question I have is … Vicki, what is the yarn in the striped sock that you used for your demonstration? Self-striping yarns are seldom so “defined” as that one; I’d love to pick up some of it!

  10. Step 1 (above left): Draw the yarn through the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit (from back to front), and slip this stitch off the needle.

    Step 2 (above right): Draw the yarn through the second stitch on the front needle as if to purl (from back to front), but leave this stitch on the needle.

    Surely Step 1 should read “draw the yarn through the first st on the front needle as if to knit (from front to back) and NOT from back to front !!

  11. Kathleen, check back through Sandi’s posts from years ago. She had one about doing the Kitchener stitch with knitting needles instead of a sewing needle. That is the only way I use now, and I teach it in my sock classes, as well.

  12. Step 1 (above left): Draw the yarn through the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit (from back to front), and slip this stitch off the needle.

    Step 2 (above right): Draw the yarn through the second stitch on the front needle as if to purl (from back to front), but leave this stitch on the needle.

    Step 1 is worded wrongly. It should read from FRONT TO BACK and not back to front!

  13. I have used the Kitchener stitch often and have it down very well. BUT I have yet to see any demonstration or read about what to do with the last stitch. So please address–how do you finish the last Kitchener stitch…what do you do with it??

  14. I am left-handed, and the Kitchener stitch with a sewing needle is awkward! I love using my knitting needle, instead. It is much easier, and always gives me a nice finish.

  15. If you are going to put “set-up” steps in your video, you should put them into your written instructions. Not having them seems to confuse knitters. As for the “last stitch” problem, there should not be a last stitch, you have equal stitches on each needle, work them all off starting at the front needle and ending at the back needle, or reverse, depending on where you started.

  16. I wouldn’t call myself an expert on it but I did discover the easiest way to make sure I do it right the first try. NO distractions, NO TV, NO kids around, NO nothing! :) Lets me concentrate and get it done right the first time every time!

  17. If you are Left Handed here is the kitchener stitch for you
    Subject: Re: Left Handed Kitchner Stitch
    These directions come from Kay Furfaro’s Book, “Knitting Misc.”
    I changed them for the left handed knitter. Hope it helps and makes sense.
    KITCHENER STITCH:
    1. Thread the yarn tail into your needle.
    2. Hold the 2 edges with the scrap yarn in your right hand, with the right
    sides facing each other and the scrap yarn folded to the inside. The yarn
    needle is on the left side.
    3. The edge without the yarn tail is side 1, the side with the yarn tail is
    side 2. Insert your needle into the first stitch on side 1, pointing the
    needle from the outside toward the inside.
    4. Now go to side 2 and insert your needle into the first stitch, going from
    the outside toward the inside, and at the same time, come through the first
    stitch on side 1 from the inside toward the outside.
    5. Now go to the second stitch on side 1 and insert your needle from the
    outside toward the center, and at the same time, insert the needle into the first
    stitch on side 2 from the center toward the outside.
    6. Insert your needle into stitch 2 on side 2, going toward the center, then
    into stitch 2 on side 1, going toward the outside.
    7. Repeat 5 and 6 until you have finished the row.
    8. You will always be going in toward the center in a new stitch, and out
    toward the outside in the stitch you used before. I always say, “In the new,
    Out the old,” to help me remember.
    Hope this helps all the left handers in the group.

  18. Make baby booties. Many patterns require the Kitchener stitch down the center of the sole, all the way from toe to heel. Sometimes it’s 10-20 stitches you’re grafting, but I recently made a pair of adult booties that needed 125 stitches joined down the center of the sole. Very meditative!
    The trick to the Kitchener stitch is to NOT get interrupted, otherwise you lose the rhythm and forget where you are in the “knit off, purl on, purl off, knit on” sequence.

  19. I just learned to do the Kitchener stitch. First, I followed a great tutorial, with pictures, from Knitpicks. Then, I took a copy of Knitting Rules by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee from our local library. She gives great verbal step by step instructions. By combining the 2, giving myself time, good lighting and a quiet place, I can now do kitchener stitch : )

  20. I find it helps to use a longer section of yarn than specified and work the grafting loosely then adjust the tension to match the knitting after the whole section is worked.

  21. I have been using Kitchener stitch on the shoulders of sweaters for years. It looks nice with no seam across the shoulder. This stitch was given to me on a scrap of paper approximately 45 years ago, in “The Olden Days!”

  22. I am fine with the usual uses of the kitchener st but have trouble when I have to graft complex items like garter st, ribbing, and so on. A tutorial on that would be really super.

  23. I have learned the “rhythm method” for this stitch :) Reminds me of the chant from a movie “Wax off/Wax on. It has helped me greatly. I do agree though that is best to have a quiet place to work and then concentrate.
    Beginning with the first stitch, on the needle closest to me, I chant:
    Front Knit OFF, Front Purl ON
    Back Purl OFF, Back Knit ON.
    Once you get into the rhythm it become hypnotic.
    If I get distracted, where I have to stop, I try to always finish with the back needle. That way I know, when I start again, to start with the Front Knit OFF Front Purl ON.
    I used to dread finishing top down socks because of the dreaded “Kitchener Stitch. But now, using this method, I look forward to finishing my socks because now it’s FUN.

  24. Thanks for this, Kathleen. Very timely. I am about to graft a final border to a lace scarf – 95 stitches on each needle and all needing Kitchener stitch. If I can’t master it now, there will be no hope, haha.

  25. I’ve just got back from a three week holiday and picked up my e-mails. I had a clean pair of hand knitted socks for every day of my holiday so you could say I’m probably a bit of an expert on Kitchener stitch by now! I have a few tips to pass on:

    Cut the tread 4-5 times the width of the stitches to be grafted. I place thumb and forefinger on either side of the stitches on the needle and wind the yarn back and forth four times and then allow a bit extra when I cut it. That way you will always have enough yarn and not have a great length to pull through the stitches.

    Try not to work the grafting loosely just keep an even reasonably tight tension and you won’t have to spend all that time pulling up the grafting stitches. The more you graft the better you get at it.

    I found a recent improvement is to combine steps 1 and 2 in the instructions by putting the sewing needle through the first stitch and slipping it off but not drawing all the thread through the stitch and then putting the sewing needle through the second stitch (leaving this stitch on the needle) and then pullling the yarn through both stitches. This means you only draw the thread through once instead of twice. A similar technique combines steps 3 and 4. The whole process is so much quicker.

    When you are left with one stitch on each needle I pass the sewing needle knitwise through the stitch on the front needle and purlwise through the stitch on the back needle and draw the yarn through both stitches. If the grafting is the toe of a sock (closed seam) I pass the sewing needle to the outside of the last stitch worked to the reverse of the fabric and bury the end in the usual way. For an open seam I pass the sewing needle through the last stitch again making a loop through which the needle is passed to make a knot and then the end buried in the usual manner in the reverse of the fabric.

    I hope this is of help. I started by doing my grafting in peace and quiet so I could concentrate, repeating a mantra to myself and, if I had to stop, always doing so at the same place so I knew where to pick up again. This has made me think about how many pairs of socks I have made and it must be more than 50 pairs. That’s 100 lots of Kitchener stitch. I really must get a life!

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