MYTH #2: GRAFTED RIBBING WILL ALWAYS HAVE A HALF-STITCH JOG.
I ended the first post of this series with an illustration of two pieces of knitting that had been worked in k1, p1 rib and grafted together top-to-top (Fig.1). The illustration shows a slight jog, or shift, in the ribbing pattern at the juncture between the two pieces. Many knitters believe that this jog is unavoidable whenever a ribbing pattern is grafted, but this is not necessarily true. It isn’t just the stitch pattern that determines whether or not there will be a jog when stitches are grafted. Knitting direction is another important factor.
When stitches are grafted top-to-top, the direction of knitting on both pieces is oriented toward the grafted row. This means that while the piece on the front needle is oriented in the same direction in which it was knit, the piece on the back needle is turned 180 degrees and oriented in the opposite direction. However, there’s another type of grafting in which live stitches at the top of one piece are grafted to stitches at the bottom of another (or even the same) piece. In this type of grafting (called “top-to-bottom” grafting), the direction of knitting on the front needle moves toward the grafted row while the direction of knitting on the back needle moves away from it. Thus, the direction of knitting continues uninterrupted from the piece on the front needle through the grafted row to the piece on the back needle.
The pattern jog only occurs when a pattern such as ribbing (with knit and purl stitches across a row) is grafted top-to-top because the knitting direction of each piece is different. There should never be a jog when ribbing stitches are grafted top-to-bottom because there is no change of knitting direction from one piece to the other.
Why is knitting direction so important when grafting ribbing? It has to do with the placement of the knit and purl stitches in relation to the loops on the knitting needles. And there are major differences between the loops at the top and the loops at the bottom of a ribbed piece.
This illustration (Fig. 2) shows live loops at both the top and the bottom of the same piece of k1, p1 ribbing. The arrow indicates the direction of knitting and the red vertical lines separate the knit and purl stitches. If you follow the red lines down to the bottom loops, you can see that the transition lines between the knit and purl stitches on the top row bisect the loops at the bottom. This happens because the bottom loops are formed by the running threads between the working loops and are offset by a half-stitch. Thus, instead of each bottom loop being a knit or a purl stitch, it will be half-knit/half-purl or half-purl/half-knit.
There’s another important difference between the two rows of loops, and that is the number of loops that need to be placed on the needle in preparation for grafting. Most grafting tutorials will tell you that you need to have the same number of stitches on each needle, regardless of the type of grafting that you are doing. But what is not taken into account by many tutorial writers is the difference between the structure of the rows at the top and bottom, especially when both knit and purl stitches are involved.
In the sample shown here (Fig. 3), k1, p1 ribbing is worked over five stitches. Because the bottom loops fall between the working loops on the needle, there will be one fewer whole loop than on the top row (four loops, instead of five). And because the loops are offset from the loops at the top by a half stitch, there is also a half-loop at each edge. The half loops can be a little tricky to find. The half loop at the end opposite the cast-on tail will be the very last stitch on the waste yarn; it’s smaller than the rest of the stitches and is usually twisted (it’s important to keep this twist when the stitch is placed on the knitting needle). The half loop on the side where the cast-on tail is located won’t be on the waste yarn, so it must be created (I usually either pick up the stitch at the edge or just wrap the cast-on tail around the needle, then run the tail to the wrong side of the work). Some knitters compensate for the one-stitch shortfall between the top and bottom rows by picking up one of these half-loops. This works fine if the stitches are going to be used for knitting in the opposite direction or for grafting a pattern such as stockinette or garter stitch where the alignment of stitches isn’t an issue.
But when I graft a ribbing pattern top-to-bottom, I pick up both half-loops so that there is an extra stitch on the back needle than on the front. Then when I graft, I make sure to keep the steps for grafting each stitch inside the transition lines. Not only does this make the edges nice and smooth (without the half-stitch gap at one side) it also keeps the knit and purl stitches on the front and back needles perfectly aligned vertically. Grafting even the most complicated ribbing patterns top-to-bottom is much more straightforward than when grafting them top-to-top because the grafting doesn’t follow the pattern jog. Thus, there is no need for set-up and ending steps, and no need to worry about the transition between one stitch and the next. All that’s necessary is to graft one stitch at a time.
The best way to show the difference between grafting ribbing top-to-top and top-to-bottom is to show the grafting on the same piece of k1, p1 ribbing.
In the illustration at left (Fig. 4), Swatch A is positioned so that its top loops face the bottom loops of Swatch B, in preparation for grafting the stitches top-to-bottom. Swatch C is positioned above Swatch B in preparation for grafting the stitches top-to-top.
The loops on the needles don’t meet directly head-to-head in either type of grafting, but are always offset by a half stitch. What is different is the position of the transition lines that separate knit and purl stitches relative to the loops on the front and back needles. When ribbing stitches are grafted top-to-top, the resulting knit and purl stitches “nest” between each other, with the tops of the grafted stitches on the back needle forming the horizontal running threads between the grafted stitches on the front needle (and vice versa) (Fig. 5). This causes the entire piece on the back needle to shift a half-stitch to the left. In a stitch pattern such as k1, p1 rib where the transition between knit and purl stitches over several rows creates distinct vertical lines in the fabric, the shift is pretty noticeable. The shift also occurs with patterns such as stockinette and garter stitch, but because the transition from one stitch to another is always between two similar stitches (knit-to-knit or purl-to-purl) and there are no visible transition lines, the shift is not discernible. Because the grafting steps follow the pattern shift, the steps can get complicated very quickly, especially when both knit and purl stitches are involved. Here are the steps for grafting k1, p1 ribbing top-to-top:
Step 1: Purlwise through the first stitch on the front needle, leave it on.
Step 2: Knitwise through the first stitch on the back needle, leave it on.
Step 3: Knitwise through the first stitch on the front needle, remove it.
Step 4: Knitwise through the next stitch on the front needle, leave it on.
Step 5: Purlwise through the first stitch on the back needle, remove it.
Step 6: Purlwise through the next stitch on the back needle, leave it on.
Step 7: Purlwise through the first stitch on the front needle, remove it.
Step 8: Purlwise through the next stitch on the front needle, leave it on.
Step 9: Knitwise through the first stitch on the back needle, remove it.
Step 10: Knitwise through the next stitch on the back needle, leave it on.
Repeat Steps 3-10 until 1 stitch remains on each needle.
Knitwise through the last stitch on the front needle, remove it.
Purlwise through the last stitch on the back needle, remove it.
|Grafting a knit stitch (Fig. 6):|
Step 1: Purlwise through the stitch on the front needle, leave it on.
Step 2: Purlwise through the first half-knit stitch on the back needle, remove it.
Step 3: Knitwise through the next half-knit stitch on the back needle, leave it on.
Step 1: Knitwise through the stitch on the front needle, leave it on.
Step 2: Knitwise through the first half-purl stitch on the back needle, remove it.
Step 3: Purlwise through the next half-purl stitch on the back needle, leave it on.
It doesn’t matter how the knit and purl stitches are arranged in the ribbing pattern. All you have to do is look at the next stitch that needs to be grafted and work the four steps depending on whether the stitch is a knit or a purl stitch.
I believe the reason many knitters end up with a jog in the pattern even when grafting ribbing top-to-bottom is that they graft the stitches the same as they would if they were grafting top-to-top. The problem with this is that the direction of the grafted row is different than that of the stitches on the needle. And any time the direction changes, a jog will occur.
The illustrations at left show what the ribbing looks like on the back needle in top-to-top grafting (Fig. 8), and what the ribbing looks like on the back needle in top-to-bottom grafting (Fig. 9).
As we saw before, in top-to-top grafting, both the knitted pieces are oriented toward the join (Fig. 10).
The grafted stitches match the direction of knitting on each piece but a jog is created when the two pieces are joined from different directions. In top-to-bottom grafting, the knitted piece on the front needle is oriented toward the join and the piece on the back needle is oriented away from the join (Fig. 11).
|Figure 11||Figure 12|
The grafted stitches also match the direction of knitting on each individual piece. This illustration (Fig. 12) shows the result if the steps for top-to-top grafting in k1, p1 ribbing are applied to a provisional cast-on row on the back needle. Because the grafted stitches do not face in the same direction as the rest of the knitting, there is a pattern jog. It’s the same thing that happens when stitches are picked up from a provisional cast-on and worked in the opposite direction.
A PRACTICAL APPLICATION:
When I saw the Back Road Scarf by designer Andrea Rangel in the Knitscene Accessories 2013 issue, I knew right away that I wanted to knit it for my daughter. But since she prefers cowls to scarves, I’ve decided to join the ends. It’s a pretty simple knit and purl pattern [ see chart ].
|Back Road Scarf|
I used a chain stitch provisional cast-on and started the pattern with chart Row 15 (a wrong side row). I plan to end with chart Row 12 and use Rows 13 and 14 for the grafting in pattern. I picked these rows for the grafting because it is essentially k4, p4 rib at this point in the pattern and I figured that would be more straightforward than trying to graft one of the slanted shapes. As of this post, I’m about halfway through (I’ll post the finished cowl in a later post), but here’s how I plan to graft the stitches, using a swatch.
|1. The last stitch on the waste yarn is the half loop.
2. I gave this loop a twist before placing it on the needle.
3. I created the other half loop by wrapping the cast-on tail around the needle, then bringing it to the wrong side of the work.
4. This photo shows the first 4 knit stitches of an 8-stitch pattern repeat.
6. A close-up of the last grafted purl stitch.
7. The last 4 knit stitches, plus the selvage stitch have been grafted. The advantage of starting by having an extra stitch on the back needle is that there won’t be a jog at the edges.
Next up: Myth #3: A grafted row is the equivalent of one pattern row.