This month I got two questions related to the same dreaded phenomenon—Kitchener “ears.”
I speak of the weird little bumps on either end of a toe graft. Knitting has so many life lessons. Here we have two of my favorites: things aren’t always as they appear, and the “right way” might not be right for you.
I took your Advanced Fixes class and learned how to open the seam of my sleeve, cut the cuff off my sleeve to shorten it, and then I grafted it back on. It looked perfect. Then I knit my first sock and grafted the toe and there’s a weird bump on either side. I showed my friend and she said, “Those are the ears. You always get those.” WHY? Is it because the graft on the sock is in the round and the sleeve was flat? I don’t get it.
Not loving ears (Tam)
I am a fairly new knitter (probably an advanced beginner by now) and have recently got into knitting socks. I prefer the top down method since I find it easier to get the fit just right.
However, the Kitchener Stitch that I use to bind off the toes always leaves them with “pointy” corners. I have tried binding off two stitches at a time at the beginning and end of the Kitchener pattern to help alleviate this (as suggested in a pattern), but the corners still wind up being pointy.
So given this, here are my questions: Do you have a recommendation for how to complete the Kitchener Stitch bind off so that the corners of the toe are not pointy?
Thanks and regards,
Dear Susan and Tam,
You both bring up excellent questions! First (as is my wont), I need to go into the why. Tam, it’s not flat versus in the round that was the difference, it’s grafting in the same direction versus the opposite direction. When you grafted your cuff back to your bottom up sleeve, you were grafting real stitch to real stitch. This is because you were grafting the top of a stitch to the bottom of a stitch. It was like you were just adding a row of knitting between them.
When you grafted the toe, you have stitch heads facing stitch heads, so you are actually jogged over by ½ stitch. You are really joining the stitch heads of one needle to the space between two stitches on the other needle.
That’s why, or so I’m told, you need this extra move at the start and the end of Kitchener to compensate for that jog. But do you? Do you really?
When it comes to things that bug us about our knitting, I often think of Ronco commercials. You know the ones, where the exasperated customer looks into the camera and pleads “there’s got to be a better way!” What Ron Popeil (the visionary behind the Veg-o-Matic and the In the Egg, Egg Scrambler) knew was that doing it the way it’s always been done is not always the best way.
Let me answer your question the way my grandfather would, with a long-winded personal story that eventually got to the point. (Seriously, it will be worth it.)
When I first learned how to knit, I was self-taught, and there was no internet. The first time I grafted, I didn’t even know that was the name. I had an Bic pen break on a hand-knit scarf. I couldn’t get the stain out, so I had the bright idea to cut out the bad section and sew the two pieces together. I didn’t know how to do it, so I spread them out and just visually matched the stitches.
To this day, I think sliding the stitches off the needle to graft them is easier.
Fast forward a few years, and I knit my first sock from a vintage pattern. It ended with the simple instructions “graft toe together.” I looked up grafting and thought “Oh, I’ve done that!” so I did the same thing I did with my scarf. I looked at the stitches and slid them off my needle one at a time and followed the path. It was a little trickier to do, because I couldn’t lay them flat, but I did it, and eventually I taught myself how to do it by only sliding one stitch at a time off the needle, and it looked great.
Fast forward again, to me taking a sock class and being told I was doing it wrong because I was skipping the all-important first and last step of this thing called “Kitchener.” Well I did those first and last steps:
Insert tapestry needle, as if to purl in first stitch on front needle, pull yarn through, leave stitch on needle. Insert tapestry needle as if to knit in first stitch on back needle, pull yarn through, leave stitch on needle.
Insert tapestry needle as if to purl in front stitch and remove, insert tapestry needle into back stitch as if to knit and remove.
Only one problem. When I did it “right” I got ears—so I went back to the way I had done it and just kept my mouth shut.
So, meet the easier way:
FRONT: Insert tapestry needle knit-wise into the first stitch on front needle and pull that stitch off the needle. Insert tapestry needle purl-wise into the next stitch on front needle and pull the yarn through that stitch, leaving it on the needle.
Knit off, Purl On
BACK: Insert tapestry needle purl-wise into the first stitch on back needle, and pull that stitch off the needle. Insert tapestry needle knit-wise into the next stitch on back needle and draw yarn through that stitch, leaving it on the needle.
Purl off, Knit On
When there are 2 sts left (one on front needle and one on back needle), pull them both off the needle. Give the yarn a tug to make it snug, and pull the tapestry needle to the back through the next stitch.
The moral of the story is . . . sometimes the less you know the better. Because I didn’t know how something was “supposed to be done,” I taught myself visually, and ended up with a better product.
So break rules!!! Just like Ron Popeil did when he wanted to scramble an egg in the
shell, you do something “wrong” to get an oh, so right result.