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When I first started knitting, my sleeves always came out too short. After a top-down sleeve lengthening worked, though a bottom up didn’t, I understood that’s it’s all a matter of direction!

From Top to Bottom

Dear Patty,

I wanted to lengthen a cable sweater, so I cut off the cast on and the ribbing, and I was going to knit a new section of ribbing and another few inches and graft them together. My friend told me that wouldn’t work because the stitches would be ½ stitch off and that would look terrible. Well, I already cut the bottom of my sweater off, so I figured I’d just fudge it the best I could. I finished it and grafted it together and it was perfect. So my question is, was my friend wrong, or am I magic?


Magical Grafter

Dear Magical Grafter,

Your friend is both right and wrong, and you may be magical, you are a knitter after all, but your perfect graft was not magic it was science.

It’s not the combination of knits and purls in a graft that dictate whether it’s going to fit together perfectly or be off by ½ a stitch, it’s about the direction of your stitches. In your case, you were grafting from the top of one row to the bottom of another row so they fit together perfectly.

For the smoothest join, it’s best to do exactly what you did and graft real stitches to the open loops. Those loops are not really stitches but the leg of a stitch, the running thread and the leg of the next stitch.

Here’s a picture from an Ask Patty of yore that shows the loop on your needle after cutting off the bind-off is really the leg of stitch #1, the running thread and then the leg of stitch #2:

You can also do the graft right over the cast on edge and either cut it off later, or leave it if it doesn’t bug you.

By leaving the cast on in place, you can really see the connection between duplicate stitch and grafting on and off the needle. This really helps when you need to do trickier grafts.

Here it is grafted right over the cast on, and it’s perfectly aligned.

But sometimes things can be a bit “off” as for our next gentle reader …

Head to Head

Dear Patty,

I’m grafting two pieces of a shawl together. Each piece is worked from the cast on edge and placed on hold. Then the live stitches from each piece are to be grafted together.

Unfortunately, the two pieces have a combination of knit and purl stitches so when I graft, everywhere I transition between the knits and purls there is a half jog where the columns of knits and purls do not line up correctly.

Is there any way to avoid this?

Feeling a bit off!

P.S. See what I mean?


Dear Feeling a bit off,

Ah yes, when it comes to head-to-head grafting, you have the stitches going in opposite directions in a head-on collision.

Here’s that image from last year’s grafting column that shows how the stitches have to be off set to connect.

If you keep the stitch count on both needles the same, you have two “a bit off” solutions. One is to do the graft as you have done, which jogs everything over by ½ a stitch. Here you can see it looks like 4 knit stitches on the bottom but only 3 ½ on the top:

Or you can do a three needle bind off which doesn’t look any better and leaves bulk at the back.

The solutions—CHEAT!!

For this you’ll need to add a stitch to the top (back) needle. To see why, look at this hole in our knitting. You can see that what you have are four complete loops on the bottom and then three complete loops on the top, flanked by two ½ loops. Notice how the yarn comes UP from the bottom stitch, DOWN into the half loop, UP through the hole loop next to it and back DOWN where it came from:

In order to trick the eye, we are going to increase our top section of knitting so we have one extra stitch, so then instead of everything jogging over by a ½ a stitch, we’ll have ½ stitch hanging out at the start and end of the row (just like the hole!). These will roll to the back and become fairly invisible.

I prefer to increase in the knit columns and decrease in the purl columns. You’ll always come to that weird stitch that is ½ knit and ½ purl, but when you graft a purl over a knit it looks like a purl. Stick with me, I’ll walk you through it.

Here’s that same 18 stitch sample that was originally K2, p2, k4, p2, k4, p2, k2. I have added increases and decreases:

K1, m1, k1, p2tog, *k3, m1, k1, p2tog; rep from * to last 2 sts, k1, m1, k1—19 st

Holding the increased section of knitting at the top (or back if you’re holding the two needles together), you’ll need to start a bit differently from the regular graft set up.

Set up:  Insert the tapestry needle into the first st as if to purl, pull yarn through, leave st on the needle.

Now you’ll begin your regular grafting, paying attention to what the stitches look like (knit or purl)

Step 1: insert tapestry needle into first st on back needle to PURL, pull yarn though, remove st OFF

Step 2: insert tapestry needle into second st on back needle to KNIT, pull yarn through, leave st ON

Step 3: Insert tapestry needle into first st on front needle as if to KNIT, pull yarn through, remove st OFF

Step 4: insert tapestry needle into second st on front needle as if to PURL, leave ON (UP—to prep the next stitch)

Or you can do what I do and slide the stitches off the needle as you work them so you’re visually grafting.

What this set up and 4 steps will do is create one full knit stitch and prepare for the second. Step 4 has your yarn coming out of the stitch below the second one you are about to complete. Just like you do when you start a duplicate stitch.

TIP: the stitch you remove from the front needle is always the completion of a stitch. The stitch you leave on the front needle is always the set up for the next stitch.

After you complete the number of knit stitches in a column (for instance there are two knits in the start), you’ll set up for your purl. After you complete how many purl stitches are in the next column, you’ll set up to knit. It’s important to count since you’ll always hit that one stitch on the back / or top needle that looks like a ½ knit ½ purl monster

To remember grafting think: Same OFF, Opposite ON

  • That is, if you are looking at two KNITS, inserting the tapestry needle into stitch 1 as if to KNIT is the same, take off, inserting into stitch 2 as if to PURL would be opposite, leave on.
  • Your tapestry needle will be doing same thing twice when you transition from a knit to a purl or a purl to a knit.
  • For example: If the first and second stitch facing you on the front needle is a KNIT and then a PURL: insert into first to knit (same) take OFF, insert into second to knit (opposite) leave ON.

Notice how the tapestry needle is going in the same direction no matter if you are keeping your stitches on the needle or pulling them off. Although I still wildly prefer visual grafting there are times when it’s a really slippery yarn and you don’t want to remove the stitches from the needle.

ON NEEDLE (left), OFF NEEDLE (right)

Finally, you will end it the same way you end every stitch, by retuning the needle into the same spot it came out of in the front/ or bottom needle This will leave that ½ stitch on the top needle just hanging out minding it’s own dang business.

When you’re finished you have a cheat. There is still a jog, but it happens above the join, so it’s a lot harder to see.

True, it’s not perfect, but little in life is, so I’ll take a trick of the eye anytime!

Patty in your Pocket

Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click.

About The Author

Patty Lyons is a nationally recognized knitting teacher and technique expert. In her pursuit of training the mindful knitter, Patty is known for teaching the “why” in addition to the “how.” She specializes in sweater design and sharing her love of the much-maligned subjects of gauge and blocking.

You can find Patty at her website and on Ravelry.

Do you have a problem you’d like Patty to tackle? Write to her at



  • Oh wow!!! Thank you for this! I’m just about to lengthen sleeves on a sweater and have been pondering (I’m an engineer – we tend to ponder) just how to do it. Now I have a fighting chance to update my aged, but lovely hand knit.

  • My head is spinning with all this new knowledge! This is definitely one for the save button. Thanks for being an amazing teacher.

  • Yikes! I’ve been up for two hours and one and a half cups of coffee, but still some of this flew right over my head. But I’ll save it for when I can have needles and a swatch in front of me. Many thanks, Patty!

  • I’m never going to graph. Ever. Never ever.
    You’re the best Patty and I mean it but not even personal one on one tutoring could get this all in my brain to stick.
    Just not gonna graph.

    • Graft Christie, not graph!

  • There are some mornings when an MDK column wakes me up faster than my two cups of coffee, this morning is one of those days. Your explanation is so complete and informative, you are like a magician that not only performs amazing tricks but also shows us what happens behind the curtain.

    I am so grateful to you and to MDK for articles such as these that really explain what to do and why.

  • Brilliant, just brilliant as always.
    One small correction:
    Patty Lyons is an INTERnationally recognized knitting tracher and technique expert!!!

    • Awwww. xxoo

  • Articles like this are what keep me reading your emails, pretty much daily. Thank you!

  • Excellence in explication!

  • Is this a Kitchener stitch laying flat?

    • Yup. Notice I refer to the top OR back needle (if you’re holding the needles together) and we have a picture showing

  • Thank you for the clear, detailed explanations. This will all make sense when (if) I need to graft anything.

  • This is very wow. I want to say I totally already understood how the stitches sit and the whole top edge/bottom edge why-go-in-each-twice anatomy of the stitches and the grafting. But the fix! For the RIBBING. It is extremely super wow, and the explanation and thorough example are perfect. Thank you & Bravo!

  • This head-to-head grafting trick is genius! I have done several lace scarves and shawls that were knitted in two pieces, edge to center, and blithely ended with the instruction ‘graft live stitches together’ which is ridiculous! One I just kept knitting through the center to the far edge, preferring lack of symmetry to a wonky graft, for another did a three needle bind-off with the bulk you noted. Your ‘cheat’ is brilliant! Thank you!

  • It will all make sense when I retrieve the saved article and apply it to my project. Love having Patty as a resource. BTW, loved the reference to Miss Manners (gentle reader).

  • Someone essentially help to make significantly articles I might state. This is the first time I frequented your web page and to this point? I surprised with the research you made to make this particular publish incredible. Wonderful job!

  • I’m no longer certain where you are getting your info, however great topic. I must spend some time finding out more or figuring out more. Thank you for wonderful information I was searching for this info for my mission.

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