Ask Patty: Directions in Grafting
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
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?
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
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.
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!