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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.

Hi Patty,

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)


Hi Patty,

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.
End steps
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:

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Un-eared Kitchener

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.

Patty in your Pocket

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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



  • Thank you Patty, for clear details on no ear Kitchner!

    • I have been knitting since childhood (a long time ago) and have never read a better article about grafting. The visuals were wonderful. Thanks, A Minnesota Yarnball.

    • Brilliant as always! I avoid cuff down socks due to the dreaded grafting. Maybe i’ll give them a try after seeing this!

      • You can always draw the yarn through the last (8 or so) stitches, which looks quite neat !

    • I discovered the same thing when I had to knit about 25 hats over the course of 2 weeks and they all required kitchenering. I hadn’t used that stitch very often and every time I did I had to look it up because the beginning confused me. So after doing a few hats I caught on to the knit off purl on purl on knit off pattern except for the beginning which always threw me for some reason. So for reasons of speed I just decided to leave that off and start where I could understand what I was doing and I saw that the beginning and end looked neater. I had never seen anybody tell someone just to start doing the stitch without the setup rows so I I felt a little bit lazy but I continue doing it and it turned out fine. So thank you for ‘validating’ my laziness and I still wonder why I’ve never seen anyone else point this out.

  • This was great Patty, but I wish you had not turned the sock around so fast on the last stitch. I couldn’t exactly see where you poked the needle through to bring the yarn to the inside. I repeated the last few seconds, and still couldn’t see exactly where that needle tip went before weaving in!

    • If you want to see that very last step in great detail, watch one of Kay Litton’s (The Crazy Sock Lady) tutorials at YouTube. The one I remember was knitting socks on a 9″ circular, but I think any one of them will have a Kitchener section at the end, where she is very precise about how she finishes off the last two stitches and where she takes the yarn to the inside of the sock. She was the first person I saw advise skipping the set-up and finishing steps, and she has made many many socks (hence the moniker).

    • If I understood correctly/the way I do it: When you only have one stich left on each needle (front and back), you enter the stich on the front needle as if to knit and pull the yarn through to the inside of the sock. Then take both knitting needles out and you should have the same result.

    • Don’t stress about it too much just try it. Just tug on the yarn and see where it’s coming from and then poke it through the next stitch over

    • Me too, I could use a little more explanation of where you poke the needle through at the end. But I can’t wait to try this myself!

  • Love it Patty, such a clear explanation.

  • This makes so much sense! I’ve been struggling to get an intuitive feel for the Kitchener stitch and you’ve made it so clear. Thank you Patty.

  • That is exactly how I discovered what I learned, years later, was kitchener stitch. A knitting friend, which was a rarity back in the 60s, had a pattern from England that said to graft front and back together to form the shoulder. We put pieces out on a table, and worked it out. “Ears” were not a problem with shoulder seam, but when i did my first sock, I followed the same logic: read your knitting and just recreate another row.

  • I have always loved Kitchener – it feels magical to me – but I never could work out what exactly what the set up and last steps were for. Now I don’t have to worry about figuring it out any more. As always, thank you.

  • I love Kitchener. I’ve never gotten ears on socks and I don’t understand why. I guess I should be grateful. But won’t the ears stretch out on first wearing? And in any case, aren’t they inside your shoes?

  • Thanks as always for such a great explanation Patti. I’m a lazy sock knitter. The first sock I knit was about 35 years ago from a Nancy Bush book (one of the few out there at the time). It happens that this pattern (top down, heel flap) closes at the toe with the last 8 stitches just drawn together. For years I never heard of grafting the toe together. I’ve since grafted in other situations but continue to close this way as the fit and look (for me) is perfect.

    • Thanks – looks great. I’ve seen other avoid-the-ears techniques, and yours is much less complicated.

  • Thank you, Patty! You are always so clear and helpful, especially explaining the “why” in the engineering. I’ve struggled with my stitches lining up neatly when attempting a 2×2 rib bind off, setting up for a tubular bind off. It looks like it leans a bit and isn’t aligned like this beautiful kitchener. In watching this, I wonder if I’ve thrown things off with the first setup stitches that I could’ve ignored. Hmm. Learning to read my knitting, thanks to you and MDK.

  • Yay!

  • You are a wonder. I always bookmark your articles because they always add value, even for this experienced knitter. I appreciate your process orientation. It’s so much easier to own a technique once you understand the how and why of it.

  • This is the best. The set up and ending always confused me and now I know why. They are totally unnecessary and ugly as well. Thanks so much. I always learn something from your columns!

  • Can we just call this the Patty stitch now and leave Kitchener out of it altogether? : )

    • Yes! Way past time to rename a technique named after a British general responsible for executing five Australian officers for following his orders (the Breaker Morant case)

  • I have a bunch of top-down Xmas present socks to graft and what perfect timing for this article! Many thanks to Patty and MDK!

  • I just added length to a cable front sweater I knitted bottom up. It ended up to short for my body so I started the hem again and added another repeat of the cable and grafted it on Some of the stitches were twisted which was hard to see on the needles. I think I will go back over the cabled area and try doing it visually, I think the purl ribs will look better.

  • hallelujah! Thank you Patty!

  • I just used your tutortial for grafting baby sweater shoulder seam. Magnifico!!!!

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