The In-depth Guide to Grafting Garter Stitch

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This tutorial is an extract from my first book, ‘Going Straight – A New Generation of Knitted Hats’, a book which contains kitchener/grafting instructions for 8 different combinations including reverse stocking stitch, garter stitch, reverse garter stitch, combining St.St and garter in one graft and much more!

Below are the four steps for kitchener stitch for garter stitch. To prepare for grafting, we need to ensure that our stitches are held together and parallel on the needles, with right sides of the work facing out.

To ensure your graft works correctly, you need to set your stitches up correctly. Unlike grafting stocking stitch, you cannot just bring the edges together, they need to be set up in a particular way. As you look at the needles from the top as shown in step 1, one side should have the ridges right up to the needle and the other should have the ridges sitting away from the needle. If your ridges are the other way around then you’ll want to reverse the instructions (this would be known as ‘ridge low’ grafting). If both needles are the same, you’ll want to unpick one side – this is especially important to remember if you’re folding a piece in half to graft – in this case, knit half the row before folding.

When we graft, we work first on the front needle and then on the back needle. It’s quite important to remember to stop after step 4 should you need to have a break or tighten up the slack, so that you can start again at a convenient point. Whenever I teach this technique, the most common problem that occurs is stopping mid way through the 4 step process which causes confusion for the knitter.

To start the graft and create the beginning selvedge edge, work steps 1 & 2 as shown in the Grafting the Selvedges section below. Then work steps 3 to 6 as shown in the main Grafting Garter Stitch section below until all stitches have been grafted, then finish with steps 3 & 5. In a general grafting mantra, where we work 4 steps throughout, the opening selvedge is usually steps 1 & 3 and the closing selvedge is steps 2 & 4.

1) For this graft known as ‘ridge high’, the front needle (shown here as the bottom needle) has the ridges high, the back needle (shown here as the top needle) has them low – right sides of work showing.
2) In most cases when you come to graft garter stitch, the released stitches will be on the back needle, and the yarn will be attached to the front needle.
3) Insert your needle into an inside ridge very close to the first stitch on the back needle
4) Pull your yarn through, and the yarn is now ready to come to the front needle to start the graft.

Grafting The Opening Selvedge Stitches

5) Selvedge stitch 1, front needle – insert the needle purlwise, pull the yarn through then leave the stitch on the needle.
6) Selvedge stitch 2, back needle – insert the needle purlwise, pull the yarn through then leave the stitch on the needle.

Grafting Garter Stitch

7) Stitch 1, front needle – insert the needle knitwise, pull the yarn through then slip the stitch off the needle.
8) Stitch 2, front needle – insert the needle purlwise, pull the yarn through but leave the stitch on the needle.
9) Stitch 3, back needle – insert the needle knitwise, pull the yarn through then slip the stitch off the needle.
10) Stitch 4, back needle – insert the needle purlwise, pull the yarn through but leave the stitch on the needle. Repeat steps 3 to 6 for the grafting method. You’ll also notice that what you do on the front needle you also do on the back needle.

Grafting the Closing Selvedge Stitches

To close the graft, work steps 7 & 9 – this creates the final selvedge. Break your yarn and pull the yarn tail through to finish.

Other helpful tips to ensure your graft goes smoothly

Try to take up the slack (i.e. tighten your stitches) every 5 ot 10 stitches. Leaving this until the end will likely cause problems with your tension and cause the graft to look uneven. When taking up the slack, do it slowly, stitch by stitch – don’t try pulling from the end as this will tighten some stitches and not others and may even cause your yarn to break!

Always remember to start on the front needle first. If your working yarn is on the front needle, slip it through the base of the first stitch on the back needle, to ensure it connects correctly when starting the graft.

A quick way to remember the garter stitch grafting method is this:

(front): knit off, purl on; (back) knit off, purl on

Support

As always, if you have a question about this technique or need some help with it, leave a comment below! I’m afraid I’m unable to offer help via email or private message, but you’re welcome to post in our forum.

 

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Woolly Wormhead

2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth

    Hi, I am enjoying my purchase of the Ruschia hat pattern, and was just now looking ahead at the Kitchener stitch instructions because I will be taking the hat along to finish on a road trip and will not really be able to look at internet tutorials. I was just reading the above and while I hope my final panel will come out with the stitches in the correct orientation, since I am following the pattern exactly – although I guess if I run out of yarn I might have an unfinished panel – I am nevertheless confused by "If both needles are the same, you’ll want to unpick one side – this is especially important to remember if you’re folding a piece in half to graft – in this case, knit half the row before folding."

    In what scenario would both needles be the same, and also – why would I knit half a row of the hat before folding? Maybe I need to get to the end of the panels to understand this.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Woolly Wormhead

      If you’re following the Ruschia pattern to the letter, your graft will turn out just fine 🙂 Problems occur when folks work a plain row after the provisional cast-on OR when they don’t omit the last row of the last panel.

      To your questions: in image 1 we see two sets of needles with the stitches ready to graft. One needle has the ridges up close to the needle, the other has Vs – this might be more evident in your own knitting and you might want to give it a stretch to see. But this is the scenario where them being the same means the graft won’t work. If both sets of needles, when laid flat and put together as they are in the first image in this post, have stitches sitting the same way then the graft won’t work.

      In terms of folding your work in half – this is something you don’t need to worry about for the Ruschia pattern, or for most of my other sideways patterns for that matter! It’s something we’d do for, say, the hood of a cardigan. Grafting replaces one full row of knitting and so we need to ensure that the knitting is one row short when we bring the edges together to graft, so if you are folding your work then we achieve that by only working half the row.

      Reply

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