Does a Grafted Row Count as One or Two Pattern Rows

In my article, “The Ins and Outs of Grafting,” which recently appeared in the premiere issue of knit.wear magazine, I mentioned the fact that, when trying to determine how to fit the grafting into the row repeats of a stitch pattern, you should allow for two pattern rows, instead of just one. I’d like to talk a little more about that here. (Note: In the article, I described both top-to-top and top-to-bottom grafting, but for now, I’m going to limit the discussion to top-to-bottom grafting, which is very different from top-to-top grafting. So for the moment, put aside what you know about grafting the toe of a sock!)But first, here’s a short quiz:You’ve designed an infinity cowl that will be joined end-to-end. You want the pattern to continue around the entire circumference of the cowl, uninterrupted by a seam, so your plan is to cast on using a provisional cast-on and graft the live stitches to the cast-on stitches. Your stitch pattern has a 10-row repeat. You start with Row 1 of the pattern after the provisional cast-on, then repeat Rows1-10 until the cowl is the right length. In order for the pattern rows to match up perfectly when you graft the stitches together, you will need to do which of the following:

A) End with Row 9 of the pattern and graft Row 10.

B) End with Row 8 of the pattern and graft Row 9.

If you answered A, you are probably in the majority. It does seem like the logical choice. After all, since the grafted row is only one row, it follows that you’d end one row shy of a full repeat before grafting the stitches together. The correct answer, however, is B. You should end with Row 8 of the pattern (two rows short of a complete repeat) and graft Row 9.

But if you start with Row 1 of the pattern after the provisional cast-on and end with Row 8 before grafting Row 9, won’t you have a gap in the pattern where Row 10 should be? No, there won’t be a gap because Row 10 already exists, albeit in an “unfinished” state, in the provisional cast-on stitches. The row is unfinished because the loops that are secured by the waste yarn aren’t attached to another row of knitting, so are neither knit stitches nor purl stitches (and won’t be until the grafting yarn is drawn through them). You could say that Row 10 is a pattern row “in-waiting.”

During the knitting process, loops of yarn are drawn through other loops to create a new row of stitches. If you look closely at the place where the two rows intersect, you can see that the top of the loops of the lower row wrap around both “legs” of the loops from the upper row. If the stitches of the new row are knit stitches, the top of the loops from the row below will disappear behind the legs of the new loops (the two legs of the old loop form the “V” of a knit stitch); if the new stitches are purl stitches, the top of the loops from the lower row will be in front of the two legs of the new stitches (the top of the old loop forms the “bump” or “ridge” of a purl stitch). As we can see, it is the relationship between the two rows of loops that determines whether the new stitches are knit or purl stitches.

When live loops on the front needle are grafted to live loops on the back needle, a pattern row is created when the grafting yarn is drawn through the loops on the front needle. At the same time, a separate pattern row is created by drawing yarn through the loops on the back needle.

In top-to-bottom grafting, the tops of the stitches on the front needle are joined to the bottoms of the stitches on the back needle (which are the running threads between the provisional cast-on stitches). It is the running threads of the cast-on stitches that are placed onto the back needle in preparation for grafting.

When it comes to grafting in a pattern that contains both knit and purl stitches, top-to-bottom grafting has a distinct advantage over top-to-top grafting: the stitches of the grafted pattern will line up perfectly with the stitches of the rest of the pattern. This is because the grafted row is no different than any row in a piece that has been worked from the cast-on row up to the bound-off row (in top-to-top grafting, there will be a half-stitch jog in the pattern because one of the pieces being grafted is upside-down).

In top-to-bottom grafting, the grafted stitches are an exact replica of stitches created when loops are drawn through other loops with a knitting needle. Because of this, the steps required to graft each stitch should match the vertical alignment of the pattern.

Look closely at a single stitch in the middle of several rows of Stockinette stitch and follow the path the yarn takes through the loops above and below it. You will see that there are four places where the yarn passes through another loop: first it goes through a loop in the row below, then it travels upward at a diagonal and passes through a loop in the row above (this loop is upside down and not directly above the stitch, but a half stitch to the right of it), then the yarn moves to the left horizontally where it passes through another upside-down loop (this one a half stitch to the left), then moves downward at a diagonal and passes through the same loop in the row below that it passed through the first time. Each stitch has the same four anchor points: two below in one loop and two above in a half-loop each.

In top-to-bottom grafting, a single grafted stitch follows the same path:

  1. The tapestry needle is inserted into a loop on the front needle, the yarn is drawn through and the stitch remains on the front needle.
  2. The tapestry needle is inserted into a loop on the back needle and the stitch is removed onto the tapestry needle, but the yarn isn’t drawn through until the next step.
  3. The tapestry needle is inserted into the next loop on the back needle, the yarn is drawn through and the stitch remains on the back needle.
  4. The tapestry needle is inserted into the same loop on the front needle as before and the stitch is removed onto the tapestry needle, but the yarn isn’t drawn through until the next step.

These four steps are repeated for each grafted stitch. The direction in which the tapestry needle is inserted into a stitch on the knitting needle at any given time will depend on the pattern being grafted. To graft a knit stitch on the front needle, insert the tapestry needle through the loop purlwise in Step 1 and knitwise in Step 4. To graft a knit stitch on the back needle, insert the tapestry needle through the loop purlwise in Step 2 and knitwise in Step 3. To graft a purl stitch on the front needle, insert the tapestry needle through the loop knitwise in Step 1 and purlwise in Step 4. To graft a purl stitch on the back needle, insert the tapestry needle through the loop knitwise in Step 2 and purlwise in Step 3.

Since the grafting conforms to the structure of each stitch, it is possible to use the stitch charts from the pattern as a guide to the sequence of steps. Simply pick two rows of the chart and use the lower row for the front needle graft and the upper row for the back needle graft. Each knit stitch on the lower row of the chart will represent a knitwise graft on the front needle (purlwise, then knitwise into one loop), while each knit stitch on the upper row will represent a knitwise graft on the back needle (purlwise through one loop, then knitwise through the next loop to the left). For purl grafts, the knitwise and purlwise steps are reversed.

In the following swatches, I show how various patterns can be grafted using charts. For each swatch, I used a provisional cast-on and worked a few inches in the pattern, beginning with a wrong-side row, then I bound off the stitches. I like to start with a wrong-side row above the provisional cast-on so that I can use the cast-on tail for the grafting (I leave it long, about four times the width of the piece). For the portion of the swatch below the grafted row, I cast on regularly, worked a few rows, and ended two rows before where I started the pattern above the cast-on. Before I removed the waste yarn from the provisional cast-on in preparation for grafting, I picked up an extra stitch at the corner (the cast-on tail side) so that I had one more stitch on the back needle than on the front needle. I did this because I wanted a half-loop at each side of the back needle and only wanted the grafting yarn to go through those stitches one time, instead of two. This matches the structure of the knitted fabric as it’s worked from the cast-on row up to the bound-off edge.

The arrows in the charts show the path the pink grafting yarn takes through the loops on the front and back needles. The letters represent the knitwise (k) or purlwise (p) direction the yarn takes through each loop to create knit and purl stitches. The white boxes represent knit stitches (as viewed from the right-side of the work) and the gray boxes (and boxes with dots) represent purl stitches (as viewed from the right-side).

Swatch A

For Swatch A, I worked garter stitch by purling every row. The back needle portion begins with a “valley” (achieved by purling on a WS row) and the front needle portion ends with a “ridge” (achieved by purling on a RS row). When I grafted, I worked a knit graft on the front needle and a purl graft on the back needle. The purl bumps of the grafted row (shown in pink) are on top of the knit “V’s.”

Swatch B

For Swatch B, I worked garter stitch by knitting every row. The back needle portion begins with a “ridge” (achieved by knitting on a WS row) and the front needle portion ends with a “valley” (achieved by knitting on a RS row). When I grafted, I worked a purl graft on the front needle and a knit graft on the back needle. The purl bumps of the grafted row (which appear in the main color because they are the tops of the stitches on the front needle) are below the knit “V’s.”

Swatch C

For Swatch C, I worked in Seed Stitch. Since I had an odd number of stitches, I worked every row the same: *K1, p1; rep from * to last st, end k1. Because I started with a WS row above the cast-on, there is a purl stitch as viewed from the RS of the work on each side of the row. The front needle begins and ends with a knit stitch. Because the grafted row creates two pattern rows, the knit and purl grafts need to alternate, just as they do in the Seed Stitch pattern itself. To graft Seed stitch, I just alternated Versions 1 and 2 of the Garter Stitch charts (starting with Version 2).

Swatch D

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Swatch D shows a Zig Zag pattern consisting of four purl bumps on each diagonal line. The chart shows how the grafted row connects the purl bumps at the top of the zig zag with the purl bumps at the bottom of the zig zag. I again used the Garter Stitch charts above and added a symbol for a Stockinette graft (on the first grafted stitch, then every 3rd grafted stitch).

 

 

Swatch E

For Swatch E, I cast on 20 stitches and started with the WS row of the pattern above the grafted row. I worked a cable crossing on the 2nd row, then every 4th row. On the front needle, I ended with a cable crossing row in order to continue the four-row repeat of the pattern when I added the two pattern rows during grafting. Here I used a combination of Stockinette stitch grafting (for the four-stitch cable) and Reverse Stockinette stitch grafting (for the two stitches separating the cable pattern).By mixing and matching the four grafting symbols I’ve shown here (Stockinette, Reverse Stockinette, and two versions of Garter Stitch), you can graft pretty much any combination of knit and purl stitches. Just remember to account for two pattern rows for the grafting and pick up the extra stitch at the edge of the back needle so that you have one more stitch on the back needle than on the front.Joni

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