GRAFTING LACE INVISIBLY (it’s easier than you think)

When I first saw Lisa Hoffman’s lace shawl from our Interweave Knits Summer 2014  issue, I immediately added it to my project list. I was drawn to the three lace patterns used in the shawl, all very different but each one flowing seamlessly into the next.
The scalloped lower edges are formed by a Fan Lace pattern. (Actually, the fans reminded me more of the seashells I used to collect at Pawley’s Island, South Carolina where we’d spend a week each summer when I was growing up.) That pattern merges into the Bluebells Lace pattern, with small bobbles that look like berries on the vine (another memory from childhood summers). The vertical panels of meandering vines are separated by a Ribbed Eyelet pattern that eventually forms the main part of the shawl.Because the Fan Lace and Bluebells Lace can only be worked in one direction, the shawl is worked in two halves and grafted in the center of the Ribbed Eyelet section. One possible drawback of this construction method is that, if the grafting isn’t done carefully, it can result in a visible line running down the center of the wearer’s back.
 I knit my version of the shawl using US size 2 needles and a lace-weight yarn.
                                             

The trick to making the join invisible is to recreate as closely as possible the stitch pattern that is being grafted—in this case, the Ribbed Eyelet pattern—using a tapestry needle and a long strand of yarn. Grafting involves more steps than when the stitch pattern was created during the knitting process because it requires two steps for every one step in regular knitting. Not only that, but you are also working with two rows of live stitches at the same time. The more complicated the pattern, the more grafting steps will be involved. One of the simplest (and most common) grafting methods is Kitchener stitch. However, because there are no rows of stockinette stitch in the Ribbed Eyelet pattern, Kitchener stitch will interrupt the pattern and will be noticeable. Another option, since the Ribbed Eyelet pattern is essentially k2, p1 rib, is to use a rib graft. This will be somewhat less noticeable than a Kitchener graft because the purl columns won’t be interrupted by knit stitches. But because the grafting would add two rib rows (not one row, as is commonly believed), there will still be a slight interruption to the pattern. The most invisible graft involves grafting both a rib row (Row 2 or 4 of the pattern) on the back needle and a row that contains yarnovers and decreases (Row 1 or 3 of the pattern) on the front needle.

Kitchener Stitch Graft K2, Pl Rib Graft Ribbed Eyelet Lace Graft

These three swatches were grafted using the three methods described above. The photos show a Kitchener stitch graft, a k2, p1 rib graft, and a lace graft in the Ribbed Eyelet pattern.

KITCHENER GRAFT
For this swatch, I ended with Row 3 of the Ribbed Eyelet pattern on the front needle piece and Row 1 of the pattern on the back needle piece, and then used Kitchener stitch to graft the live stitches.
Set-up Steps:
Front Needle: Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Kwise, on.
Repeated Sequence:
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Kwise, on.
Rep this sequence until 1 st rems on each needle.
Ending steps:
Front Needle: Kwise, off.
Back Needle: Pwise, off.
The grafting steps are pretty simple (only four steps in the repeated sequence), but using Kitchener stitch between two patterned rows is the equivalent of working two rows of stockinette stitch (and you probably wouldn’t consider randomly adding two rows of stockinette in the middle of your shawl while knitting it). So if having an invisible join is a factor for you, you might want to consider one of the next two options.
K2, P1 RIB GRAFT
For this swatch, I ended with Row 3 of the Ribbed Eyelet pattern on both the front and back needle pieces, and then grafted in k2, p1 rib. Since it takes two steps in grafting to create one pattern stitch on one needle, a repeated sequence will contain four times as many steps as the stitch repeat of the pattern: 2 steps for each stitch in the pattern repeat, doubled because there are live stitches on each needle (and a different row of the stitch pattern is created on each needle). The pattern repeat in k2, p1 rib has 3 stitches, which means that the repeated sequence when grafting in this pattern will contain 6 steps for each needle, or 12 steps total.
Set-up Steps:
Front Needle: Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Kwise, on.
Repeated Sequence:
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Pwise on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise on.
Back Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Rep this sequence until 1 st rem on each needle.
Ending Steps:
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Pwise on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off.
Back Needle: Pwise, off.
RIBBED EYELET LACE GRAFT
Out of the 3 grafting methods, this one conforms most closely to the Ribbed Eyelet pattern, and therefore is the most invisible (in spite of the fact that there is a half-stitch jog where the two pieces meet top-to-top). Because the grafting is more complex than Kitchener stitch, I created a cheat sheet using the Ribbed Eyelet chart from the shawl pattern. It’s a quick way to create step-by-step instructions for what would otherwise be a fairly complicated process.
To create the cheat sheet, I first made several copies of the chart and experimented with different scenarios to see which two rows of the chart to use for the grafting. Since the patterns were going to be grafted top-to-top, I turned one chart upside down.
I finally decided that this configuration most closely resembled the Ribbed Eyelet pattern when it was knit continuously because the decreases alternate between right and left-slanting. Here, the yarnovers look as if they will align vertically, but with the half-stitch jog that occurs when grafting stitches top-to-top, the yarnovers on the back needle will shift to the left a half-stitch.
I isolated the two chart rows at the juncture between the two charts to use for the grafting, one row below the juncture and one row above it. I will graft Row 3 on the front needle and Row 2 on the back needle. The shawl pattern also has a 3-stitch Seed stitch border at each side created by working k1, p1, k1 on every row, which I included in the grafting.

I then created a “cheat sheet” for the grafting using just those two rows of the chart (plus the Seed stitch borders), writing the grafting steps in each box. Where the chart contained dots for purl symbols, I shaded the boxes so that I could write in them. I also shifted the back needle graft over a half stitch to the left since that’s what happens when stitches are grafted top-to-top. A knit stitch is created on the front needle when the grafting yarn is drawn through a loop purlwise, then knitwise so I wrote “P” then “K” in the blank boxes on the lower row (working from right to left, just as I graft across the row). A purl stitch is created on the front needle by drawing the grafting yarn through a loop knitwise, then purlwise so the shaded boxes on the lower row contain a “K” and a “P.”  Grafting a yarnover is simply a matter of skipping steps so the boxes with yarnover symbols don’t get any letters. K2tog decreases are grafted using the same steps as knit stitches, only going through 2 stitches at a time instead of one (as if to p2tog for the first pass and as if to k2tog for the second pass). The stitches on the back needle are grafted with the wrong side of the work facing, so the steps for creating knit and purl stitches (as viewed from the right side of the work) are the opposite of those on the front needle. Each knit stitch box receives the letters “K” and “P” and each purl stitch box receives the letters “P” and “K.” The arrows show the path the grafting yarn takes through the stitches, starting with the first stitch on the front needle at the right-hand side of the chart. The first time the grafting yarn passes through a stitch (or stitches) on the needle, the stitch remains on the needle (this first pass is represented by the first letter in each box). The second time the grafting yarn passes through a stitch (or stitches) on the needle, the stitch is removed from the needle (the second pass is represented by the second letter in each box). The grafting repeat (outlined in red) begins and ends in the middle of a chart symbol because it starts with the second pass through a stitch and ends with the first pass.

 

Here are the steps written out. Notice that some of the steps on the front needle (either an “off” step or an “on” step) seem to be missing; this is where the yarnovers in the lace pattern occur (except for the first set-up steps and the last ending steps). The steps that involve going through 2 stitches at the same time are the k2tog decreases. The repeated sequence is worked over 12 stitches, just as for k2, p1 rib grafting. And just as for the Ribbed Eyelet pattern, the yarnovers balance the decreases so the stitch count remains the same.

Set-up Steps: 
Front Needle: Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Back Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off.
Back Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.

Repeated Sequence:
Front Needle: Pwise through 2 sts, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise through 2 sts, off; Kwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Pwise, off.
Back Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Rep this sequence until 5 sts rem on each needle.

Ending Steps:
Front Needle: Pwise through 2 sts, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise through 2 sts, off; Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Back Needle: Kwise, off; Kwise, on.
Front Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Back Needle: Pwise, off; Pwise, on.
Front Needle: Kwise, off.
Back Needle: Kwise, off.

While grafting in pattern may involve more steps than grafting using Kitchener stitch, it doesn’t have to be difficult. As with any other skill, it just takes a bit of practice. And if you have step-by-step instructions to follow, it shouldn’t be more difficult than following any other knitting pattern. Here are some tips that might make the process a little easier:

Take it slowly and stop frequently. I usually stop after every couple of repeats of the grafting sequence to take a couple of breaths (it’s important to stay relaxed!) and to check my last few grafted stitches.
Create “rules” for yourself that you follow consistently. Here are a few of mine:
–I mark off the four steps (two on the front needle and two on the back needle) that I’m going to work next and only if I’m going to work them right away. That way, I always know where to start again if I have to put down my work.
–If possible, I only stop after a completed grafting sequence.
–I also watch for signposts along the way to make sure I’m not getting off-track. For example, I might note how a grafting sequence will end and begin in relation to certain stitches on the needle (the single purl stitches in the Ribbed Eyelet pattern made perfect signposts) so that if I know immediately if I’ve missed a step.
–Everyone makes mistakes. At one point when I was grafting the shawl, I ended up getting out of sequence (fortunately, I caught it pretty quickly because of the above rule). Taking out grafting stitches is an essential skill to have. First, don’t panic. (I admit I had a hard time following that particular rule and had to walk away for a few minutes.) The key is to pull out the grafting yarn slowly and stitch by stitch, replacing the live stitches on the front and back needles as you go, until you reach a point in the sequence you know is correct (that’s where the signposts come in handy).
–And you should probably use a lifeline. Although I can’t call this a rule because I don’t always do this, but there have definitely been times when it would have made things easier.

The lace grafting maintains the open structure of the rest of the lace knitting.

Practice grafting this simple lace pattern on some swatches just to get the hang of it. I’m certain you’ll find it’s not as difficult as you thought it would be!

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