How to Graft Stitches Top-to-Top

The Regatta Tee by Olga Casey

The Regatta Tee by Olga Casey is a huge hit! Since the Summer 2013 Interweave Knits hit the newsstands with this top on the cover, everyone wants to make it. I can certainly see why; the combination of thin red stripes and a lace yoke make you want to step onto a sailboat and head towards the horizon!

It’s all in the details here. The body of the tee is worked in reverse stockinette up to the lace knitting section at the yoke. The lace pattern adds just the right amount of flirty flair. And the seams are worked inside out, so the selvage shows on the outside. So fashionable.

The shoulders have a seam, but it’s invisible because it’s grafted. Here’s senior project editor Joni Coniglio to teach you how to make an invisible shoulder seam like those on the Regatta Tee.

Grafting Top-to-Top

When you graft live stitches on the front needle to live stitches on the back needle top-to-top, you are creating two distinct pattern rows simultaneously, one on each needle. Moreover, because the wrong side of the work on the back needle is facing you as you graft the stitches from right to left (assuming that you are grafting right-handed), the pattern row on this needle is being grafted in reverse. And, if that’s not enough to make your brain start hurting, there’s one more thing: the pattern stitches on the back needle are upside down and shifted a half stitch to the left in relation to the pattern stitches on the front needle!

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s back up a few steps.

As I said earlier, when the live stitches on the front needle are grafted to the live stitches on the back needle, two pattern rows (one on each needle) are created simultaneously. What makes this possible is the serpentine structure of the knitted row (or, in this case, the grafted row).

Illustration 1

Illustration 1 shows a row of four grafted stitches, with the rows above and below it omitted. The four X’s at the top of the row indicate the top loops of the grafted stitches that are a continuation of the pattern on the front needle. There is another row of loops that runs along the bottom of the row and faces in the opposite direction. These four loops, also marked by X’s, are a continuation of the pattern on the back needle. The tops of the loops grafted on the front needle form the running threads between the loops grafted on the back needle, and the running threads between the loops grafted on the front needle form the tops of the loops grafted on the back needle.

Illustration 2

It helps to look at each pattern row first individually, then show how the two rows fit together into one grafted row. In traditional Kitchener stitch, the type of grafting you might use to close the toe of sock, the stockinette stitch pattern is continued on each of the stitches on the front needle (illustration 2) by drawing the yarn through the loop on the needle first purlwise (leaving the stitch on the needle because the yarn needs to go through each stitch twice) and knitwise (removing the stitch from the needle because the stitch is now complete). I like to use chart symbols to represent the loops on the needle.

The grafted stockinette stitch pattern on the back needle (illustration 3) looks identical to the pattern on the front needle (and is), but it’s achieved in an entirely different way.

Illustration 3

In top-to-top grafting, the stitches on the back needle are oriented upside down in relation to the stitches on the front needle and are shifted a half-stitch to the left (illustration 4). In addition, they are grafted with the wrong side of the work facing the knitter, so the stockinette stitch on the back needle is achieved by working a purl graft on the purl side of the work. A purl graft is the exact opposite of a knit graft: the yarn is drawn through the loop on the needle knitwise (leaving the stitch on the needle), then purlwise (removing the stitch from the needle). Since the row is grafted from right to left (assuming you are grafting right-handed), each pattern row on each needle progresses from right to left, as well.

Illustration 4
Illustration 5

As the row is grafted, the grafting yarn alternates between the stitches on the two needles (illustration 5), going through the first half of a stitch on the front needle, then moving to the back needle and going through the first half of a stitch on that needle (the two set-up steps). It then moves to the front needle again and goes through the second half of the first stitch and the first half of the next stitch, then moves to the back needle where it goes through the second half of the first stitch and the first half of the next stitch. The sequence of second half/first half on each needle is repeated across the row until one stitch remains on each needle. The row ends with the yarn going through the second half of each remaining stitch. Each time the second half of a stitch is worked, it is removed from the needle.

Hopefully, breaking the process down in this way will make the grafting process seem a little less mysterious. In fact, the steps follow a very logical order. Below are the written instructions for stockinette stitch grafting. By comparing each step of the instructions to the path the arrows take through the chart symbols in illustration 5, it is easy to see how the steps relate to the creation of the pattern on each needle.

Begin with two set-up steps:

  • Purlwise through the first stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
  • Knitwise through the first stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.Repeat four steps until 1 stitch remains on each needle:
  • Knitwise through the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
  • Purlwise through the next stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
  • Purlwise through the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
  • Knitwise through the next stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.End with two steps:
  • Knitwise through the last stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
  • Purlwise through the last stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.

By the way, the grafting chart could just as easily have consisted of two stitches on each row, instead of four. The chart only needs to be as large as the smallest multiple of the stitch pattern (and a minimum of two stitches).

Pretty much any pattern can be charted in similar fashion (and I usually just use a piece of graph paper and a pencil for this).

—Joni Coniglio, Inside Knits, December 2011

All of this makes so much sense! Maybe I can finally get over my fear of grafting and quit using the 3-needle bind-off all the time.

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Cheers,

P.S. What helps you achieve success with grafting? Share your tips in the comments below!

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