Grafting Knitting, Myth 2: Grafted Ribbing Will Always Have a Half-Stitch Jog

I ended the first post of this series with an illustration of two pieces of k1, p1 ribbing that had been grafted together top-to-top. The illustration (below) shows a slight jog in the ribbing pattern where the two pieces were joined. The grafted row appears in gray and I’ve placed color-coded grafting steps on the stitches, with each group of steps (front-needle + back-needle steps) all the same color; you can also find written instructions for the grafting at the end of the post.

Grafting Ribbing: Debunking the Half-Stitch Jog Myth

Many knitters believe that this jog is unavoidable whenever they are grafting ribbing, but this isn’t necessarily true. The stitch pattern is certainly one factor that may determine if there will be a visible jog when stitches are grafted, but a more important factor is knitting direction.

Knitting direction, as it relates to grafting, refers to the orientation of both the pieces of knitting that are being grafted together. For example, you can join live stitches at the tops of two pieces (top-to-top grafting) or join live stitches at the top of one piece to live stitches at the bottom of another piece (top-to-bottom grafting).

Top-to-Top Grafting

When live stitches at the tops of two pieces are grafted together, the direction of knitting on both pieces is oriented toward the grafted row. If the pieces were laid out flat as they are in the illustration above, the piece on the front needle would be oriented in the same direction in which it was worked and the piece on the back needle would be oriented in the opposite direction. During the grafting process, the loops on the back needle are positioned between the loops on the front needle, which creates a half-stitch jog in the stitch pattern. With patterns such as stockinette and garter stitch, where the transition from one stitch to the next is always between two similar stitches (knit-to-knit or purl-to-purl) and there are no visible transition lines, the half-stitch jog between the two grafted pieces isn’t noticeable. But with a stitch pattern such as k1, p1 ribbing, where the transition between knit and purl stitches over several rows creates distinct vertical lines in the fabric, the jog is much more visible.

However—and this is where the confusion often occurs—the jog in the ribbing pattern is not just a result of the loops on the back needle being offset by a half-stitch. The other (more important) factor is whether the loops on the back needle are at the top or the bottom of the other piece of knitting, because there are significant differences between the two, particularly when it comes to k1, p1 ribbing.

In the illustration below, the live loops at the top of a piece of k1, p1 ribbing fall between the red transition lines that are separating the knit and purl stitches, but the live loops at the bottom of the same piece of ribbing are centered on the transition lines because the bottom loops are formed by the running threads between the cast-on stitches.

grafting knitting

Thus, each bottom loop of k1, p1 ribbing will be half-knit/half-purl or half-purl/half-knit. If you grafted the live loops at the top of the piece to the bottom loops (to make a ribbed cowl, for example), the vertical columns of knit and purl stitches would align perfectly, even though the loops are offset by a half-stitch.

The illustration below shows the difference between grafting ribbing top-to-top and top-to-bottom on the same piece of k1, p1 ribbing.

grafting knitting

Swatch A is positioned so that its top loops face the bottom loops of Swatch B, in preparation for grafting the stitches top-to-bottom. Swatch C is positioned above Swatch B in preparation for grafting the stitches top-to-top. Notice how the transition lines that separate knit and purl stitches align vertically between Swatches A and B and jog to the left between Swatches B and C.

Top-to-Bottom Grafting

In top-to-bottom grafting, the direction of knitting on the front needle moves toward the grafted row while the direction of knitting on the back needle moves away from it. Thus, the direction of knitting continues uninterrupted from the piece on the front needle through the grafted row to the piece on the back needle.

Notice that the color-coded grafting steps are grouped very differently from the steps for grafting k1, p1 ribbing top-to-top. When it comes to grafting ribbing patterns, top-to-bottom grafting is much more straightforward and easier to visualize. There’s no need to follow convoluted formulas because there are just four steps needed for each knit or purl stitch.

All four steps are confined within the vertical transition lines so the same four steps can be used on any combination of ribbing. There is no need for set-up and ending steps, and no need to look at the next stitch on the front needle because you’re only working with one stitch at a time.

Picking Up the Provisional Cast-On Stitches

Most grafting tutorials will tell you that you need to have the same number of stitches on each needle, regardless of the type of grafting that you are doing. But as with most grafting tutorials, the “universal rules” only work in certain circumstances (we’ll talk more about so-called universal formulas in Myth #4). What many tutorial writers fail to take into account is the difference in structure between the top and bottom rows, especially when both knit and purl stitches are involved. The illustration below shows live loops at the bottom and top of a piece of k1, p1 ribbing worked over five stitches.

Because the bottom loops fall between the working loops on the needle, there will be one fewer whole loop on the bottom row than on the top row (in this case, four loops instead of five). But notice that there is also a half-loop at the beginning and end of the bottom row. If you’ve ever removed a waste-yarn crochet chain from provisional cast-on stitches, you may have noticed that the very last cast-on stitch removed from the chain is smaller than the rest of the stitches and it won’t ravel if you drop it from the waste yarn. This is one of the half-loops at the edge.

Some knitters compensate for the one-stitch shortfall between the top and bottom rows by picking up this half-loop, which works fine if the provisional cast-on stitches are going to be used for knitting in the opposite direction or for grafting a pattern such as stockinette or garter stitch where the alignment of stitches isn’t an issue. But if you’re grafting a pattern like k1, p1 ribbing, it’s important to place the half-loop at each edge on the needle so that there is one more stitch on the back needle than on the front. (The other half-loop needs to be created at the other end by wrapping the cast-on tail around the needle and running it back to the wrong side of the work.) That way, all four steps of the first and last grafted stitches can be worked and the side edges will be nice and smooth. In our five-stitch sample, the five top loops will be placed on the front needle and the six bottom loops (four whole loops, plus two half loops) will be placed on the back needle.

Another difference between the loops on the top row and those on the bottom row in k1, p1 ribbing is how the loops on the front and back needles will appear as the stitches are being grafted. The illustrations below show what the ribbing looks like on the back needle in both top-to-top grafting (at left) and top-to-bottom grafting (at right). At first glance, they might look similar, but a closer look reveals that they are actually very different.

As we saw earlier, in top-to-top grafting, the knitting direction of both pieces is oriented toward the live stitches. The following illustration shows the stitches as they would look when they’re sitting on the knitting needles, with the right side of the piece on the front needle facing and the wrong side of the piece on the back needle facing. The ribbing pattern on the front needle begins and ends with a knit stitch, and the pattern on the back needle begins and ends with a purl stitch. The jog is created when the two pieces are grafted from different directions.

grafting knitting

In top-to-bottom grafting, the knitting direction of the piece on the front needle moves toward the live stitches on the needle and the knitting direction of the piece on the back needle moves away from the live stitches. This illustration shows the stitches as they’d look on each needle during grafting, with the right side of the front needle facing and the wrong side of the back needle facing.

Each live loop on the back needle (the provisional cast-on row) will be half-knit/half-purl or half-purl/half-knit because the loops are centered on the transitions between knit and purl stitches. In order for the pattern to be continuous when the stitches are grafted, each knit stitch on the front needle must be joined to two half-knit stitches on the back needle (two half-purl stitches as viewed from the wrong side), and each purl stitch on the front needle must be joined to two half-purl stitches (two half-knit stitches as viewed from the wrong side).

One thing to keep in mind when you’re grafting ribbing top-to-bottom is that you can still end up with a jog in the pattern if you graft the stitches as if you were grafting top-to-top. To avoid the jog, the direction of the grafted row must be consistent with the direction of the stitches on each needle. The illustration below shows what would happen if the steps for grafting k1, p1 ribbing top-to-top were applied to a provisional cast-on row on the back needle. There would be a jog in the pattern because the grafted stitches are worked in the opposite direction from the rest of the stitches on the back needle. It’s the same thing that happens when stitches are picked up from a provisional cast-on and worked in the opposite direction.

Next time, we’ll explore the myth that grafting creates only one pattern row by looking at patterns such as garter stitch that change from row to row.


Written instructions for grafting k1, p1 ribbing top-to-top and top-to-bottom

GRAFTING K1, P1 RIBBING TOP-TO-TOP

Set-Up Steps:
Step 1: Insert tapestry needle purlwise into stitch on front needle, leave stitch on needle.
Step 2: Insert tapestry needle knitwise into stitch on back needle, leave stitch on needle.

Repeated Sequence:
Step 1: Insert tapestry needle knitwise into stitch on front needle, remove stitch from needle.
Step 2: Insert tapestry needle knitwise into next stitch on front needle, leave stitch on needle.
Step 3: Insert tapestry needle purlwise into stitch on back needle, remove stitch from needle.
Step 4: Insert tapestry needle purlwise into next stitch on back needle, leave stitch on needle.
Step 5: Insert tapestry needle purlwise into stitch on front needle, remove stitch from needle.
Step 6: Insert tapestry needle purlwise into next stitch on front needle, leave stitch on needle.
Step 7: Insert tapestry needle knitwise into stitch on back needle, remove stitch from needle.
Step 8: Insert tapestry needle knitwise into next stitch on back needle, leave stitch on needle.
Repeat Steps 1–8 of the repeated sequence until 1 stitch remains on each needle.

Ending Steps:
Step 1: Insert tapestry needle knitwise into last stitch on front needle, remove stitch from needle.
Step 2: Insert tapestry needle purlwise into last stitch on back needle, remove stitch from needle.

GRAFTING K1, P1 RIBBING TOP-TO-BOTTOM

Grafting a knit stitch
Step 1: Insert tapestry needle purlwise into stitch on front needle, leave stitch on needle.
Step 2: Insert tapestry needle purlwise into stitch on back needle, remove stitch from needle.
Step 3: Insert tapestry needle knitwise into next stitch on back needle, leave stitch on needle.
Step 4: Insert tapestry needle knitwise into stitch on the front needle, remove stitch from needle.
Repeat Steps 1–4 for each knit stitch.

Grafting a purl stitch
Step 1: Insert tapestry needle knitwise into stitch on front needle, leave stitch on needle.
Step 2: Insert tapestry needle knitwise into stitch on back needle, remove stitch from needle.
Step 3: Insert tapestry needle purlwise into next stitch on back needle, leave stitch on needle.
Step 4: Insert tapestry needle purlwise into stitch on front needle, remove stitch from needle.
Repeat Steps 1–4 for each purl stitch.

Happy Grafting,

Joni Coniglio


Grafting Ribbing and Beyond – Joni’s Got You Covered!

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