Grafting Knitting Myth 3, Part II: A Grafted Row Is the Equivalent of One Pattern Row (Grafting a Lace Pattern)
So far in our myth-busting series on grafting knitting, we’ve seen that grafting purl stitches is just as easy as grafting knit stitches, that you shouldn’t get a half-stitch jog when grafting ribbing top-to-bottom, and that grafting creates two independent pattern rows.
In part two of our discussion about how grafting creates two pattern rows, we’ll look at what this means when grafting lace knitting. For our example, we’ll graft this simple, four-row lace pattern top-to-bottom:
Typically, in tutorials for grafting lace knitting, the directions will say to use Kitchener stitch as a “substitute” for the plain knit row between pattern rows (the rows with yarnovers and decreases). However, as we saw in the last post when we grafted garter stitch, doing so will add two rows of stockinette, not one, and will disrupt the pattern.
Because grafting creates two pattern rows, invisibly grafting a lace pattern that has yarnovers and decreases every other row will involve creating a plain row on one needle and yarnovers and decreases on the other needle. But don’t let this scare you. Creating decreases with a tapestry needle is only slightly more difficult than creating knit stitches, and creating yarnovers is even easier because it merely entails skipping a couple of grafting steps.
The other thing that needs to be considered when grafting a lace pattern top-to-bottom is the vertical alignment of the stitch pattern between the two pieces. The swatch in the photo below looks as if it was worked continuously, but it was actually worked in two separate pieces that were grafted together. Notice that the vertical columns of stockinette stitch and the centered double decreases align vertically and the grafting blends in perfectly with the lace pattern.
In the next photo, the yarn tails at the left side of the swatch indicate the location of the grafted row.
The most difficult part of grafting lace invisibly is knowing how to work (or not to work, in the case of yarnovers) the complicated grafting steps in the correct order. Because every lace pattern is unique, there’s simply no way to condense the steps into a simple formula or mantra that will apply to all lace patterns.
One popular approach, sometimes called the “duplicate stitch” or “chimney” method, involves working a few rows of the pattern with a contrasting waste yarn at the beginning and end of a piece and then using the waste-yarn stitches as a sort of “template” to trace with the tapestry needle wherever the stitches connect to the working yarn stitches on both pieces.
For the top swatch in the photo, I cast on with waste yarn and worked a few rows of the lace chart, ending with Row 1, then I changed to the working yarn and continued the pattern from Row 2. For the bottom swatch, I cast on with the working yarn and worked a few rows, ending with Row 4, then I switched to the waste yarn and, beginning with Row 1, worked a few more chart rows.
To graft the stitches together, you’d trace the path of chart Row 1 on the bottom swatch where it connects to the top of the working-yarn stitches and trace the path of chart Row 1 on the top swatch where it connects to the bottom of the working-yarn stitches. In both cases, you’re tracing chart Row 1, but when you draw the grafting yarn through the first row of working-yarn stitches on the top swatch (the provisional cast-on stitches), you’re completing chart Row 2 by turning these stitches into knit stitches (with a purl stitch at each edge).
Note that the waste yarn on the bottom swatch will sometimes go through two working-yarn stitches for the decreases, but it won’t go through any stitches on the bottom swatch where there are yarnovers.
This method works okay for simple patterns such as stockinette stitch, but it can be much trickier when it comes to grafting complex patterns such as lace that include decreases and yarnovers. Not only do you have to be very careful not to split the waste yarn as you follow it through one or more stitches, but you also have to make sure to keep the pattern stitches on the top and bottom pieces aligned correctly with each other. A pattern such as the one in our example is pretty easy to align because there are clearly identifiable vertical columns on each piece, but I have tried this method for grafting other lace patterns that didn’t have such clear landmarks and found it very frustrating. Invariably, I’d get off-track and end up having to undo the grafting until I reached a point in the pattern where the stitches were correctly aligned.
In the end, I just didn’t like the idea of blindly following the path of the yarn through the stitches without having a clear idea of what was happening. I prefer to know exactly where I’m going and what I need to do to get there. Plus, who wants to do all that extra knitting that will only end up being discarded?
I like to plan the grafting steps out in detail before I graft a pattern as complex as lace, then mark off each step as I go so that if I get interrupted I’ll know exactly where to pick up again. I have found that the stitch chart for the lace pattern provides the perfect structure for creating a grafting “cheat sheet” because the pattern stitches are already laid out in order. All I have to do is add grafting steps to each charted stitch. Of course, I first have to enlarge the chart so I can fit all the grafting steps into the boxes. I also add arrows that show the path the grafting yarn takes as it goes back and forth between the front and back needles.
When we get to the grafting instructions for our lace swatch, I’ll show you my process for creating the cheat sheets so you can see how easy it is. Usually, I just draw the grafting charts by hand (drawing boxes and adding letters and arrows doesn’t take any particular artistic skill), but the charts can also be drawn with a basic computer-drawing program. It only takes a few minutes to create a cheat-sheet for a simple stitch pattern like the one in our example. Lace patterns with larger stitch repeats may take a little longer, but not nearly as much time as it takes to knit (and remove) several rows of waste yarn.
But first, let’s work our lace swatch:
Choose two consecutive chart rows for the grafting: the lower row for the grafting on the front needle and the upper row for the grafting on the back needle. For the sample swatch, I chose Row 1 for the front needle graft and Row 2 for the back needle graft because I wanted the more complex grafting maneuvers (decreases and yarnovers) to fall on the front needle with the stitches facing me (rather than on the back needle with the stitches facing away from me).
Cast on using a provisional method, making sure that the method you choose results in a single row of working-yarn stitches on the needle (the cast-on isn’t complete until the working-yarn stitches are on the needle).
My favorite provisional method is the crochet provisional cast-on, which is worked as follows: With waste yarn and a crochet hook, make a chain that is a few stitches longer than the number of cast-on stitches needed.
Then with working yarn and a knitting needle, pick up the exact number of cast-on stitches in the back “bumps” of the chain. The sample lace pattern is a multiple of 6 stitches, plus 7. (For the sample swatch, I picked up 25 stitches.)
This row of loops forms the base for Row 2 of the lace pattern, but don’t work in pattern over the waste-yarn chain because as soon as you remove the chain, any knit or purl stitches you’ve worked will disappear and you’ll simply have live loops. In addition, working a combination of knit and purl stitches across the chain makes it more difficult to remove the chain because it will be twisted around the picked-up stitches at each transition between a knit and purl stitch. The knit and purl stitches will be created when the grafting yarn is drawn through the stitches on the back needle according to chart Row 2.
You can also work the waste-yarn chain directly onto the needle (see the Chain-Edge Cast-on in our glossary), but if you do, make sure to knit a row with the working yarn before beginning the pattern so you end up with a single row of working yarn stitches on the needle.
Once the stitches have been cast on, it’s time to start the pattern. Since the cast-on loops are Row 2, start with Row 3 of the lace chart and work until the piece is the desired length, then bind off. For the second swatch, cast on 25 stitches with the working yarn and work in the chart pattern until the swatch is the desired length, ending with Row 4. Break the yarn, leaving a tail about 4 times the width of the swatch for grafting.
To prepare for grafting, remove the waste-yarn chain from the provisional cast-on stitches and place the stitches onto a second knitting needle. These stitches should be very visible if you used a contrasting yarn for the chain, as shown in the photo below.
As we saw in the second post of this series, the bottom of the cast-on row will have one fewer loop available to place on the needle than the number of stitches that were cast on because the bottom loops are situated between the working loops on the needle.
There are also two half-loops, one at each edge, that will need to be picked up and placed on the needle. These loops are important when grafting top-to-bottom because they ensure that the edges will be even, with no notches. The first half-loop is located at the edge opposite the one with the cast-on tail:
The other half-loop must be created at the opposite edge by drawing the cast-on tail through an edge stitch to the wrong side of the work:
Since there are 25 cast-on stitches for the sample swatch, there are 24 bottom loops available to place onto the needle. Adding the two half-loops brings the total number of loops on the needle up to 26:
After the waste-yarn chain is removed, it’s time to create the grafting cheat sheet:
The lace pattern is a multiple of 6 stitches, plus 7, so the smallest number of boxes over which the pattern can be charted is 13. This applies to both the stitch chart and the grafting chart. Since the grafting creates 2 chart rows, it will need 2 rows of boxes, one for the front needle and one for the back needle. First, I draw 13 boxes to represent the pattern that will be grafted on the front needle (FN).
Then I draw the boxes for the pattern that will be grafted on the back needle (BN). The boxes for the back needle will look a little different from the boxes for the front needle. First, I use a dotted line for the back needle loops to differentiate them from the front needle loops. Then, I shift the boxes on the back needle row over a half-stitch to represent the half-stitch offset of the loops on the back needle. I draw 12 boxes above the front needle boxes (one fewer than on the front needle row), then I draw a half-box at each side for the half-loop at each edge.
I draw a box around each pair of half loops on the back needle that will be joined to a single loop on the front needle, as we saw when we compared Swatch A to Swatch B in the second part of the series.
Next, I mark the 6-stitch repeat in the same position as it is in the lace chart, one stitch in from the right-hand edge of the chart.
Then I draw the stitch symbols for Rows 1 and 2 of the lace chart, using shaded boxes for the purl dots on Row 2 so I can draw letters in those boxes.
Working from right to left, I add the letters “P” for “purlwise” and “K” for “knitwise” in the boxes on the lower row to represent the grafting directions for each stitch on the front needle. Decreases get the same letters as knit stitches because they are grafted in the same way, except that you draw the grafting yarn through two stitches, instead of one. (For the ssk, you have to rearrange the stitches before grafting them so that the first stitch slants to the left over the second stitch.) The yarnovers don’t get letters because they are formed by skipping grafting steps on the front needle.
Next, I add letters for the grafting directions on the back needle. (Remember from the last post that the grafting steps on the back needle for top-to-bottom grafting are different from the grafting steps for top-to-top grafting.) Again working from right to left, and keeping both steps for each grafted stitch above both steps for each stitch on the front needle, I draw a “P” and a “K” for each knit stitch and a “K” and a “P” for each purl stitch. The two steps on the back needle are separated by a dotted line because you’re working with two half-loops.
The final step is to add the arrows. I usually add the arrows all at once, but for the purposes of this post I’ll add the arrows as I describe how to graft each stitch.
Each grafted stitch follows the same path:
Step 1: Through the stitch on the front needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 2: Through the stitch on the back needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
Step 3: Through the next stitch on the back needle, leave the stitch on the needle.
Step 4: Through the stitch on the front needle, remove the stitch from the needle.
To graft yarnovers on the front needle, the steps are skipped and you just work the steps on the back needle. For grafted decreases, you go through more than one stitch at a time, sometimes rearranging the stitches first so that the stitches will be oriented correctly.
Step 1: Pwise through st on front needle, leave.
Step 2: Kwise through st on back needle, remove.
Step 3: Pwise through next st on back needle, leave.
Step 4: Kwise through st on front needle, remove.
*Step 5: Skip step on front needle and go to next step on back needle.
Step 6: Pwise through st on back needle, remove.
Step 7: Kwise through next st on back needle, leave.
Step 8: Skip step on front needle and go to next step on front needle.
Step 9: Rearrange sts for ssk: With tapestry needle, sl 2 sts on front needle kwise, one at a time, then return sts to left needle in new positions. Insert tapestry needle pwise through first 2 sts on left needle (from back to front into 2nd st, then into first st), leave.
Step 10: Pwise through st on back needle, remove.
Step 11: Kwise through next st on back needle, leave.
Step 12: Kwise through 2 sts on front needle (from front to back through first st, then 2nd st), remove.
Step 13: Pwise through st on front needle, leave.
Step 14: Pwise through st on back needle, remove.
Step 15: Kwise through next st on back needle, leave.
Step 16: Kwise through st on front needle, remove.
Step 17: Pwise through first 2 sts on front needle (from back to front through first st, then 2nd st), leave.
Step 18: Pwise through st on back needle, remove.
Step 19: Kwise through next st on back needle, leave.
Step 20: Kwise through 2 sts on front needle (from front to back through 2nd st, then first st), remove.
Steps 21–24: Rep Steps 5–8.
Steps 25–28: Rep Steps 13–16.
Rep from * (Steps 5–28) until 6 sts rem on front needle and 7 sts rem on back needle.
Work last 6 sts of grafting chart:
Steps 29–44: Rep Steps 5–20.
Steps 45–48: Rep Steps 5–8.
Steps 49–52: Rep Steps 1–4.
Don’t forget – there’s a Part I to this grafting knitting myth!
Check that out and other parts of this series on debunking the myths that surround grafting…