Grafting Knitting Myth 4, Part II: More on Grafting Formulas

In Part 2 of my post on grafting formulas (take a look at Part 1 here), I’ll look at a popular formula for grafting ribbing and cable patterns that uses the first two stitches on the front needle as a guide for working four grafting steps––two on the front needle and two on the back needle—at any given time.

The idea is that, because there are only four possible pair combinations in any ribbing pattern (knit stitch/knit stitch, purl stitch/purl stitch, knit stitch/purl stitch, and purl stitch/knit stitch), any combination of knit and purl stitches can be grafted just by using four four-step grafting sequences. But as we’ve seen with other grafting formulas, this is an oversimplification.

From what I’ve been able to tell from looking at various sources, this formula was originally designed for grafting ribbing stitches top-to-top. But, strangely, some tutorials I found included a statement that the formula could “only be used successfully” when grafting stitches top-to-bottom; meaning that there would not be a pattern jog in that case. Obviously, this was never actually tested by the people who included this statement in their tutorials because it’s completely false. There is no way that a grafting formula designed for top-to-top grafting can be used to graft stitches top-to-bottom without resulting in a pattern jog.

Eventually, people figured this out and minor adjustments were made to the original formula so that the knit and purl stitches would align vertically when the stitches were grafted top-to-bottom. But, because the formula was originally intended for top-to-top grafting, this hybrid formula is clunky and unnecessarily complicated.

In this post, we’ll look at both formulas to see how they can be used when grafting k1, p1 rib and k2, p2 rib top-to-top and top-to-bottom. At the end, I’ll show you an alternative method for grafting stitches top-to-bottom that is much cleaner and easier to use. This alternative method is also more versatile because, unlike the first two formulas, it can be used to graft patterns such as seed stitch and garter stitch that change from row to row.

As I have throughout this series, I’ll use grafting charts to show you how knit and purl stitches (as viewed from the public side of the work) are created when the knitwise and purlwise grafting steps are worked.

Grafting K1, P1 Ribbing Top-to-Top

This chart represents the relative position of the loops on the front and back needles in top-to-top grafting, with five loops on the front needle and five loops on the back needle. The stitches on the back needle shift to the left a half stitch.

graft ribbing

Note: If you’re a mirror-knitter and graft stitches from left to right, the stitches on the back needle (and the boxes on the upper row of the chart) will shift to the right a half-stitch, and the grafting steps would be entered into each box (and worked) from left to right.

The shaded boxes represent grafted purl stitches on both needles (as viewed from the public side of the work) and the white boxes represent grafted knit stitches.

graft ribbing

Front Needle: To create a knit stitch on the front needle, the grafting yarn goes through a loop on the needle first purlwise (and the stitch remains on the needle) and then knitwise (the stitch is removed from the needle). To create a purl stitch on the front needle, the grafting yarn goes through a loop on the needle knitwise (the stitch remains on the needle) and purlwise (the stitch is removed from the needle).

Back Needle: To create a knit stitch on the back needle, the grafting yarn goes through a loop on the needle knitwise (the stitch remains on the needle) and then purlwise (the stitch is removed from the needle). To create a purl stitch, the grafting yarn goes through a loop on the needle purlwise (the stitch remains on the needle) and knitwise (the stitch is removed from the needle).

graft ribbing

With k1, p1 ribbing, there will never be two similar stitches together, so only two four-step grafting sequences need to be used: one for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch, and one for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch.

After working the first two set-up steps, the repeated sequences (the eight steps inside the red box on the chart) begin. The formula consists of the eight-step repeated sequence (some people skip the set-up and ending steps altogether since the grafting yarn only needs to go through the edge stitches once). The chart shows two eight-step repeats.

graft ribbing

Two set–up steps:
Front Needle Purlwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, on.

*Four–step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four–step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.

Repeat from * until one stitch remains on each needle.

Two ending steps:
Front Needle Knitwise, off.
Back Needle Purlwise, off.

Grafting K2, P2 Ribbing Top-to-Top

For k2, p2 ribbing, four four–step sequences (sixteen steps total) will be repeated: one for a knit stitch followed by a knit stitch, one for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch, one for a purl stitch followed by a purl stitch, and one for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch.

graft ribbing

Two set-up steps:
Front Needle Purlwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, on.

*Four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.

Repeat from * until two stitches remain on each needle.

Work one four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.

Two ending steps:
Front Needle Knitwise, off.
Back Needle Purlwise, off.

Grafting K1, P1 Ribbing Top-to-Bottom

As we saw in Myth 2, The stitch set-up on the back needle for top-to-bottom grafting will be completely different from that of top-to-top grafting. The chart below shows the relative position of stitches on the front and back needles when stitches are grafted top-to-bottom, with five loops on the front needle and four loops on the back needle.

graft ribbing

The other difference between top-to-top and top-to-bottom grafting, at least when it comes to ribbing and cable patterns, is the location of the transitions between knit and purl stitches on the back needle. While the front needle transitions are in the same place for both types of grafting (between stitches), the transitions on the back needle are within the stitches themselves. For k1, p1 ribbing, each loop on the back needle will be either half-knit/half-purl or half-purl/half-knit.

graft ribbing

This is why the knit and purl stitch columns will align vertically when the stitches are grafted (if they’re grafted correctly, that is).

The grafting steps on the front needle are the same as for top-to-top grafting, but the steps for the back needle are different: the grafting yarn will go through each half-knit/half-purl stitch knitwise (the stitch remains on the needle) and then again knitwise (the stitch is removed from the needle); the grafting yarn will go through each half-purl/half-knit stitch purlwise (the stitch remains on the needle) and then again purlwise (the stitch is removed from the needle).

graft ribbing

Let’s compare the repeated sequence (the steps inside the red box on the chart) to the repeated sequence for grafting k1, p1 ribbing top-to-top to see the steps that need to be adjusted to make the knit and purl stitches align correctly (the differences are noted in italics in the written instructions below).

graft ribbing

Four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.

Grafting K2, P2 Ribbing Top-to-Bottom

The chart below shows the transitions between knit and purl stitches and the grafting steps on both needles for k2, p2 ribbing. Some of the stitches on the back needle are full knit and purl stitches and some are half-and-half. Again, the transitions between knits and purls on both needles align vertically.

graft ribbing

Comparing the repeated sequences for top-to-top and top-to-bottom grafting shows us the changes that needed to be made in order to make the knit and purl stitches align. Only the two sequences that involved both a knit stitch and a purl stitch needed to be adjusted:

graft ribbing

Four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a purl stitch:
Front Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.

Four-step sequence for a purl stitch followed by a knit stitch:
Front Needle Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.

A Better Way to Graft Ribbing Top-to-Bottom

If you follow the arrows in the chart for grafting k1, p1 ribbing top-to-top, you can see that the repeated steps (two on the front needle and two on the back needle) follow the half-stitch jog in the ribbing pattern: both steps on the front needle and both steps on the back needle span the transition between a knit and a purl stitch. But in the chart for grafting k1, p1 ribbing top-to-bottom, while the two steps on the front needle span the transition between knit and purl stitches, the two steps on the back needle connect similar stitches (really, two similar half-stitches). And each pair of similar half-stitches aligns with the same type of stitch on the front needle.

This is why it is much easier (and more versatile) when grafting stitches top-to-bottom to keep the grafting steps for each type of stitch within the transition lines. For example, let’s look again at how the knit and purl stitches align when grafting k1, p1 ribbing top-to-bottom:

graft ribbing

Notice that there is a half-stitch “notch” at each side of the back needle stitches because of the one-stitch shortfall. This means that the knit stitch column at each side will be missing one step.

As we saw in Myth 2, these notches can easily be filled in by picking up a stitch at one edge and creating a stitch at the other edge using the cast-on tail. Not only does this complete the knit columns at each side, it also makes the edges nice and smooth. In the grafting charts, the stitches on the back needle are drawn with dashed lines.

graft ribbing

Each grafted knit and purl stitch column consists of four steps:

graft ribbing

Knit stitch column
Front Needle Purlwise, on.
Back Needle Purlwise, off.
Back Needle Knitwise, on.
Front Needle Knitwise, off.

Purl stitch column
Front Needle Knitwise, on.
Back Needle Knitwise, off.
Back Needle Purlwise, on.
Front Needle Purlwise, off.

Now the repeated grafting sequences and the knit/purl transitions are aligned with each other.

graft knitting

One repeated sequence can be deleted to make the chart even smaller.

grafting knitting

The same principles can be applied to k2, p2 ribbing grafted top-to-bottom.

Pick up a half–loop at each side to complete the first and last knit stitch column.

graft knitting

The ribbing pattern begins and ends with two knit columns.

graft knitting

The repeated sequence consists of two knit columns and two purl columns.

graft knitting

The biggest advantage to grafting top-to-bottom patterns in this way is that it can be done “visually,” rather than blindly following a convoluted string of grafting steps. Instead of looking at the next two stitches on the front needle, you only have to know whether you need to create a knit stitch or a purl stitch at any given time. And the grafted stitch doesn’t have to match the next stitch on the front needle at all. You can even mix and match the grafted stitches on the front and back needles (to graft seed stitch, for example), by separating them:

graft knitting

In the last post of this series, we’ll look at the myth that says the grafting yarn has to start at the back needle.


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