Grafting Knitting Myth #5: The Grafting Yarn Must Come From the Back Needle

In this series on grafting knitting and the myths that seem to come up, we’ve been looking at how grafting tutorials can sometimes contain inconsistent or even inaccurate information, which can cause confusion for knitters who don’t have a lot of grafting experience. In this, the final post of the series, we’ll tackle the myth that the grafting yarn needs to be on the back needle before the stitches are grafted.

Like many of the grafting myths we’ve looked at, this one seems to be a holdover from using Kitchener stitch to graft sock toes, where the grafting yarn originates from the last stitch of the round on the back needle. In that case, the grafting yarn connects the last stitch of the round to the first stitch of the next round when the first grafting set-up step is worked (by inserting the tapestry needle purlwise into the first stitch on the front needle):


The second set-up step (inserting the tapestry needle knitwise into the stitch on the back needle) connects the first two stitches a second time:


But if you’ve been following this series on grafting myths, or my other series’ on grafting lace edgings and two-sided lace, you’ll know that the grafting yarn will sometimes be attached to the front needle instead of the back needle. This can happen, for example, when stitches are grafted top to bottom and the provisional cast-on row is a wrong-side row (so that the cast-on tail is at the left-hand side of the work and unavailable when the stitches are grafted) and the last pattern row on the front needle is also a wrong-side row so that the working yarn ends up at the right-hand side, perfectly positioned for grafting.

Some tutorials will direct you to start the grafting steps with whichever needle the yarn is not attached to and adjust the grafting steps accordingly. Other tutorials will say to cut the yarn from the front needle and reattach it to the back needle. But both of these measures are completely unnecessary and make the grafting process even more complicated than it is already.

Whether you’re grafting stitches top to bottom or top to top, if you find that the only available grafting yarn is attached to the front needle, simply proceed with the grafting steps as you normally would had the yarn been attached to the back needle.

Let’s see how this works when grafting two separate pieces of stockinette stitch top to top using the yarn from the front needle:

The next two photos show the first set-up step being worked on the front needle. Unlike when Kitchener stitch is used to graft sock toes, the two pieces won’t be connected on this step. But no worries—that will happen when the second set-up step is worked.


Working the second set-up step connects the two pieces:


As you can see, using the yarn from the front needle and working the grafting steps as usual has no effect on the final outcome:

I hope this series on grafting myths has helped clear up some of the confusion surrounding grafting knitting. Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions. I’d also love to hear about your own personal experiences with grafting.

And for anyone who’s thinking about creating a grafting tutorial, I’d like to offer a few suggestions:

1. First and foremost, do hands-on research. Don’t just assume that something is true (even if it comes from a well-known source) without testing it out for yourself.

2. Learn the differences between top-to-top and top-to-bottom grafting and make sure you clearly indicate which one applies to the grafting method or formula you’re planning to demonstrate.

3. Avoid using the word “always” in your tutorial (very few, if any, grafting rules apply across the board).

4. While the impulse to make grafting seem less intimidating is laudable, oversimplifying the process just ends up making it more confusing. Be as concise as possible, but don’t omit important information.

5. Clearly show the finished grafted seam. This is particularly important with tutorials for grafting ribbing, cables, or lace. If the tutorial is for a top-to-top grafting technique, it’s helpful to address the half-stitch jog issue head-on so that knitters will know what to expect. Otherwise, they may think they are doing something wrong when their stitches don’t align.

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