A Chart is Part of Grafting Art

A few weeks ago I learned the basics of grafting, and was happily surprised to discover that basic Kitchener stitch was not the soul-crushing grind I had found it to be in the past. Buoyed by confidence, I wanted to ascend to a higher level of grafting. Stockinette was just the tip of the iceberg: if I could do stockinette, then surely I could go one step further and learn to graft in pattern. With that goal in mind, I dragooned the Great Graftsby, Joni Coniglio, into another lunch-hour lesson.

“Grafting in pattern” means creating both knit and purl stitches, whatever their combination. And since a purl stitch is simply the back of a knit stich, this would be a walk in the park. Easy-peasy, I thought.  A simple 2×2 ribbing will go like *that* (snaps fingers). Um, not exactly.

Things quickly got a little complicated.

To work with Joni is to learn something backward and forward and inside out—not just the “how”, but the “why”. While this is a great and noble ideal, it’s a pain when you have one hour and your knitting sensei insists you create CHARTS before you do anything. I had my swatches ready. I had a plan of action. I had leftover Thai curry that I really, really wanted to eat.

And I had Joni making me do charts instead.

Low blood sugar aside, creating a chart was a very good idea, as it made me understand exactly what I was doing and why. For this lesson I was creating both knit and purl stitches, and working them in a certain order to create a basic 2×2 ribbing. When you graft, it takes 2 steps to create each stitch on the front needle (with the right side facing) and 2 steps to create each stitch on the back needle (with the wrong side facing. Thus a 4-stitch pattern repeat becomes an 8-step repeat on the front needle and an 8-step repeat on the back needle—16 repeated steps altogether (plus some steps at the beginning and at the end of the row).

Confused? So was I, hence the chart.

This makes total sense. Really!

While this chart may look like hieroglyphs to a novice such as myself, there is a method and formula at work here. Because you’re creating knit and purl stitches on both front and back needles, you need a separate chart row for each. The shaded boxes represent purl stitches and the white boxes represent knit stitches (as viewed from the right side of the work). The arrows show the order in which you work each step, and K and P indicate whether you are inserting your tapestry needle knitwise or purlwis

To follow the 2×2 rib chart, start at the lower right-hand side and work the steps like this:

Set-up Steps:

Front Needle (FN): insert tapestry needle purlwise into first stitch, leave stitch on needle.

Back Needle (BN): insert tapestry needle knitwise into first stitch, leave stitch on needle

Repeated Sequence:

Front Needle: insert tapestry needle knitwise into first stitch, take stitch off needle; insert tapestry needle purlwise into next stitch, leave stitch on needle.

Back Needle: insert tapestry needle purlwise into first stitch, take stitch off needle; insert tapestry needle knitwise into next stitch, leave stitch on needle.

Then as you transition from a knit column to a purl column you would work as follows:

Front Needle: Knitwise off; knitwise on.

Back Needle: Purlwise off; purlwise on.

And for that purl column, you would work:

Front Needle: Purlwise off; knitwise on.

Back Needle: Knitwise off; purlwise on.

And finally when you transition back to a knit column, work:

Front Needle: Purlwise, off; purlwise, on.

Back Needle: Knitwise, off; knitwise, on.

Ending Steps:

When there are two stitches remaining on each needle, work:

Front Needle: Knitwise, off; purlwise, on.

Back Needle: Purlwise, off; knitwise, on.

Front Needle: Knitwise, off.

Back Needle: Purlwise, off.

Yes it seems confusing, but if you are still at a loss just blindly trust these instructions and do what they say: you will find yourself with a very tidy row of grafted stitches. Pinky-swear. As a side note, make sure to keep your grafting yarn under the needle at all time, otherwise there is hell to pay, or at least some really nasty tangles to undo.

You can do this, and we’re not ribbing!

I could go on and on about additional considerations, such as how to handle the weird half-stitch jog that happens when you graft 2 mirror-image swatches, or why grafting top-to-bottom is a little different, or how to handle other forms of ribbing or seed stitch. Thankfully I don’t have to, as Joni herself explains all this and more in The Definitive Guide to Grafting: Ribbing.

Now available as a course, it includes the original video and all kinds of extra goodies like charts, diagrams, step-by-step instructions, and an excerpt from her How to Graft Your Knitting Invisibly eBook. It’s a fantastic resource, like having your very own knitting expert on call whenever you need her. And since you are learning at your own pace, you can always take that needed lunch break.

The Definitive Guide to Grafting: Ribbing  is now available as an on-demand course you can watch at your own pace, anywhere, any time, on any device.

Happy watching!


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