An Education in Grafting Lace Knitting: Lace Mesh Pattern
Grafting is a horizontal seaming technique that involves using a tapestry needle and a long strand of yarn to join the live stitches of two pieces of knitting while simultaneously re-creating their stitch pattern. Because a grafted seam is flat and inconspicuous, it’s a good technique to use when a seam falls in a prominent place on a garment, or if a bulky seam would cause discomfort when a garment or accessory is worn. (It isn’t a very sturdy seam, though, so it shouldn’t be used any place where the seam will get a lot of stress, such as at the shoulders.)
The more the grafted seam blends in with the stitch pattern of the two main pieces, the more invisible the seam will be. This means that there is a direct correlation between the complexity of the stitch pattern and the complexity of the grafting. But complex doesn’t necessarily mean difficult, as we can see by comparing the grafting for two different patterns: stockinette stitch and lace mesh.
You will find complete instructions for Joni’s Lacy Cowl at the end of this post.
Stockinette stitch is one of the simplest stitch patterns to graft because there is no variation in the pattern across the row. The grafted row (shown in blue in the illustration below) follows a regular path through the live stitches below and above it, and the grafting sequence consists of just four steps (two steps on the front needle and two steps on the back needle) that are repeated over and over. Stockinette-stitch grafting (also known as Kitchener stitch) is often the first grafting technique that knitters learn.
By comparison, the lace mesh pattern I used for my Lacy Cowl from Knitscene Summer 2017 has a much more complex structure; consequently, the grafted row follows a very different path through the live stitches.
The illustration of the mesh pattern below shows two 4-stitch pattern repeats, with the grafted row again shown in blue.
If you compare the grafted row in the illustration to the Mesh chart below, you should be able to identify the k2tog, double yarnover, and ssk of each pattern repeat. When I grafted the cowl, I followed Row 3 of the chart on the front needle and Row 4 on the back needle (grafting creates a separate pattern on each needle).
Grafting yarnovers and decreases may sound daunting, but although the steps are slightly different, it’s really no more difficult than grafting knit stitches. For example, to graft a yarnover, the grafting steps are only worked on the back needle (two steps for a single yarnover and four steps for a double yarnover), and the front needle is skipped altogether. To graft a decrease, the tapestry needle is inserted through two stitches on the front needle at the same time instead of just one (for an ssk, the two stitches need to be rearranged first so they are oriented on the needle correctly).
The trickiest part about grafting the lace mesh pattern is that there are more types of stitches that need to be created (as opposed to just one type of stitch in stockinette-stitch grafting). There are more steps involved, and it is necessary to keep track of the order in which they are worked. To make it easier, I’ve provided step-by-step instructions (in both charted and written format) for grafting the cowl. The grafting steps have been divided up into five “sequences,” with each sequence consisting of the steps that are required to create a certain type of stitch on the front and back needles. The sequences are worked in order, according to Rows 3 and 4 of the Mesh chart. The Grafting chart shown below is just an enlarged version of Rows 3 and 4 of the Mesh chart, with arrows and other notations added to indicate the path of the grafting yarn through each live stitch on each needle.
I’ve illustrated each sequence so that you can see what it will look like on the needles after grafting. I’ve also included the charts for the individual sequences and a brief description of the type of stitch that will be created on each needle, as well as written instructions for each sequence. It might be a good idea to practice grafting each sequence on a swatch (a stockinette-stitch swatch will be fine for practicing) until you’re comfortable with following the steps.
Once you’re familiar with the individual sequences, practice working them in order on a swatch worked in the mesh pattern. For this practice swatch, you can cast on any multiple of four stitches (with a minimum of twelve). To avoid working a long, continuous piece, separate the swatch into two pieces: one that begins with a provisional cast-on and one that ends with Row 2 of the Mesh chart. When placing the stitches from the provisional cast-on onto the needle in preparation for grafting, make sure to create an extra stitch as described in the lacy cowl pattern (this extra stitch makes it possible to work all the steps of the very last sequence).
Once the stitches are arranged on the needles as described in the pattern, follow the Grafting chart as follows: reading the chart from right to left, work Sequence A two times, work Sequence B once, work Sequence C once. These sequences correspond to the first four stitches of Rows 3 and 4 of the Mesh chart. Next, the group of sequences inside the red repeat box (which corresponds to the stitch repeat of the Mesh chart) are worked: work Sequence D once, work Sequence E once, work Sequence C once. In the cowl, these three sequences are worked a total of sixteen times, leaving four stitches on the front needle and five stitches on the back needle. The last sequences are worked over the remaining stitches: work Sequence D once, work Sequence B once, and finally, work Sequence A two times to complete the grafted row.
It takes a little practice to learn how to graft stitches proficiently, but it’s well worth the effort because a perfectly grafted seam can greatly enhance the appearance of a garment. Not to mention the serious bragging rights you’ll have when no one can spot the seam!