A Knitter Reluctantly Learns Grafting, and Decides it Doesn’t Suck After All

I am an avid but lazy knitter. Avid because I knit constantly and love learning new techniques. Lazy because I always look for shortcuts and ways to avoid certain things. Much like the person who will carry 75 pounds of groceries if it means one trip, I’ll learn 3 new techniques to knit a seamless sweater because I hate seaming. I love double-knitting but that whole “slide your work to the other end of the needle and knit again with CC” leaves me cold, so I’ll knit both sides at the same time even if I have more mistakes to fix. As for grafting? Blech. I’d rather lose a few teeth. My delight at learning toe-up socks rivaled that of a Royal Navy seaman on Armistice Day, so great was the triumph and relief.

This is not to say I never tried grafting; I just really suck at it. Even basic Kitchener stitch defeated me, resulting in some of the ugliest, god-awfulest sock-sadness you ever saw. I always ended up saying “I’m sure this will be FINE” while I sullenly whipstitched the toes. I recall the first time someone saw my “grafting,” and the silence that followed. “That’s rather . . . unpolished”, she said at last, completely bereft of words.

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Reenactment of my first sock toe. Sad!

Flash forward several years. I work with Joni Coniglio, Senior Project Manager for Interweave Knits, and dogged evangelist for all things grafting. Joni’s written a number of authoritative blog posts and an entire book on the subject, besides filming a number of videos . She’s a friend and sits next to me, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I was blessed by (doomed to) a grafting lesson.

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Joni Coniglio, Knitting Sensei

Kitchener stitch is the most basic form of grafting. It’s the go-to toe-finishing technique for sock knitters, but also extremely useful for anything where you don’t want a seam, such a cowl edges and the like. When you graft, you use a tapestry needle to “sew” two ends together by creating connective knit stitches, and the result is a piece so seamless it might as well have been hatched from an egg, rather than been created by hand. Let me say straight off—grafting is not HARD. It’s fiddly and takes some concentration, but most worthwhile things do. That said, Joni had her work cut out for her.

When grafting, you need to thread your yarn through each loop on the needle twice before removing it, and knitters often use a mnemonic chant of “knit off, purl on, purl off, knit on” to keep track. Just like I have trouble with “right” and “left,” I often can’t differentiate between “knit” and “purl,” and my efforts devolved into “knit purl off on—wait. Knit on purl—crap.” But Joni was patience itself and her understanding is deep; she emphasized ”why to” as well as “how to.” By the end, I was not only repeating the little chant, but understood the concept behind it well enough to read my grafting and recognize when I went off the rails. With Joni’s aid, I ended up with a perfectly respectable grafted swatch.

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Take that, Lord Kitchener

Nothing succeeds like success, and Joni achieved the impossible by making me want to try again. Over the next several weeks, she’ll be teaching me how to graft garter stitch, ribbing, and even lace, and I’ll be back with a report on her efforts (and whether or not we’re still friends). In the meantime, if you have hedged and circled around grafting like me, you may want to check out Joni’s excellent video, now available as an on-demand course, and augmented with an extract from her eBook as well as all the charts and diagrams you need to really dig in and understand this basic-but-important technique.

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

p.s. Have you ever tried grafting a cable pattern? Check it out!

Happy watching!
—Allison


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