An Education in Lace Grafting: Grafting Charts
Now that all five of the lace patterns have been grafted, let’s take a closer look at the grafting instructions. If you’ve been following this series, you know that the grafting instructions were presented in charted format.
How do grafting charts work?
A grafting chart serves the same function as a chart for a knitting pattern in that it presents a stitch pattern using symbols, rather than words. As with stitch charts, each symbol in a grafting chart represents an action that results in a certain type of stitch. But the actions required to create stitches with grafting are much more complex than they are when using knitting needles to pull loops through other loops one row at a time. Grafting involves using a tapestry needle to draw yarn twice through each loop on two separate rows, which results in two pattern rows. A grafting chart describes the path the grafting yarn takes through each loop on both rows.
Because grafting is simply another way to create stitches, the pattern chart can be used for the grafting, as well, with just a few adjustments. Note: The lace patterns in this series were all grafted top-to-bottom. The pattern charts can also be used for top-to-top grafting, but the set-up will be completely different. You can read more about top-to-top grafting here.
For example, this is the pattern chart for Pattern 5 in the series:
For the grafting, we used Rows 3 and 4 of the pattern chart: Row 3 for grafting the stitches on the lower piece and Row 4 for grafting the stitches on the upper piece. Note that there are actually two 12-stitch repeats on Rows 1–5 of the pattern chart. If the chart had ended with Row 5, one of these repeats could have been removed and the chart could have been reduced to seventeen stitches. But because the pattern jogs six stitches to the left on Rows 6–10, the chart needed to be drawn over twenty-nine stitches instead. I omitted one of the pattern repeats from the grafting chart because Rows 3 and 4 fall below the jog.
Each stitch on the lower piece (LP) is created by drawing the tapestry needle through a stitch (or through two stitches for decreases) two times. The yarnovers on the lower piece are created by skipping those steps and working the steps on the upper piece (UP) only. Each stitch on the upper piece is created by drawing the tapestry needle first through one stitch, then through the next stitch (the dotted lines represent the space between the two stitches). The yarnover symbols on the upper row indicate the placement of the yarnovers on the provisional cast-on row and the shaded boxes denote purl stitches (as viewed from the right side of the work).
We started this series with two practice swatches (Practice Swatch 1 and Practice Swatch 2). Just as with pattern charts, you must know how to create the stitches represented by the symbols before you can follow a grafting chart. Knowing how to recreate a stitch using a tapestry needle and a strand of yarn is one of the best ways to understand stitch structure. This will not only help with grafting, it will also make it much easier to correct knitting mistakes when (not if) they occur.
Once you feel comfortable with the sequences, you’re ready to follow the grafting chart step by step.
Work Sequence C two times. These two sequences create the two-stitch garter border.
Work Sequence A once. This is the first sequence of the repeated group of sequences and forms a leaf spine.
The next symbol on the grafting chart is a yarnover on the upper piece that is worked when the stitches are cast on provisionally. The yarnover symbol serves as a landmark to show where the sequences on either side of it should be worked. The alignment of stitches on the grafting chart is actually a little more accurate than the alignment on the pattern chart.
Sequence F consists of the yarnover on chart Row 3 (created by skipping the steps on the lower piece) and the knit stitch to the left of the yarnover on the upper piece.
Work Sequence A two times.
Work Sequence J once. This sequence combines three stitches into one stitch and forms the right edge of a leaf. The ssk decrease on chart Row 3 is worked by drawing the grafting yarn through two stitches in the row below (first through the second stitch, then through the first stitch so that the right-most stitch slants to the left over the first stitch). The ssk on chart Row 4 is created by working the second grafted stitch under the first grafted stitch.
Work Sequence A once. This Sequence A is centered under the left-slanting double decrease on Row 5 of the pattern chart.
Work Sequence I once. Sequence I is the mirror-image of Sequence J. It also combines three stitches into one stitch and forms the left edge of a leaf. The k2tog decrease on chart Row 3 is worked by drawing the grafting yarn through two stitches on the lower piece so that the second stitch slants to the right over the first stitch. The k2tog on chart Row 4 is created by working one Sequence A, then working the next grafted stitch (including the k2tog on Row 3) so that the second grafted stitch slants to the right over the first stitch.
Work Sequence A two times. Now the misalignment on the pattern chart skews to the right, but the grafting chart symbols continue to align vertically.
Work Sequence F once, ending just before the next yarnover on the upper piece. This is the last sequence of the repeated series of sequences.
Skip the next yarnover on the upper piece and work the first sequence of the next pattern repeat after it (so that Sequence A falls between two yarnovers).
All the other pattern repeats are worked just like the first. Repeat Steps 2 through 11.
The grafting chart ends with a Sequence A and two Sequence C’s.
Other Methods for Describing Grafting Complex Patterns
Describing grafting can be a challenge for pattern writers, particularly when it comes to grafting complex patterns such as lace. Grafting charts are my attempt to make grafting instructions user-friendly (and they don’t take up a lot of space on a page, which is an added bonus).
Other methods for describing lace grafting involve using a contrasting color yarn as a sort of grafting template.
In her book, Wrapped in Lace: Knitted Heirloom Designs from Around the World, Margaret Stove suggests working a swatch with larger yarn and needles than that used for the garment and working a single row with a contrasting color, then using that row as “a model of the grafting row to copy when grafting the actual project.” She uses a different set-up for top-to-bottom and top-to-top grafting, but the general idea is the same for both types of grafting. There are a couple of major drawbacks with this method. For one thing, it involves quite a bit of knitting that will just be discarded. Also (and, having used this method many times when I was trying to figure out how to graft lace, I can attest to this first-hand), it’s not that easy to replicate grafting by looking at another piece of knitting, especially when it comes to two-sided lace.
An alternate method also involves working some rows with a contrasting color, but instead of working separate swatches to copy visually, the contrasting rows are worked on the garment itself and you follow the path the contrasting yarn takes through the live stitches on both pieces. This method is sometimes referred to as the “duplicate stitch” or “chimney” method.
This video by designer Angela Hahn shows how this method can be used on two-sided lace.
This method works for a lot of people, but I have never had much luck with it. Invariably, I get off-track when trying to match the lower stitches up with the lower stitches and I have to start over. Following the path of the contrasting yarn through decreases is particularly tricky because of the multiple layers of stitches. The other difficulty with this method (for me, at least) is that it is easy to split the contrasting yarn, making it harder to remove the contrasting yarn at the end.
But no one method will work for all knitters. As with most things in life, it’s good to have choices. Whichever method you choose, it should be the one that makes the process easiest for you.
Tell me about your favorite grafting methods!