An Education in Lace Grafting: Intro to Grafting Lace Edgings
One of the last steps for many projects involves joining the end of a lace edging to its cast-on row. This includes projects such as shawls, stoles, baby blankets, or doilies with a center rectangle or circle and an edging that’s worked around the perimeter of the main piece. It’s also true for sweaters, skirts, or socks with a lace edging that continues around the entire hem or cuff.
The edgings are typically worked back and forth over fewer than thirty stitches while being joined to the live stitches of the main piece at the end of every alternate row. Even though the final edging seam is short (usually only about 2–5″ wide), it’s in a very visible location so care should be taken to make the seam as inconspicuous as possible.
The most invisible seam requires a provisional cast-on and grafting the live stitches together. You have a couple of different options when it comes to grafting lace edgings, depending on the stitch pattern and how invisible you want the seam to be.
Each of the following grafting methods has pros and cons, and you can decide which method will work best for your project.
Pros: Russian grafting is a decorative seaming technique commonly seen in patterns for traditional Orenburg shawls with garter-stitch-based lace edgings. It isn’t a “true” grafting method as no working yarn is used. The seam is invisible (mostly) when it’s used on garter stitch because it resembles a garter ridge. The photo below shows a Russian graft tucked between two garter-stitch ridges of a lace edging:
Cons: Russian grafting is worked by pulling existing stitches through other stitches and there’s no way to adjust the tension of the graft. The seam will be visible if it’s used on a very open lace fabric, even if it’s garter-stitch-based. Russian grafting should not be used on a stockinette-based fabric such as the one in the photo at the top of the page (unless the intention is for the seam to be decorative and not invisible).
Pros: Kitchener stitch is one of the most common—and simplest—grafting methods. It will be invisible if it’s worked at a place in the pattern where there are at least two consecutive rows of stockinette stitch (with no yarnovers or decreases).
Cons: Contrary to popular belief, Kitchener stitch is not a perfect substitute for a wrong-side purl row between two lace pattern rows or for a knit “valley” row between two garter-stitch ridges. Rather, it’s the equivalent of two rows of stockinette stitch, which can disrupt a stitch pattern because it adds an extra plain row where there should only be one. In the photo below, the extra row created by using Kitchener stitch on garter stitch results in a wider gap between garter ridges.
GRAFTING IN THE LACE PATTERN
Pros: Grafting “in pattern” means to recreate the stitch pattern exactly using a tapestry needle and a strand of yarn. It’s the best way to achieve a completely invisible seam. (At least, this is the case with top-to-bottom grafting; with top-to-top grafting there may be a slight jog in the pattern, depending on the stitch pattern.) The lace edging in the photo at the top of the page looks as if it was knit in one continuous piece, but it was actually knit in two separate pieces and grafted together. The two yarn tails at the side edge mark the place where the live stitches of one piece were grafted to the provisional cast-on stitches of the other piece.
Cons: The complexity of the grafting is directly related to the complexity of the stitch pattern. Kitchener stitch is actually a form of grafting in pattern, but because stockinette stitch is so simple, the grafting consists of only four repeated steps. By contrast, many lace edging patterns are quite complicated, so the grafting will be complicated, as well. No grafting mnemonic can possibly cover the thousands of stitch combinations found in knitted lace patterns.
GRAFTING IN PATTERN IS CHALLENGING, BUT A SKILL WORTH LEARNING
Grafting in the lace pattern is by far the most challenging method of the three listed above. Not only do you have to know how to create many different types of stitches (including single decreases, double decreases, and yarnovers), you also need to know the order in which the stitches need to be worked to recreate a specific lace pattern.
This may seem like a skill that only a few uber-knitters can ever hope to achieve, but this really isn’t the case. As with any skill, grafting takes practice. And there are ways that the grafting can be made easier. No expert knitter I’ve ever heard of can graft lace in pattern without using a trick of some type. Most of the tricks involve using waste yarn as a sort of “cheat sheet” for knowing how to work each stitch in turn.
I use another type of cheat sheet: the stitch chart from the pattern, and only use waste yarn to hold the stitches in place as they are grafted because it’s very difficult to graft lace when the stitches are on knitting needles.
I break the grafting steps down into manageable groups of a few steps each that I call “grafting sequences.” Each sequence creates a certain type of stitch on both the upper and lower piece. The chart (which is modified to show the grafting steps) gives the order in which the stitches need to be worked for each pattern.
What You Can Expect from This Series
Over the next few weeks, I’ll feature a series of edgings that are grafted in pattern. We’ll be using the grafting sequences from my previous series on grafting two-sided lace, in addition to a few new ones, so it would be a good idea to work the two practice swatches from the first series. Practice Swatch 1 includes grafting sequences A–D, and Practice Swatch 2 includes grafting sequences E–K.
The practice swatches are worked in stockinette stitch so you can concentrate solely on creating these stitches:
• Knit stitches and purl stitches on the upper and lower pieces
• Ssk, k2tog decreases on the upper and lower pieces
• P2tog decrease on the upper piece
• Yarnover on the upper and lower pieces
Additional Grafting Sequences
In the lace edging series, I’ll be adding a few more grafting sequences that will include these stitches:
• P2tog decrease on the lower piece
• Twisted stitch on the lower piece
• K3tog and Sk2p decreases on the lower piece
• Double yarnover on the lower piece
I’ll also show you how to maintain a perfect slip-stitch and picot selvedge edge when grafting.
The series is designed not only for those who want to learn to graft lace, but also for those who just want to know more about lace structure. The nice thing about lace edgings is that they consist of only a few stitches, so they are very manageable. The stitches remain on waste yarn until the grafting is finished, so if you make a mistake you can undo the grafting and start over without having to worry about losing any stitches.
I hope you enjoy this series on grafting lace edgings. I encourage you to ask questions and post photos of your edgings. With a little perseverance, you will become a lace expert in your own right.
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