The Mechanics of Knitting (And How to Graft Two Circular Pieces Together)
It’s funny, but until that time I never realized my brother and I had so much in common. After all, I went to art school and he to engineering school.
As a knitting illustrator, I was fortunate enough to be able to combine two loves: drawing and knitting. But looking back, I can see that my interest has always been in the mechanics of knitting, more than anything else. I want to understand how knitting works. In order to make the most accurate drawings, I’ve had to knit and dissect hundreds of swatches. And after years of scrutinizing knitted stitches, I’ve come to a deep understanding of the elements that make up the structure of the knitted fabric. And sometimes this understanding comes in handy when I encounter problems in my personal knitting projects.
Not long ago, I was working on a cowl that required grafting two circular pieces together. Usually, when instructions tell you to graft stitches, they’re referring to the grafting most commonly used to graft the toes of socks. But the set-up of the stitches was completely different from that of sock toes, so why use the same grafting technique?
Hold the circular needles together, holding the piece with the longer tail in front. Thread the grafting yarn through a tapestry needle and follow these steps (illustration 5):
Insert the tapestry needle purlwise (from WS to RS) into the first stitch on the FN, pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the knitting needle.
Insert the tapestry needle purlwise (from RS to WS) into the first stitch on the BN, remove the stitch from the knitting needle but don’t pull the yarn through; just leave it on the tapestry needle until the next step.
Insert the tapestry needle knitwise (from WS to RS) into the next stitch on the BN, pull the yarn through, leaving the stitch on the knitting needle.
Insert the tapestry needle knitwise (from RS to WS) into the first stitch on the FN, remove the stitch from the knitting needle but don’t pull the yarn through; just leave it on the tapestry needle until the next step.
One knit stitch has been grafted, which is shown in dark green in the illustration.
On the BN stitches, remove the tail from the stitch marked by the asterisk (illustration 7).
The grafted row is now complete (illustration 8).
What I’ve described above is top-to-top grafting, or grafting the last round of one piece to the last round of another piece. But if you are grafting the last round of one piece to the provisional cast-on of another piece, you must first create a stitch with the cast-on tail as shown in illustrations 9 and 10. The stitch created by the cast-on tail will be the same as the last stitch of the round in the top-to-top grafting example (compare illustrations 4 and 10).
By the way, if you are grafting in a ribbing pattern to a provisional cast-on row, simply substitute “knitwise” for “purlwise,” and vice versa, in Steps 1-4 for every purl stitch. The stitch on the front needle will tell you which four steps you need to work at any given time.