Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kitchener stitching (grafting) with a sewing needle, the contrasting color way (also called the "chimney" method of grafting)

TECHknitting blog has shown how to graft (Kitchener stitch) without a sewing needle.  This all-knitting graft is one of the most popular posts on this site.

Today, however, TECHknitting blog is starting a retro series--going old-school to look at grafting with a sewing needle.  

  • The first post (today's) gives background on the Kitchener stitch, and shows how to graft in an incredibly simple way--the contrast color way. (When applied to sock-toes, this trick is sometimes called the "chimney method" of grafting.)
  • The second post  shows a system for grafting stockinette, reverse stockinette or garter stitch.  
  • The third post shows two tricks for grafting ribbing WITHOUT the half-stitch offset--yes it can be done! The graft isn't completely perfect, but these two tricks make grafting ribbing a whole lot better than the offset mess which usually results. 
  • The fourth and final post shows how to shape during grafting--for sock knitters, this translates into getting rid of the "donkey ears" at the corners of the toe-graft.
So, here we go, starting with...

History of the Kitchener stitch
The British general, Lord Kitchener, was concerned how his soldiers’ seamed socks maimed their toes. The smooth grafting technique which bears his name solved the problem. Today, Kitchener stitching (also called “weaving” and “grafting”) has risen far above its utilitarian sock-toe origins to become a star technique of mainstream knitting. Yet, like many stars, it has a reputation for being temperamental, difficult, or (in the case of ribbing) impossible. This series of posts present a systematized approach: step-by-step, the Kitchener stitch will be demystified, ribbing and all.

Kitchener stitch and duplicate stitch

Kitchener stitch is a sewn seam where the path of the seaming yarn follows the path a row of knitting would take. Done properly, the two fabrics are literally grafted into one longer fabric—a fabric nearly indistinguishable from one knitted all-at-once. Although it seems magical, its roots are in the humble duplicate stitch.

Per illustration 1, in duplicate stitch, a threaded tapestry needle (blunt tip, large eye) is drawn along the face of the fabric. As you see, in order to duplicate each underlying purple stitch, the red yarn must pass twice through each stitch.

Contrast-color (cc) method of Kitchener stitch

Kitchener stitch is so very related to duplicate stitch that we can actually Kitchener-stitch BY duplicate-stitching, a technique called the “cc (contrasting color) method.” Here’s how:
  • End each piece of fabric with a cc row. In illustration 2, the bottom piece has a blue cc, the top a green. These cc yarns provide a visual path for the grafting yarn to follow.
  • Bind off each piece. The illustration shows a simple looped bind-off in tan, but any bind off is OK. For ease of handling, you may choose to add a few rows past the cc row before you bind off.
  • Fold the cc rows under, then hold them close, as on the right side of illustration 2.
  • With the threaded tapestry needle (red in illustration) follow the path traced by the TOP of the blue stitches, and the BOTTOM of the green stitches, as shown.
  • When done, pull or snip out your cc yarn (the bind-off yarn will come away, also). What remains is a single length of fabric, grafted together by the Kitchener stitch. Of course, in real life, you would use a yarn of the same color to do the grafting—the red is only for illustration purposes.

Illustration 2 shows stockinette Kitchener stitching, but the cc method works for other fabrics also, such as garter stitch and reverse stockinette.

This cc method is sometimes called the "chimney method," and this is because you can work a variant of this trick to graft sock toe.  Let's say you are at the end of the sock, and the only stitches on your needles are the ones which are to be grafted together. Arrange matters so that the running yarn comes out of the right side of the back needle.  Cut the running yarn to about 10 inches and thread it onto a tapestry needle.  Let that yarn hang on the outside of the sock.

Now, instead of grafting directly, switch yarns to a contrasting color, and knit a few more rounds on the toe-stitches, going around and around with no decreasing or other shaping.  You are knitting a sort of a tube--a contrasting color "chimney."  Once you've gotten five or six rounds done, simply pull your needles right out of the work, no need to bind off, even. 

Next, tuck the chimney rounds down INSIDE the sock toe and hold the two sides tightly together.  At the very fold where the sock yarn meets the contrasting color yarn, you will be all set up to contrast-color graft as shown above.  In other words, by taking in hand the threaded needle previously prepared, and using it to follow a path along the TOP of the folded-back top cc stitches, and the BOTTOM of the folded-back bottom cc stitches, you'll have a guide for grafting, just as shown above. 

When the graft is finished, you can unravel and pick out the contrasting color chimney stitches.  What remains is a beautifully grafted toe.

The cc method is easy to understand and works great.  If you like this method, there's no reason to use any other, and you can simply skip the rest of the posts in this series.  However, for those who like theory and complication, stay tuned for the next post, which analyzes the Kitchener stitch is all its gory detail, and presents a method which works for grafting stockinette, reverse stockinette and garter stitch, too. 

'til next time --TK


C said...

Wow, the creepy thing is that I came back to the blog to get a refresher on the Kitchener stitch--and attempt it with a sewing needle this time! And if I've never said this before, your all-knitting version is a godsend. Thanks for another great post!

KarenAZ said...

I love to Kitchener. Does that make me a freak? I have friends who bring me their projects when it's grafting time.

Carly said...

Looking forward to the next few posts!
I've never had a problem grafting with the darning needle (though I tend to pull too tight and end up with something that feels and looks like a seam on the purl side) but I'd love to see clearly-illustrated methods of grafting ribbing and garter!

Julia Thom said...

I was hoping beyond hope that you were going to have another Part on Kitchener between seed stitch. I'm going to give it a try unless I hear you have a method.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Julia--The way I look at it, seed stitch is actually a case of ribbing which should be mis-matched at the join, so that instead of a column of all knits followed by a column of all purls, you get interrupted (but still alternating) columns of each. There's trouble (just like ribbing) with the offset. Buuuut--it gets worse. Because not only do your have the offset trouble of ribbing, but you ALSO get a little flavor of garter grafting. This is because the row which connects two lines of seed stitch should be opposite of both (just like a line of knits connects two lines of purl in garter).

Anyhow, when the ribbing tricks are published, I believe you'll see that they are adaptable to seed stitch, too.

BTW? Neither of the ribbing tricks is a really full-on beautiful graft, because the offset problem is actually a structural one, and really can't be eliminated, but it can be worked-around, and that's what both ribbing tricks will be--work-arounds. So stay tuned.

In the meanwhile, however, try the seed stitch graft and see what you can make of it! You don't say if you are trying to graft head-to-head (like a shoulder seam in a bottom-up sweater--this is the harder case) or head-to-tail (like in a cowl knit flat, then grafted across the start/finish--this is the easier case) but whichever you have, try it out (maybe on a swatch first?) and see what happens!

Suzanne said...

I'm glad I know how to kitchener and even more grateful for the new insight. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm coming to the end of a Brioche infinity scarf - any hints on kitchenering Brioche?

Craftysquirrel said...

Oh this is great timing, I have just finished a moss stitch scarf that will be circular so need to graft the ends - never done Kitchener and I know had to be moss stitch so no doubt even harder - hopefully I can figure it out!

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--Kitchnering in brioche can be done, in theory, anyhow. It involves doing some fancy needlework in the graft row. But frankly, the game is probably not worth the candle--if it were mine, I would simply seam it. If you are determined, write back again after the fourth in this series (shaping in the Kitchener row) goes live, and we can talk about it some more.

Anonymous said...

If TECHknitter would just seam, then so shall I ;-).

Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to trying this!

Anonymous said...

I'm at the point in a brioche infinity scarf that I want to graft. I didn't originally intend to make it infinity, but it's shorter than I wanted and I can't get the same dye lot so here I am. The first step was unpicking my cast on. Yuk!. I figure I need to kitchener two times since each "row" is knit twice in brioche. So what I'm doing is slipping the stitches that look like purls to spare needles (one for each side of the seam), and kitchenering (is this a verb?) the remaining stitches. So if your mantra (ala knittinghelp.com) is usually knit, slip, purl (front needle), and purl, slip, knit (back needle), for brioche it's knit slip off front needle, slip single stitch to spare needle, YO, purl next "double" st. on front needle, then move to back needle, purl, slip off, slip next single stitch to spare needle and YO, then knit w/o slipping next "double" st. on back needle. Repeat. I was doing this and was running out of yarn - somewhat predictable since my spare needles are bigger than my knitting needles. So I'm unpicking and will start again. Then I'll turn the work and starting w/ a new yarn go back the other way doing std. kitchener on all of my previously slipped sts. on the spare needles.

TECHknitter said...

Have a look at this thread in Ravelry about what brioche stitch actually is, and that will give you a better idea how to graft it, I believe.


However, as I said to a different anon, I'm not sure that I would try to graft brioche, I believe I would seam it.

Anonymous said...

Hi TK.

Thanks for sharing the chimney method...I've been looking for some way to keep those stitches secure. You've put this one to rest for me.


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Tried to find the topic on Ravelry and don't seem to be able to figure out how to find a thread with a number.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon--I think if you cut and paste the entire linky into your browser window, it will take you straight over to the relevant posts in Ravelry. Best, TK

Angela said...

Wow! The cc method of grafting is AMAZING. Fast, easy AND the side edges of the fabric look good--I could never get the beginning and end of the grafting to work out quite right before. AND I was able to get one edge of the ribbing to line up perfectly, by following the path of the contrasting color (and I'm wondering if I might have been able to do both edges perfectly, with a little more fiddling). Genius. Thank you.