how i knit to stay sane

March 7, 2008

Tutorial: Simplifying the Kitchener Join

Filed under: Uncategorized — K @ 5:13 pm

I finished up the glittery lilac wrap I was working on, made from the knitty pattern, Variation on a Frill.  The finishing instructions state “Line up the live sts of the body to those of the second frill and graft together using Kitchener stitch.”  Now, I can clumsily muddle my way through a kitchener stitch to graft a toe, and the tiny stitches have a fair amount of give and not too much scrutiny, and my kitchener gets me through.  I do know the steps.  (Say it with me!  “Knit off, purl on.  Purl off, knit on.”)  But somehow, when I try to graft stitches on a larger project, I have trouble getting even stitches and matching my gauge.  My finished stitches never quite come out looking like, well, knitted stitches.  Or, at least that was true until I knitted up my own kitchener tutorial.  I figured, since I was using this method to kitchener my frill, I’d take some extra pictures, and share the steps here.

As always, my disclaimer:  I’m not nearly so naive as to believe that I invented this, and that no one else could have come up with it.  In fact, I’m reasonably certain I’ve seen other tutorials on this method on the web and in books.  However, all images are my own, all handiwork is my own, and all wording is my own.  I choose to share it only in hopes that maybe the way I phrase something helps the method click for someone who has struggled with it before, or even that someone who’s never heard of kitchenering can learn a new skill.  Enjoy!

The set-up:  You have two needles, each with a knitted piece culminating in the same number of live stitches.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to use the yarn and a tapestry needle to create a row of knit stitches joining the two pieces of knitting while removing them from the needles.

Step 1:  In my preferred method, I like to switch to a different yarn — pick a smooth yarn in a contrasting color in approximately the same weight as your knitted piece.  Knit 4-5 rows in your contrasting yarn on each piece.  (The goal is to make the extra knitting long enough to see the first row of knitted stitches in the contrast yarn, along with the last row of the original knitting.)  You can pull the needle out if you’re reasonably sure the knitted stitches won’t ladder down to the original piece, or you can leave the stitches on the cable of a circular needle (you want them to be able to spread out naturally).  Place pieces with the contrasting yarn together, so the stitches to be grafted are in the right positions with one another.

Step 2:  Break yarn, leaving about three times the length of the piece to graft the stitches.  Thread tapestry needle.  Starting with the first stitch on the upper piece, look at where the contrasting yarn stitch goes.  Looking at pink stitch below the yarn needle in the photo below, you can see the “V” of the stitch, and you can visualize where the yarn goes behind the lilac stitch to form the purl bump.  You will be using the needle and working yarn to recreate the stitches across  the “divide” of the contrasting yarn.  First up, insert your needle as if to purl, following that same line that the contrasting yarn has created.   (For those who know the rhythm of the kitchener stitch, note that your needle is going through two legs, one each from adjacent stitches, with this move.  This accomplishes both a “knit” and “purl” step from the usual kitchener method.)

Step 3:  Next up, you’re going to find the next stitch on the lower piece.  Find the relevant contrast stitch, and follow the stitch again, to see where to insert your needle.  Each stitch of the yarn needle will be through two knitted stitch “legs”.

Step 4:  Work loosely for the first few stitches.  After you’ve made a few stitches, you should see the basic form of the knit stitches taking shape.  If it doesn’t look like stretched out knit stitches, undo them and try again.  If it does, tighten the stitches one at a time by starting at the first stitch, and inserting the tapestry needle under the first leg and then the second, tightening as you go.  Try to make the stitches match the size of the stitches that were knitted.

Step 5:  When you’re finished, your contrasting knitting will be pushed completely to the back and “out of the way”.  All stitches will be caught up in your careful stitches, safely off the needles, and with no need for their security blanket of stitches.  Marvel in their perfection.

Turn your piece over to marvel in the perfection of the tidy purl bumps you’ve completed using your tapestry needle.

Hey, those contrasting stitches don’t have a job anymore — they’re just in the way!  Find the loose end from one of the contrasting yarn rows, and rip out the stitches, enjoying the fact that this ripping comes from doing something right, not wrong!

And enjoy your newly freed perfectly kitchenered…. whatever it was you made!  (Cat paws included for scale….)


1 Comment »

  1. This is brilliant. Have only just discovered the Kitchener method, and was going to attempt it on a sock I have just finished (first attempt at sock knitting). Your method is SO SIMPLE AND SO MUCH EASIER. Thank you


    Comment by Veronica (WA) — June 22, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

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