How to knit tutorial: Kitchener stitch or grafting (for knitting left-handed)

How to Join Knitting Seamlessly

Kitchener stitch (or grafting) is used to make an invisible join between two sets of live stitches (still on the knitting needles). It is worked using a tapestry needle and yarn, and although it is sewn, it looks like a row of knitting.

Kitchener stitch: a sample of showing Kitchener stitch used to join seamlessly two pieces of knitting.

 

Kitchener stitch is one of several techniques used in seamless knitting. Others include:

  • Provisional cast-on;
  • Knitting in the round;
  • Picking up stitches along an edge;
  • Three-needle cast-off.

In this blog post I’m going to show you how to do how to join two pieces of stocking stitch using Kitchener stitch.

The following explanations and images are for those who knit left-handed, that is, your working hand is your left hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and the stitches move from the right to left needle as you knit. If you knit right-handed read this tutorial!

NB: if you’re left-handed and knit right-handed, you may find it easier to do Kitchener stitch the left-handed way.

Kitchener Stitch

I’m going to break down Kitchener stitch into the following stages:

  1. Preparation;
  2. Set-up: two steps;
  3. Stitching: four steps;
  4. Finishing: two steps;
  5. Neatening.

Preparation

If you are working in rows, place the two pieces of knitting purl sides together with the needles pointing to the left. Make sure that the yarn end attached to the knitting is on the left at the back. Finish each piece of knitting with a right side row.

If you are working in rounds, divide your stitches between two needles. Make sure there is the same number of stitches on each needle. For example, if you are finishing the toe of a sock, place the stitches for the sole on one needle and the stitches for the top of the foot on another needle. The yarn end attached to the knitting should be on the left at the back.

Use the yarn end to thread your yarn needle.

Hold the two knitting needles in your right hand and the yarn needle in your left. From now on I’ll refer to the knitting needles as front or back needle.

Kitchener stitch: start with the two pieces of knitting purl sides together and yarn at back.

I’m going to use bright pink yarn for my Kitchener stitch to make it easy for you to follow each step.

Set-up step 1

Insert the yarn needle into the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl (purlwise or from left to right) and pull it through, leaving the stitch on the needle.

Kitchener stitch: pass the yarn needle purlwise through the first stitch on the front needle ...

Kitchener stitch: ... leaving the stitch on the needle.

Set-up step 2

Insert the yarn needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit (knitwise or from right to left) and pull it through, leaving the stitch on the needle.

Kitchener stitch: pass the yarn needle knitwise through the first stitch on the back needle ...

Kitchener stitch: ... leaving the stitch on the needle.

Stitching step 1

Insert the yarn needle into the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit and pull it through, slipping the stitch off the needle.

Kitchener stitch: pass the yarn needle knitwise through the first stitch on the front needle ...

Kitchener stitch: ... slipping the stitch off the needle.

You can see the first stitch in pink!

Stitching step 2

Insert the yarn needle into the next stitch on the front needle as if to purl, leaving the stitch on the needle.

Kitchener stitch: pass the yarn needle purlwise through the next stitch on the front needle ...

Kitchener stitch: ... leaving the stitch on the needle.

Stitching step 3

Insert the yarn needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl and pull it through, slipping the stitch off the needle.

Kitchener stitch: pass the yarn needle purlwise through the first stitch on the back needle ...

Kitchener stitch: ... slipping the stitch off the needle.

Stitching step 4

Insert the yarn needle into the next stitch on the back needle as if to knit, leaving the stitch on the needle.

Kitchener stitch: pass the yarn needle knitwise through the next stitch on the back needle ...

Kitchener stitch: ... leaving the stitch on the needle.

Repeat steps 1-4 until you have grafted all stitches. You may find that chanting “knit, purl, purl, knit” helps. Keep the tension of your sewn stitches slightly loose; you’ll adjust it later to match the tension of your knitted stitches.

You may be able to combine steps 1 and 2 into a single movement, and steps 3 and 4 as well.

If you need to stop make sure that you have completed step 4 so you know where to start again.

Finishing step 1

At the end of the row, you’ll have one stitch remaining on each needle. Repeat stitching step 1: insert the yarn needle into the first stitch on the front needle as if to knit and pull it through, slipping the stitch off the needle.

Kitchener stitch: pass the yarn needle knitwise through the last stitch on the front needle and slip off needle.

Finishing step 2

Repeat stitching step 3: insert the yarn needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl and pull it through, slipping the stitch off the needle.

Kitchener stitch: pass the yarn needle purlwise through the last stitch on the back needle and slip stitch off needle.

Neatening

You’ll now look at your stitching and probably think: ugh! Some stitches will be too loose, some too tight and some just right. It’s tricky to do Kitchener stitch with exactly the same tension as your knitted stitches. Your stitches may be too tight or too loose! However, have no fear; this is easy to sort out!

Kitchener stitch: this is what the grafting looks like immediately after finishing.

Use your yarn needle to ease the yarn along the row, one stitch at a time, so that the tension of your sewn stitches matches that of your knitted stitches.

That looks better, doesn’t it!

Kitchener stitch: this is what the grafting looks like after neatening the stitches.

Where to Use Kitchener Stitch?

Use Kitchener stitch where a seam might be uncomfortable or where you would like an invisible seam. Here’s some examples:

  • Finishing sock toes, e.g. Sweet Dreams socks;
  • Joining the two ends of a cowl knit in rows from a provisional cast-on, e.g. Cymru cowl;
  • Knitting a scarf with matching ends, e.g. knit two pieces from the middle (starting with a provisional cast-on), then remove the waste yarn and graft together the two sets of live stitches;
  • Knitting a scarf with matching ends. e.g. knit two pieces from the cast-on edge to the middle, then graft together the two sets of live stitches;
  • Making a seamless cushion, e.g. Fair Isle lavender bags and pincushions.

Don’t use Kitchener stitch where a bound-off edge is needed to stabilise a seam, for example, shoulder seams on heavy garments.

Why is it Called Kitchener Stitch?

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener (who was featured on the “Your Country Needs You” poster from World War I), was concerned about soldiers getting blisters on their feet due to the seams over the top of the toe or at the tip of the toe rubbing. It is said that he invented a smooth way to finish the toe seam which therefore was named Kitchener stitch after him.

Of course, Kitchener stitch is just grafting, which was in use long before WW1. Richard Rudd (A History of Hand Knitting) states that the earliest known reference, in the Oxford English Dictionary, to grafting was in 1880, somewhat before World War I. Furthermore, Rudd doesn’t mention Kitchener stitch at all. So, maybe Kitchener helped this technique become more widely known and used.

Want to Learn More?

Take a look at Nicki’s tutorials. Choose from:

Take a look at my other tutorials. Choose from:

Tutorials for knitting right-handed

You knit right-handed if your right hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and you move your stitches your left to right needle as you knit.

Tutorials for knitting left-handed

You knit left-handed if your left hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and you move your stitches move from your right to left needle as you knit.

Tutorials for crocheting right-handed

You crochet right-handed if your right hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and your new stitches are on the left of your old ones.

Tutorials for crocheting left-handed

You crochet left-handed if your left hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and your new stitches are on the right of your old ones.

Or maybe you’d like to come to one of my short courses or workshops or book a special personalised one-to-one tutorial.

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4 Responses to How to knit tutorial: Kitchener stitch or grafting (for knitting left-handed)

  1. Judith A Mock 26 January 2018 at 6:24 #

    I would so appreciate your input! I have had so many knitting teachers tell me that they can teach me to do the Kitchener stitch and then realize how tough it is. I knit right-handed as I was taught by my Girl Scout leader many years ago. However, the problem with finishing my socks, of which I have many that only need the Kitchener stitch, is that I need to hold the darning needle in my left hand to finish my socks, but since I knitted the socks the “right” way, I need to start the Kitchener from the back right side and work to the left, which is extremely difficult to do while holding the needle in my left hand. I would rather pay someone to finish my socks than do it myself! Do you have any suggestions to ease my Kitchener pain? Thank you so much! Judy Mock

    • Being Knitterly 26 January 2018 at 9:11 #

      Hi Judy, quite a few left-handed knitters knit right-handed, but sew left-handed so this is not an uncommon problem.

      As you have realised when you knit right handed, the yarn end attached to the knitting will be on the right at the back. When you turn your knitting so that you can sew left-handed the yarn end attached to the knitting will now be on the left at front, not the back as stated in my tutorial. Try missing out Set-up step 1 (I think that doing this will actually undo the last stitch that you knitted) and start with Set-up step 2. After that follow the four steps as explained in my tutorial.

      Let me know how you get on!

  2. Laura C 10 November 2017 at 3:52 #

    Thank you Thank you Thank you

    • Being Knitterly 12 November 2017 at 8:33 #

      Thank you Laura, I’m glad this tutorial was helpful!

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