Posted in colorwork, Knitting Technique, Knitting Tutorial, The Creative Process, The Design Process

Sweater Surgery, or How I Cut Into my Sweater and Lived to Tell About It

Last week I girded up my loins, picked up my scissors, and cut my sweater in half. Done with careful preparation, I survived, the sweater survived – and in fact it was much improved by the process.

The Problem

Here’s how knitwear design works for me: I try something. I like it. Well, except for just one thing. I rip back. I re-knit, and now it’s much better. But it’s not quite right, let me try this other color. At some point, I will determine to knit on no matter what. In the case of the Colorwork Tee, I knit the entire sweater before determining that, although I loved the torso of the sweater, I wasn’t happy with the fit of the yoke and sleeves.

So, I began again, armed with better numbers.  This time, things were much better! The fit was much more flattering.

sweater top
New yoke and sleeves

I’m not even going to show you the old yoke and sleeves, but here’s the section of the first sweater that I loved and kept. I could have continued knitting from the new yoke and sleeves and have knit all those rounds again, but…I thought that I had a better idea…grafting!

sweater bottom

The Plan

The plan was that, using Kitchener stitch, I would graft the top and bottom sections together. It would be an elegant solution that would save both time and yarn.

sweater top and bottom

Careful preparation was key to a successful operation. My motto, to misquote Bob Vila, was “Measure twice, stitch once!”

The Procedure

A Lifeline
~I learned this technique from a sock pattern, Basic Sock by Churchmouse Yarns and Teas. Insert the needle into the first leg of each stitch.  After the needle has been inserted into every stitch, the yarn can be unraveled down to the needle and the live stitches will remain on the needle.

Placing needle before cutting

Helpful hint for seeing the “first leg” of each stitch: use finger to push out the fabric.  You can see the separate legs more easily. I also find color changes to be helpful in seeing the separate legs.

To find first leg of st

After all of the stitches are on the needles…


…the fabric is ready to cut:

Sweater surgery

There was some weird problem unraveling, so I put in a new lifeline a few rounds further down.

Stitchy mess

Now I was ready to begin stitching. For instructions and a cheat sheet on how to work the Kitchener Stitch, read here.

Here, about 3 inches of grafting is completed (to the right of the needles):Some grafting completed

After grafting, there was a bit of a ridge, noticeable to the touch but not visible. Once blocked, though, it was practically imperceptible.

The Finished Product

I’m excited to share some much more professional looking photos soon, but here’s the sweater right after blocking.

Colorwork Tee

And that’s how I grafted 312 stitches and lived to tell about it!

Posted in Kitchener Stitch, Knitting Technique, Knitting Tutorial

Kitchener Stitch

The Kitchener Stitch is an amazing, magical way to graft together two live knitted edges. Using a tapestry needle, you work your way through the stitches exactly mimicking the way knitting stitches are worked through each other.

The whiteboard pictures below are from a Basic Christmas Stocking class I taught last fall.


The red lines in the illustration represent knit stitches. The faint horizontal red lines represent knitting needles.  Finally, the blue lines represent the manner in which Kitchener Stitches are worked through both legs of the stitches on the front and back needles. As you can see, Kitchener imitates knit stitches.

Kitchener chart (2)

How to Kitchener

1.  Place the two needles with the live stitches parallel to each other, wrong sides of fabric facing each other and the right side of fabric on the outside. We will call these the front needle and the back needle.

Starting the graft

2.  Thread either the remaining end of yarn from the back needle or a new length of yarn onto a tapestry needle, coming from the right (as opposed to left) side of the project.

keeping needles close 2

3.  Each live stitch on the front and back needles will be worked twice with the yarn on the tapestry needle.  Here’s a little chart I put together to help remember the steps.

Kitchener chart 4

To interpret this chart:

There are two needles, front and back.  During each repeat of this chart, you will perform actions on the first two stitches on the front needle and then, in different order, on the first two stitches on the back needle. An asterisk means that you will slide the stitch off the needle after you have performed the action indicated.

In these instructions, “knit” means to insert the tapestry needle in the same way you insert a knitting needle “as if to knit” and “purl” means to insert the tapestry needle “as if to purl.” In the pictures above, you can see the tapestry needle inserted as if to purl.

Set-Up Step:  Front needle: purl first stitch, leave on needle. Back needle: knit first stitch, leave on needle.

Next Step (repeat until there is only one stitch left on each needle):

  • Front needle: knit first stitch, slide this stitch off needle. Purl second stitch, leave on needle.
  • Back needle: purl first stitch, slide this stitch off needle. Knit second stitch, leave on needle.

Last Step (when only one stitch is left on each needle:

  • Front needle: knit the stitch, slide it off needle.
  • Back needle: purl the stitch, slide it off needle.

Here you can see about three inches of grafting completed, to the right of the needles:

Some grafting completed

That’s it!  Congratulations, you have mastered the Kitchener Stitch!