Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kitchener Stitch, Revisited (a.k.a. The Most Rambling Blog Post in History)

I spent the entire weekend knitting, as I mentioned.  And no, I am not mentioning this in order to make you green with jealousy, although if it has that effect, so much the better (HA!).  No, I mention this so you'll see the following photo and not think I am the Michael Schumacher of knitting.  I think I spent somewhere in the neighbourhood of 18 hours knitting on the cowl.  I am not usually this fast, just ask my as-of-yet-unfinished cardigan, which I started approximately 57 years ago.

I was just really inspired by it.  The yarn was totally dreamy (thanks Wood!) and I got a little carried away.

Ok, really carried away.  Don't freak, but I made several modifications to it:

WHAT!?!?  It was begging for more cables, ok?!  {Ooh, check out my sexy Crocs in that photo - that is just all kinds of awesome.}  I couldn't help myself!  Once I had done a few, I just couldn't seem to stop.

IT'S THE YARN'S FAULT, DAMMIT.  Don't look at me, dude.  I'm not the one steering this boat.

So anyway, as I was saying, I finished it.  As a result, I can now show you how to do the grafting part.  You'll notice in that photo that I removed the provisional cast-on (sorry, I'm stoopid and didn't take any photos of that part...oops) and placed all the stitches (carefully) onto my second needle.  I made sure that the stitches are placed properly and that both needle tips are pointing in the same direction.

Little tangent: It just occurred to me that if you are a beginner, you may not know how your stitches are supposed to be sitting on your needles.  When you place your knitting down flat and look at them dead-on (on either the Right Side of the knitting or the Wrong Side - it doesn't matter), the right-hand leg of your stitch should be sitting in FRONT of the needle and the left-hand leg should be BEHIND.  Here's a funny photo that will demonstrate the concept for you.  You want to make sure that when you take those provisional cast-on stitches back up on your needle, that you keep them sitting properly. End of tangent.

If you still have a lot of yarn left over, you can break it, leaving yourself a 36" tail or so. Thread the yarn tail onto a yarn needle.  Fold the cowl in half, so that the Wrong Sides are facing each other and place the needles in your left hand, with your index finger wedged between them, to give you some space to work:

 Do you like my vintage flannel?  I've had it since I was 14.  Don't you go saying anything disparaging about grunge or you and I are gonna have some harsh words.  I'm listening to Eddie Vedder as I'm writing this.  He's my secret boyfriend. We've been together since 1992.  We don't like to tell too many people about it, what with us both being married to other people and him being a dad and all.  If you are too young to remember grunge, I weep for you.

Ahem.  As I was saying, you hold the needles in your left hand and do the threading with your right hand.  There are a few VERY IMPORTANT things to consider BEFORE you start.  One: this is not the easiest technique.  Please, for the love of all things good and holy, only take this on when you have some quiet alone-time.  Don't start if you know you'll be interrupted or if you don't have any patience.  Two: keep everything VERY LOOSE.  The thing will look like a mess at first.  That's ok.  You'll go back and tighten it up later.

The first two steps are the set-up steps.  Here they are:

Set-up 1:  Slip the yarn through the first loop on the front needle, purl-wise.  Pull the tail through.  Leave the stitch there.

 Set-up 2: Slip the yarn through the first stitch on the back needle, knit-wise.  Pull the tail through.  Leave the stitch there.
Ok, that was easy enough, right?

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the next steps are not as easy and are easily messed up.

But here's a trick I discovered during this last foray in kitchener stitch.  You will be working 2 stitches on the front needle then you will switch to the back needle and work 2 stitches there.  You will alternate back and forth between the two until there are no stitches left to work.  Sound ok, so far?

Right.  Here's the trick: when you work each needle, the first stitch you work will always get pulled off the needle, while the second of the 2 stitches will remain on the needle.  Always.  Got it.  Pull stitch off, leave stitch on.

That leaves you with only one thing to remember: the direction that you are going to thread into each stitch: knit-wise or purl-wise.

Front needle: knit-wise for the first stitch, purl-wise for the second.
Back needle: purl-wise, then knit-wise.

Here's what it looks like:

Front needle: knit-wise (remove the stitch), purl-wise (leave stitch on)

Back needle: purl-wise (remove stitch), knit-wise (leave stitch on)

So you see, if you can remember that you always need to slip the first stitch off the needle and keep the second stitch, all you need to do is chant to yourself:

Front, knit, purl
Back, purl, knit...
and so on, until it becomes rhythmic, your brain shuts down and your hands take over.

When you get to the last few stitches, this is what you need to do:

Front needle: thread the yarn into the first stitch knit-wise and slip it off...

...thread the yarn into the second stitch purl-wise and leave it on

Back needle: thread the yarn into the first stitch purl-wise and slip it off...

...thread the yarn into the second stitch knit-wise and leave it on

Front needle: thread the yarn into the last stitch knit-wise and slip it off

Back needle (ACK! sorry, no photo): thread the yarn into the last stitch purl-wise and slip it off.

NOW, you can go back to the beginning of your grafting and start tightening it up, one stitch at a time.  I stuck my finger in there, just to show you how loose it all was before I started tightening it up:   
The idea is that you want to tighten it up *just* enough to make it blend in with your fabric.

Oh, and what does it look like when you get the steps out of sequence?

They look like purl bumps!  Not the end of the world, surely.  Only, because they were so close to the end of my grafting, I backtracked and fixed them.  Had they been near the beginning, I would have shrugged and said fuhgettaboutit!

You're done.  You just need to weave your ends in and block it.  More on that later.

After all that, don't you think we could use a gratuitous cute puppy shot?

Yeah, I thought so, too.

Also, because you rock, here's a little parting music:


  1. So I start reading this post and I was like, "that scarf is gorgeous! I'm gonna make it" and then I was all, "ha ha ha, not remembering grunge, I don't talk to people who don't remember grunge." And then I realized that you were about to do the Kitchener stitch (though maybe the title should have clued me in) and then I got scared and I quit reading. I'm scared of Kitchener stitch. How can I make your scarf if I'm scared? Crap.

  2. Nope, you are NOT scared. You only THINK you are scared. You think you OUGHT to be scared. But you really aren't scared. I promise.

    I'm telling you (scout's honour), once I figured out that all the "first" stitches get slipped off and the "second" stitches remain on the needles, I spent all of my time alternating needles and sing-songing under my breath: "knit, purl, purl, knit, knit, purl, purl, knit" and it was so easy! I don't think I'll ever forget this technique again!

    I'm thinking I may have to put together a video and post it to show just how easy it really is. Note to self: figure out how to do videos. Second note to self: figure out how to post videos.