Tuesday 23 November 2010

Russian Grafting

I came across Russian Grafting in a post by Fiona on her blog and it immediately struck me as a really neat way of joining two pieces of knitting.  I have seen a couple of other tutorials too, since then: for instance, there are two on YouTube, one here that uses a crochet hook, and another here that uses a pair of knitting needles, as in Fiona's tutorial. When I tried following Fiona's tutorial, it seemed to me that the method could be simplified a bit. With the existing methods that I have seen that use a pair of knitting needles, you have to pull one stitch through another, which I find a bit awkward - the advantage (if you think it is an advantage) is that most of the work is done by the right needle.  If you are happy to work with the left needle on stitches that are on the right needle, as well as v.v., I think the method I describe here is simpler.

So suppose you have two pieces of knitting to join together, with the same number of stitches in each. (My two pieces are the samples I was using to practise sloping shoulders in my last post.) You first need to arrange them on the needles so that the  free ends of yarn are at the outside edges, away from the needle points.  (Strictly, you only need one of the yarn ends to be there.)  Because of the free ends, the last stitches on the needles can get very loose as you are working, so I think it is helpful to prevent that by making a slip-knot in each free end, as close as possible to the last stitch.

I'm working with the wrong side of the work facing me, but actually it doesn't matter whether you work on the wrong side or the right side.

The first step is to choose the first stitch on one needle as the working stitch.  (I have borrowed that term from Fiona.) It doesn't matter which one - I'll choose the one on the right. Slip the first stitch on the left needle over to the right needle (purlwise - we don't want to twist the stitch) and pass the working stitch over it. This drops the old working stitch, and the stitch it has passed over becomes the new working stitch.

 The current working stitch is on the right needle.  Slip it and the next stitch on the right needle over to the left needle.

Pass the working stitch over the other stitch, which becomes the new working stitch.

Then you do exactly the same thing, but switching left and right:   The current working stitch is on the left needle.  Slip it and the next stitch on the left needle over to the right needle.    Pass the working stitch over the other stitch, which becomes the new working stitch.

Repeat these two steps until only one stitch is left.

Then undo the slip-knots and secure the graft by threading one or both free ends of yarn through the final stitch. And the graft, finally, is a neat row of zigzagging, interlocking stitches.

You always know which is the current working stitch, except at the very beginning, because it has just had the previous stitch passed over it.  As the graft progresses, the current working stitch  is at the head of a zigzag line of previous working stitches.   

You can see that in the shoulder seam of a cardigan I am just finishing, and will write about later. The complete graft is again very neat, I think.

(The rest of it is not very neat yet - I'm knitting a built-in button band, that is not yet finished.)

I'm really converted to Russian grafting - it gives very good results on many different stitch patterns.  I used it to join together the two halves of the moss stitch collar on my Textured Cardigan. It's much easier than grafting using Kitchener stitch, which I think would be quite tricky on moss stitch. The seam is not at all bulky or stiff, like a sewn seam can be. And you don't need to worry about getting the right tension - it's all taken care of by the knitting you have already done.

Following my last post, minniemoll commented that she had tried grafting shoulder seams, but found that the join wasn't strong enough and so the sleeves stretched under their own weight. I can imagine that that would happen with Kitchener stitch grafting, because it is meant to look and behave exactly like another row of knitting. Russian grafting won't be so elastic, I think. Anyway I shall try it in the cardigan I am finishing, and report back.


  1. Hello Barbara,
    Thank you for this helpful tutorial. I tried it out for a shoulder seam and it looks very nice. I found it stretchier than a three-needle bind-off.
    Regards, Sarah

    1. So pleased you found it helpful. I think it's much preferable to a three-needle bind-off - it's flatter, as well as being stretchier, as you say. Though now I mostly knit sweaters and similar things top-down in one piece, so the question of shoulder seams doesn't arise at all.


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