Tutorial: Grafting in pattern

I thought it was about time I made a tutorial explaining how to graft in pattern – it’s a technique I use often, and it’s required for a neat finish on a number of my patterns, including Nennir, Cinioch and Tallorcen.

Regular grafting in stockinette – also called Kitchener stitch – is a technique that uses a darning needle and yarn to sew live sts together in a way that perfectly imitates a row of knitting. Done properly, with close attention paid to the tension of the yarn, it can be completely invisible. It also has the advantage of joining sts together without the bulk of a seam, which is why it’s often used to close sock toes. Grafting in pattern – i.e. grafting across a row of mixed knit and purl sts – is not significantly difficult, if you already know how to graft in stockinette. I’m going to assume in this tutorial that you do already know stockinette grafting – if not, I recommend reading this and having a practise before attempting to graft in pattern!

I find that grafting is all about rhythm, and mantra – in stockinette grafting, everything goes fine as long as I repeat in my head “Knit off, purl on… purl on, knit off”. Or even just “Knit, purl… purl, knit,” because once you get into the rhythm of slipping off the first stitch on front and back needle, and leaving the second stitch on, it becomes second nature.

Here’s a condensed guide to how to graft in pattern, which will make more sense once you look at the photos and video below:

(F = front needle, B = back needle)

2 (or more) k sts on F
(Stockinette grafting)

F: knit off, purl on
B: purl off, knit on

1 k st, 1 p st on F
F: knit off, knit on
B: knit off, purl on

1 p st, 1 k st on F
F: purl off, purl on
B: purl off, knit on

2 (or more) p sts on F
(Reverse stockinette grafting)

F: purl off, knit on
B: knit off, purl on

Firstly, something very important indeed – grafting in pattern will only work perfectly if the direction of knitting is preserved in the two pieces being grafted together. In other words – if you make two separate cabled panels, worked from the CO up, and then tried to graft the live sts together, there will be a half-stitch jog. The cable sections – usually columns of 2 k sts over a purl background – will not align perfectly and it might look a bit strange. Imagine an arrow that starts at your CO edge and points up towards your live sts. If you’re trying to graft two pieces together and the arrows point at each other, you will have the half-stitch jog.

If you start a cabled panel with a provisional CO, work for as long as the panel needs to be, then graft your live sts to the sts held by the provisional CO, then the direction of knitting is preserved and the sts will all align perfectly. This is often the construction used in cabled hat bands, cowls, waistbands, cuffs, etc.

If you’d like to follow along with the tutorial, CO 23 sts using any standard CO (like long-tail) and work as follows for a few rows:
RS: k4, p4, k2, p3, k2, p4, k4.
WS: p4, k4, p2, k3, p2, k4, p4.
Leave the live sts on the needle.

Then CO 23 sts using provisional CO, work for a few rows in the above stitch pattern and BO. Undo the provisional CO and slip the 23 sts onto a needle.

You should have something like this:


After grafting the first few stitches as for regular stockinette, stop when you have a k st followed by a p st on your front needle! It will look like this:


For the transitions between k and p sts, the way in which you insert the needle has to change slightly. So, insert the needle knitwise (and slip st off, not shown):

F: Knit off...

F: Knit off…

Then insert needle knitwise (and leave st on, pull yarn through):

F: Knit on...

F: Knit on…

On the back needle, insert needle knitwise (and slip st off, not shown):

B: Knit off...

B: Knit off…

Then insert needle purlwise (and leave st on, pull yarn through):

B: Purl on...

B: Purl on…

After this, it’s reverse stockinette grafting for a few sts. So, like regular grafting but backwards! Purl off, knit on… knit off, purl on. Like so!:

F: Purl off...

F: Purl off…

F: Knit on...

F: Knit on…

B: Knit off...

B: Knit off…

B: Purl on...

B: Purl on…

Continue in reverse stockinette grafting, until the next 2 sts on the front needle are a p st followed by a k st. Like this:


This time the pattern needs to be purl off, purl on… purl off, knit on:

F: Purl off...

F: Purl off…

F: Purl on...

F: Purl on…

B: Purl off...

B: Purl off…

B: Knit on...

B: Knit on…

And that’s everything you need to know to graft in pattern! Continue to work across the row. Remember: if you have 2 or more k sts next on your front needle, you use stockinette grafting. If you have 2 or more p sts on your front needle, you use reverse stockinette grafting. It’s the transitions between k and p sts that you have to watch out for!

Finished result, after tension has been adjusted a little bit along the grafting line:


As you can see (I hope!), if I hadn’t used a different coloured yarn for the graft, the result would be practically invisible.

Hope this tutorial was helpful and feel free to ask any questions!

P.S. Here’s a video demonstrating the grafting in progress:

Video Tutorial: Increases and Decreases in Closed-loop Cable Knitting

Here’s a little video I put together showing some of the increases and decreases I like to use in closed-loop cable knitting (this is a style of cable knitting that allows you to create near-horizontal bands of cables, and closed loops – hence the name!; it’s very useful for knitting cables based on Celtic knotwork, like the cables in my hat pattern Tallorcen).

Please note: There is no audio on this video – it’s designed to be a supplement to the written instructions which are provided in the pattern. This is quite an old video, which I hope to update soon with audio commentary.

1-into-3 increases (stacked): at beginning of video

5-into-1 decrease: begins at 3m 43s

1-into-5 increase: begins at 5m 25s

Tutorial: Turn an image/photo in a chart with GIMP

After years of being a texture-only knitter (lace, cables, twisted stitches…) I have recently begun to delve into the world of stranded colourwork. I needed a way of turning photos and images into charts, to knit from. There is the handy KnitPro online application, which turns an uploaded image into a charted PDF ready to be used. Very useful, but it occurred to me that, instead of editing my images and then saving them and then uploading them into KnitPro and THEN getting the charted PDF, there might be a way of generating the chart right after editing – in the image editing program itself.

The program I use is GIMP (a truly brilliant – and free! – image editing program, on a par with Photoshop). I’m going to assume in this tutorial that you have a very basic working knowledge of GIMP, but even if you don’t, I think you will be able to follow this, as long as you can find basic tools like Crop and Select on your own.

This is the image I’m going to turn into a chart:

Artwork for the forthcoming Wailing Miserere EP...

[Note that this is obviously a very detailed image and would need a large “resolution” of knitted “pixels” to show sufficient detail in the finished object… in other words, the more rows and sts you use for the image, the bigger and more detailed it will be. I probably wouldn’t opt to turn an image like this into stranded colourwork, just because of the sheer size of the thing, but it was the first thing I came across to use as an example. A better sort of image to start with would be something slightly less detailed, with clearer lines – a good quality line drawing, for example. (This is a photograph of an ink-stamp from a hand-carved rubber stamp that I made myself).]

First things first, I open the image in GIMP, crop all the unnecessary bits around the edge out, and then desaturate the image by going to Colours > Desaturate and clicking OK.

This turns the image entirely grayscale. Next, I’ll resize the image so that each pixel corresponds to a single knitted stitch or row… for example, I want this to be 100 rows high, so I go to Image > Scale Image…

… and in the dialogue box that comes up, I type in 100 pixels for the height:

See the little chain icon next to the height and width boxes? When the chain is linked together it means that if you enter a number for height (or width), the number for width (or height) will change automatically to preserve the aspect ratio. If you click the chain so it’s unlinked, you can enter unrelated values for width and height, and so change the aspect ratio of the image, if you want to.

“Why would I want to do that?” I hear you cry.

The answer (as so often is the case with knitting) is “GAUGE!”

If you have square gauge (i.e., 24 sts to 24 rows over 4 inches square), and you put a square grid on top of your image, everything works out fine. If, however, your gauge is not square and you put a square grid on top of your image, you’re going to end up with a slightly wonky looking image. The trick, I have found, is to distort your image in the opposite direction to your gauge before overlaying the square grid. You need to do a bit of maths, work out the percentages, and then apply them here (in GIMP you can change sizes based on percentages, as well as pixels and other measurements).

However, I’m getting ahead of myself. For the purposes of this example, we’ll assume gauge is square (as it often tends to be in stranded colourwork). This means we can just scale down the image to the height and width we want, without changing the aspect ratio.

So, I’ve scaled my image to height 100 x width 99 and this is what it looks like when I zoom back in:

It needs to be sharpened up into only black and white pixels, no grey. To do this, I go to Colours > Threshold:

Usually the setting it comes up with to begin with is the best to use, but you can play around by dragging the little black and white arrows. As you can see in this example, if the original image is a photo or scan, you will most likely have areas that respond differently to the threshold levels (see the whited-out bit at the top left hand corner?). If this is the case, it’s useful to know that you can select different areas and work separately on one bit at a time. I used the square select tool to do this:

… and after a bit of fiddling, this is what I have (not perfect… but not bad either!):

Now to add the grid. Go to Image > Configure Grid. I like to set my grid with Line Style: Solid and Foreground Colour: Grey. Most importantly – set the spacing to Width: 1 pixel and Height: 1 pixel.

And finally – go to View > Show Grid:

There we have it – a colourwork chart ready to knit from:

Here’s a little close up detail:

One last thing – you can’t save the image or print it with the grid visible (at least, I haven’t found a way of doing it in GIMP… someone let me know if I’m wrong!). There’s an easy way around this though. Simply get the image with the grid at a nice zoom level so that the whole image fills the screen. Then hit the “Print Screen” key on your keyboard. This grabs a screen capture and copies it to the clipboard. Now all you have to do is open a new file in GIMP and press Ctrl + V. This will paste the screenshot in. You can crop the edges off, and save your chart as a JPG (or whatever else you like). And then print and knit to your heart’s content!

I hope this tutorial was easy to follow, and that it was helpful to someone out there. If someone creates a lovely stranded (or intarsia!) project using the methods in this tutorial, please let me know, I’d love to see it!

Tutorial: Invisible Provisional Cast-on


Edit [20 Nov 2016]: I’ve revisited this tutorial to add some clearer photos, however most of the content remains the same. Video coming soon!

Here’s a little photo tutorial on how to do my favourite provisional cast-on, the invisible cast-on.

A little background: there are a few different methods for working a provisional cast-on, all with the same goal – to provide a starting point for your work, and to leave your first row of stitches on a strand of waste yarn which can be easily removed, so that you can put the bases of your stitches back onto a needle and either knit in the opposite direction or simply cast off. This is really useful for a number of reasons… if you want both ends of a scarf to match, you could start with a provisional cast-on, knit to the end, cast off, and then go back to the beginning, unpick your provisional cast-on and use the same cast-off. That’s just one example; there are many more. Provisional cast-ons are really useful in lace-knitting, too. Overall, it’s a very handy skill to have in your bag of tricks!

The crochet provisional cast-on is very widely known, indeed, it was the first one I learnt. When you use the crochet provisional cast-on, the sts go onto your (left) needle from left to right, then you immediately work the first row. When you use the invisible provisional cast-on, the stitches go onto the (right) needle from right to left, then (if knitting flat) you turn and work a WS row (so, a purl row if you’re working in stocking stitch). The invisible provisional cast-on leaves all your stitches on a strand of waste yarn, so it’s very easy to remove the waste yarn and get the stitches back on the needle (easier than with the crochet provisional cast-on, which you have to “unzip”).

So, here we go. An explanation of the invisible provisional cast-on!

You need some nice smooth waste yarn, ideally in a contrasting colour to your working yarn. It will make it easier to get the stitches back onto the needle if you use a waste yarn that is at least as thick as (and ideally a little thicker than) your working yarn.

To help you follow the pictures, my waste yarn is orange and my working yarn is grey. Lay your waste yarn and working yarn together and put a slip knot in them (leaving a bit of a tail to weave in at the end):provisional-cast-on-3

Put your slip knot onto the needle, and tension the yarns similarly to how you would when working a long-tail cast-on. The waste yarn is over your thumb, the working yarn over the index finger, and both yarns are grasped together in your palm (you can tension the yarns as you usually would when knitting, or just hold them loosely):provisional-cast-on-6

Bring your right needle to the front, and then under the waste yarn with your needle (hold the slip knot with your right index finger and/or thumb so it doesn’t move around):provisional-cast-on-7

Then bring your needle over the working yarn (dotted line shows previous path of needle, solid line shows current path):

Scoop the working yarn under the waste yarn:

… and bring your needle back to its starting position. One stitch has been cast on:

To cast on your next stitch, bring the right needle from the back and under the working yarn:

That’s your second cast-on stitch; I know it seems a little strange, just sitting there like a yarn-over, but it makes more sense one you cast-on the third stitch. Follow the directions exactly as for casting on the first stitch (it helps if you hold the stitch just cast-on with your right index finger and/or thumb, as you did initially with the slip-knot, just to stop it moving around)…:

…and now the second stitch is properly anchored. There should be three cast-on stitches on your needle (along with the beginning slip-knot):

That’s all there is to it. As you can see, the even-numbered cast-on stitches are not really cast-on in the true sense… they only become properly anchored stitches once you complete the next (odd-numbered) stitch. Because of this, you have to exercise a little bit of care if you are casting on an even number of sts. When you turn to work your first (WS) row, it will look like this:provisional-cast-on-14

As you can see, the working yarn is wrapped round the needle like a yarn-over but there is no waste yarn anchoring it at the base. This makes it impossible to work the first st. What you need to do is twist the waste yarn around to the front, like this:

… and then just work all your stitches as normal (I’m purling these stitches). provisional-cast-on-16


When you get to the slip knot, just drop it off the needle and ignore it:provisional-cast-on-18

When it comes time to undo your provisional cast-on, you will undo the slip-knot and take the waste yarn out of the stitches. For now, you can just leave it hanging there

As you can see, once you work a few rows, this cast-on truly is invisible. The waste yarn is running neatly and unimpeded through the bases of all your sts, rather like a lifeline:provisional-cast-on-19

Picking up stitches from this provisional cast-on is pretty straightforward. One thing to watch out for though is that half of the stitches will be oriented the opposite way to normal (i.e. they will have the right leg of the stitch at the back of the needle, instead of at the front). You can correct this when slipping the stitches off the waste yarn, or just pick them up as is and then re-orient them by slipping onto a second needle:provisional-cast-on-21

I find it easiest to pick up 3 or 4 stitches at a time, then gently pull out the waste yarn as I go:provisional-cast-on-22

When you get to the end, you can pull out the slip-knot and the rest of the waste yarn. I’ve tried to show in this picture how some of the stitches are oriented backwards (tricky to photograph!):provisional-cast-on-24

Here I’m slipping all the stitches to a second needle, and re-orienting as I go (by slipping each stitch purlwise with the needle behind the right leg of each stitch):provisional-cast-on-25

Here’s how it looks once all stitches from the provisional cast-on have been transferred back onto the needle and properly oriented, ready to be worked:provisional-cast-on-26

I hope you found this tutorial helpful, and that learning how to work provisional cast-ons will lead you to new and interesting directions in your knitting!