Knitting with Balls

Yesterday I came up against one of the hard realities of knitting.  Things don’t always come out like you plan.  You can follow a pattern, swatch like a lys owner, block your butt off, and still come up with something other than what you aimed for.  Knitting as metaphor for life. 

This was the deal:  I am knitting a stockinette stitch sweater, stockinette from the bottom back to the front bottom, all in one piece.  On finishing, I discovered that I was an inch shy in the back and the front.  Never mind why, that inch in the front and inch in the back was the reality of it.  First I said a number of choice words.  Like “durn“.  Since there wasn’t a ribbed border or some other pattern change that I could hide behind, I couldn’t just take the cast-on row loose and knit backwards.  The join would have looked awkward.  I did take the bind-off row loose in the front and knit an extra inch on that side, binding off again.  No problem there. 

I wondered next about grafting.  When you graft with the Kitchener stitch you wind up with a join that looks like you’ve knitted a row that connects both live sides together.  I’m accustomed to using it on the toes of socks, where I’m joining two rows that are going in opposite directions.  But I was considering whether it would work if I cast on the right number of stitches for the back, knitted an inch, and then grafted the new piece to the old.  I composed a question, trying not to let myself sound like a total idiot, and sent it through KnitU.  It was already late and nobody was at the board, so there were no answers from (hopefully) smarter and more experienced knitters last night. 

There was only one thing to do.  I put on my big-girl balls and tackled a trial.  I held the new knitted addition on one needle and the live stitches I’d uncovered on the back bottom of the sweater on another.  They were wrong sides together, just like in knitty.com’s wonderful tutorial on grafting, or using the Kitchener stitch, presented by Theresa Vinson Stensen.  I encourage you to look at http://www.knitty.com/issuesummer04/FEATtheresasum04.html   because  it has wonderful illustrations and will help you to see the process, step by step.  However, since I have now grafted a 115-stitch chunk of sweater quite successfully, I’d like to share the additional insights experience gave me. 

  • Make sure your grafting yarn on the needle is a separate strand, not the tail from one of your pieces.
  • Keep your grafting yarn positioned below the level of the needles.  What I mean is this:  if you have completed step 2 (a purl into the 2nd stitch on the front needle) and are carrying your yarn to the back to perform step 3, hold your grafting yarn down, not letting it languish across the top of the front needle on the way to the back.  The more you do this, the more you will have an orderly, neat construction developing in the grafted piece, and it will fall to your right without tangles.
  • To tighten your grafted stitches, use a small knitting needle point and pull your loose graft one stitch at a time, starting at the right.  You can regulate how wide or narrow your graft is, keeping it to the same size stitch as you used in your knitted pieces.  Moreover, you won’t destroy your yarn by roughly pulling it through that long sequence of zigzags. 
  • Stop to tighten your grafted stitches every two or three inches.  If you begin to tighten them and a hole appears, make sure you have pulled the right strand of yarn.  You can gently tug on the previous grafted stitch to follow the yarn to the right place.
  • Stensen recommends chanting “knit, purl, purl, knit” as you perform the four corresponding steps.  I find it easier to say “knit-off, purl, purl-off, knit” as a cue to removing the stitches from the needle in steps one and three. 
  • Stensen also says to keep your place because it’s impossible to find it once you set your work down.  Nonsense!  When you use your grafting needle and thread to purl into a stitch, you are working right to left into the front of the stitch just as when you knit normally; when you use your needle and thread to knit into a stitch, you enter left to right into the front of the stitch; you can look at your stitches and see what was done last, including whether you took the stitch off the needle.  If you are interrupted, pick up your needles in your left hand and hold them like you are grafting.  Follow your needle and thread to the last stitch you worked.  Determine if it is knit or purl, on or off it’s needle, and you will know which step you performed last.  Then you can pick up with the next one.  Believe me, when I worked 115 stitches, I took a number of breaks.  I even breathed!

  This hasn’t been written into law yet, but I personally feel that when you graft more than 100 stitches you are entitled to wear a tiara for 24 hours.  I hope I can find one for my next knitting group meeting!  If you are male, I don’t know-maybe a jewel-encrusted codpiece?  

Now, a few tidying up notes.  Lucy is a full-blooded dachshund, with papers that she is very proud to show off.  She is almost seven years old and has only recently learned to use the Internet.  I used the term “lys” above-that is knitspeak for local yarn store.  In yarn and craft stores, to show off yarns the owners will display small (about 4 x 4 inch) swatches-pieces knit from the yarn. 

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One Response

  1. A was bragging about your kitchner-ing a billion stitches at Saturday knitting and I was commenting that you have finally fallen off the deep end – said with complete pride and a little envy.

    We miss you on Saturdays!! Come back soon!

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