Irritating seams are a common occurrence in socks, sweaters or scarves. Kitchener stitch comes as a solution to this problem. It creates a seamless garment with a simple knitting technique. Any garment with a symmetrical lace order can be knitted in this way to finally have a comfortable garment to wear.
What is the Kitchener Stitch?
Kitchener stitch is a knitting technique used for joining two open stitches (stitches still on needles) by yarn and a tapestry needle to make an invisible seam. This technique commonly goes by “grafting”. Sewing sock toes, finishing underarm knitting, top of mittens, etc. are some of the uses of this widely used knitting method. The result is the production of a stretchable fabric that everyone would love to wear.
The Story Behind it
The history of the Kitchener stitch goes far back to World War 1. The soldiers in the Great War felt utter discomfort with their seamed socks which caused rashes, infections, and bruises. A field marshal in the British Army named Horatio Herbert Kitchener proposed a design for socks so the women could apply the method for knitting comfort items for soldiers. The naming is derived from his name and the method has thus been used in knitting socks, scarves and mittens.
When do you need the Kitchener stitch?
Kitchener stitch knitting offers a flexible, easily stretchable garment and thus can’t be used just anywhere in the garment. The one place you should avoid using Kitchener stitch/ grafting is on the seams of shoulders. The shoulder seams are crucial places where the structure of the whole garment maintains its balance. When you want to knit the places in a garment that need severe stretching with almost every muscle movement, yet the pressure on the places will be next to nothing, grafting is your option. Some places where the Kitchener stitch knitting comes as a great comfort:
- On top of sweater hoods
- Joining the edges of a cowl
- Mitten tips
- Joining two borders of a collar
- Sock toes
What should you consider before even starting it?
Although it’s quite popular that the process is very hard to execute, grafting only requires a medium level of sewing skill. However, no one should start knitting before knowing all the steps of this apparently complex method (only at first) or they might end up ruining the original stitches. Before going for this whole process, you need to make sure of certain things:
- The sides with the purls must be facing each other in a parallel
- The points of the two needles should be on the right (not left) side
- The number of the stitches need to match on the needles
- Make sure you have a yarn and a sewing needle ready for the Kitchener stitch
Understanding the stitch pattern
There is no one way to use the Kitchener stitch technique. There are three commonly used stitch patterns for grafting:
- Stockinette Stitch
- Reverse Stockinette Stitch
- Garter Stitch
But what are these?
This is the most basic form of knitting stitches and is probably used by all the knitters even without their knowledge. The process is basically having all the knit stitches on one side and the purl stitches on another. The result of a Stockinette Stitch is a “right” and a “wrong” side with the wrong side being the purled side. Depending on the desired design, the sides are easily interchangeable. This stitch is found on most sweaters, hats, blankets or scarves. The only downside of this stitch is the curls it leaves on the edges which can also be used as an advantage for making sock cuffs or curled scarves.
Reverse Stockinette Stitch
The mechanism for this stitch is the same as the Stockinette Stitch. But you have to start on the purl side and it has to remain on the right side. Whereas Stockinette Stitch is smooth on the surface, the texture of Reverse Stockinette Stitch is very bumpy and sometimes even tends to be uneven.
Garter Stitch is used to make borders in the knitting patterns and for a strong and striped texture. From small mitts to a whole sweater can be knitted with this stitch. Although the edges of the Garter Stitch are flat, they’re not smooth. A Slip Stitch can help with making even edges.
Understanding the yarns
Since the yarn tail is pulled many times through stitches in Kitchener stitch, the stress on the yarn is pretty heavy. In cases of thin and weak yarns, it’s wise to use segments of yarn instead of one long yarn. If you run out of yarn or the yarn is torn apart, you can always add new yarns for the project to complete. To do this, you have to insert the needle on the right into the next stitch, wrap the needle with the new yarn and continue knitting. After working till the end of the row, you have to fasten the old and new threads.
Understanding the colors
Kitchener stitch produces a completely invisible seam. For this, the yarn with the same color as the original project is used. The finished product, in this case, looks like a single fabric and not a product containing a second stitching later. For getting an invisible seam, some use the same yarn from the original project by leaving extra yarn tail after knitting. This way should only be adopted by the experienced or professional knitters since it can create confusions among the beginners. In modern knitting and grafting, people often use contrasting and even non-contrasting colors. Using rainbow colored yarn is always a great idea.
The actual technique
Kitchener stitch can be done following two distinct techniques. Knitters use the two techniques for different purposes.
Grafting Stockinette Stitch
Learning this stitching is essential for all knitters since it’s the base upon which all other complex knitting patterns lie. To learn about this stitch requires the learning of some of the fundamentals of knitting: knit, purl, cast on, cast off, etc.
A step-by-step approach to stockinette stitch is described in the following paragraphs.
Step 1 Joining the stitches on the needles
After arranging the two needles with stitches, make sure they lie parallel in a single direction (preferably right). Check out if the number of stitches on both those needles is the same since Stockinette Stitch wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
Step 2 Use tapestry needle and yarn tail to weave into the design
With the yarn inside the tapestry needle, weave through the first stitch of the front needle in a purling manner. Then weave through the first stitch of the rear needle in a knitting manner. Don’t try to get the stitches out of their needles yet.
Step 3 How to graft the final two stitches
Weave in the way as mentioned in the previous step (knit and purl) until the last one/ two stitch(es) come. Then you have to carefully drop the stitches from the needles one by one.
Step 4 Finish off by gauging the yarn
Tightly pull the yarn, cut it so it can be weaved again into the original design. This way, you’ll have a seamless edge.
Grafting Garter Stitch
Using garter stitch can be a bit more convoluted than stockinette stitch. It requires learning some necessary knitting skills as:
- Knitting fabrics that weigh differently
- Knitting Kitchener stitch in ribbed and cabled textures
- Making stitches look seamless
- Being able to plan the whole design beforehand
A step-by-step approach to garter stitch is described in the following paragraphs.
Step 1 Preparing for garter stitch
The choice of the correct yarn and needles is important in garter stitch. Big needles and thick yarn are preferable. The yarn should be thrice the size of the length you’re going to cover with garter stitching. Secure the yarn in the tapestry needle with a purl.
Step 2 Take the two needles parallelly
The two needles to be joined need to be pointed parallel rightward where the front needle has the purled knit. Insert the tapestry needle with the yarn in a purling manner through the first stitch on the front needle.
Step 3 Knit through the second needle
Go through the first stitch on the rear needle in a purling manner.
Step 4 Time to take the stitches out of the needles
Return to the first stitch front needle with the yarn in a knitting manner (put the needle through the front and from the left.). Take the stitch out of the needle.
Step 5 Knit and purl
Go through the second stitch on the front needle in a purling manner, then through the first stitch on the rear needle in a knitting manner. Now take the grafted part out of the needle. Go through the second stitch on the rear stitch in a purling manner.
Step 6 Repeat
Repeat steps 2-5 until all the stitches are finally grafted together.
Additional suggestions to consider before starting
Beginner knitters should take into account some precautionary measures and considerations. Here are some things that you should think about before starting on Kitchener stitch:
- Don’t pull the yarn too firmly, maintain the tension
- You’ll get an uneven, left-over product without the equal number of stitches on both needles before using the Kitchener stitch
- Keep the yarn below the needles, so it doesn’t get wrapped up in the needles
- Practice before you sit for the real thing
- While practicing, use different colors for originals and grafting
- Before using garter stitch, try stockinette stitch at least once beforehand
Alternative to Kitchener stitch
Kitchener stitch can be pretty rough on most knitters due to its demand of extensive focusing and remembering which step you’re in. An alternative to Kitchener stitch is Russian Grafting. It’s not to say that Russian Grafting is better than Kitchener stitch but that it’s easier to execute. Here’s how to perform the alternative to Kitchener stitch
Step 1 Don’t cut down the yarn
Russian grafting doesn’t use any external yarn but it works with the yarn that’s left from the original work. At first, cut that left yarn into a tail but it would be later weaved in, so it can’t be too short.
Step 2 Align the needles in an opposite manner
Unlike the Kitchener stitch, this process requires the needles to stay parallelly but in the opposite direction like in the photo.
Step 3 Keep the yarn tail on the left
Always work from the left side and ignore the tail on the right. Once the grafting is complete, both tails will be weaved in the stitches.
Step 4 Use the crochet hook
Finally, start your grafting by pushing the crochet hook through the bottom of the first stitch of the piece that stands in front after putting the tail on the left. Then push the needle through the upper leg of the first stitch on the other piece.
Step 5 Twist the hook
Twist the hook, weave the second stitch into the first and you’ll have your first stitch. Repeat the process until the last stitch comes. In the last stitch, weave in the tail for securing the entire piece. Tie down the working and the free tail to finish the grafting.
Kitchener stitch has definitely come as a blessing for all. Not only for knitting the small clothing as socks or scarves but also for grafting sweaters or large winter clothing, Kitchener stitch can be used as an astounding grafting method. Although there are several other grafting options, this particular method still remains as the most effective. Many amateurs and professionals are bringing in all sorts of innovative ideas by using Kitchener stitch. But to accomplish something by this process requires a comprehensive learning of all the steps and common mistakes of using Kitchener stitch. Then you can use the technique to make a winterwear for your beloved nephew/ niece or make something for yourself to fashion your own taste in clothing.