Knitting Blog

How to Get Nearly Invisible Seams With the Kitchener Stitch

If you have two sections of knitting that you want to join together, grafting might be the technique you’re looking for.

Grafting your knitting, also called kitchener stitch, is the process of seaming together two edges to make it have a nearly invisible seam. It’s generally done with two edges of live stitches (meaning they’re still on the needles), but can also be done with a cast on edge grafted to a live edge.

Kitchener Stitch Tutorial on Craftsy

What can you graft?

You can graft most things with live edges together. Grafting is most commonly done to finish the toe of socks, or to close up an underarm when knitting a sweater from the bottom up. You could also see it at the top of a hood on a sweater, to join two edges of a cowl, the tips of mittens, to join two edges of a collar behind the neck, and many other places. The possibilities are endless!

The one spot to avoid grafting is at shoulder seams. These seams require a bit more strength and structure for the piece to maintain its shape. Depending on how heavy the knitted fabric is, this isn’t always a great place to use a graft.

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Grafting tutorial for stockinette stitch

Getting set up

Kitchener Stitch Set UP

Your stitches should be arranged on two needles so that when the purl sides are facing each other, you have the points of the needles on the right. It’s important to have the same number of stitches on each needle.

For the purpose of this tutorial, we’re using a contrasting piece of yarn, but you can use a matching piece or the tail of one of your pieces. It’s best if the tail comes from the piece that’s at the back. Make sure the tail or contrasting piece of yarn is about three times as long as the edge you want to graft.

Thread the yarn tail through a yarn needle and follow these steps only once:

Kitchener Stitch Step 1: Purlwise on the Front Needle

On the needle in front, go through the first stitch as if to purl, or from back to front. Do not pull the stitch off the needle. If you are working with a tail, you can pull the yarn all the way through, but if you are working with a separate piece, make sure to leave an end long enough to weave in later.

Kitchener Stitch Step 2: Knitwise on the Back Needle

On the needle in back, go through the first stitch as if to knit, or from front to back. Do not pull the stitch off the needle.

Now you can continue with the kitchener stitch

Step 1:

Kitchener Stitch Step 3: Pull Stitch 1 Off Knitwise

On the front needle, go through the first stitch as if to knit. Pull the stitch off the needle.

Step 2:

Kitchener Stitch: Purlwise on First Needle

Still on the front needle, go through the [new] first stitch as if to purl. Do not pull the stitch off the needle.

Step 3:

Purlwise Through Back Needle

On the back needle, go through the first stitch as if to purl. Pull the stitch off the needle.

Step 4:

Knitwise on the Back

Still on the back needle, go through the [new] first stitch as if to knit. Do not pull the stitch off the needle.

Repeat these four steps for the kitchener stitch.

Handy hacks for remembering these steps 

You might find it easy to remember if you chant, “knit, purl, purl, knit” as you go along.

Or, if you need more detail than that, try this: “pick off as if to knit, prepare as if to purl, pick off as if to purl, prepare as if to knit.” This way, you can remind yourself whether you should leave the stitch on the needle or take it off.

Even more concise would be “knit off, purl on, purl off, knit on.”

You can also use the rules of twos: You’ll work two stitches on each needle before moving to the next needle. Also, once you work a stitch twice, you’ll pull it off the needle.

Finishing off the kitchener stitch

Finishing Kitchener Stitch

When you only have one stitch left on each needle, first complete Step 1 (on the front needle, go through the first stitch as if to knit and pull the stitch off) then jump to Step 3 (on the back needle, go through the first stitch as if to purl and pull the stitch off).

After this, you can begin to adjust the tension of the row. Start on the right side of the row and pull up the right side of the stitch, then the left. It sounds tedious, but it’s quick work and makes all the difference!

Adjusting Kitchener StitchKitchener Stitch

Tips for knitting kitchener stitch

  • Only tighten lightly as you go. You can adjust this row of stitches later to match the gauge of the rest of your project.
  • Once you get a hang of the technique, you might be able to combine Steps 1-2 into a single movement and Steps 3-4 into another. It becomes fairly simple to pull the stitch off the needle knit-wise and then go through the next purl-wise (and vice-versa for Steps 3-4).
  • As you’re working across the stitches, make sure your yarn is under the needles. Sometimes the yarn can get wrapped around the needles and look like a stitch, so keeping the yarn underneath helps to avoid that.
  • If you have problems remembering when to drop the stitch, keep this in mind: On the front needle, the only time you drop the stitch is when you insert the needle into it knitwise. When you are working on the back needle, the only time you drop the stitch is when you insert the needle into the stitch purlwise.

Kitchener stitch on other stitch patterns

Grafting stockinette stitch as shown above is a fairly simple process, but weaving edges together in garter stitch or rib can be a little more complicated. When you’re learning knit grafting, it’s important to learn the following:

  • Techniques for knitting fabrics of different weights
  • To kitchener stitch across both cabled and ribbed fabric
  • To join seamless-looking stockinette, garter and seed stitches
  • And how to plan, chart and align motifs
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16 Comments

Pat Burch

I was always amazed about the stitch. And frustrated. Being a fairly new knitter, I basically knitted socks. And the Kitchener and not always pretty. Then came Christmas and the knitted vest for the husband. I tried the stitch on the shoulders and didn’t like the results. Ripped it out and that was interesting in itself. So, I practiced 2 – 3 times on waste yarn. That did the trick. It turned out lovely on the vest. I feel so smug! But it does look nice. Practice was the trick for me.

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Meg

I just did the Kitchener stitch for the first time using this tutorial. It is very easy to follow and understand. The top of the mitten I knit turned out great. Thank you!!

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Veronica

I just learned to knit earlier this year. I haven’t had a need for this yet but thought I should learn it. Videos went way too fast even if I stopped them. This was an excellent tutorial.

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Lisa

Fourth time was a charm. I’m not an expert, but it helped me to think that I was working down the middle of the needles. Also, it helped for me to give a gentle pull each time I slid a stitch off the needle. Great tutorial.

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Michelle Zjala Winter

Thank you soooooo much! I am a relatively new knitter, and am making a pair of socks for my knitting mentor. One sock now done, yippee! And your products rock as well! An avid Craftsy devotee!!!

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MAQ

Try as I might, all I end up with is a Purl row across the top. I’m not dyslexic, I did it 5 time and I still can’t get it right…

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Mary

I did the same thing and just reread the steps. I pulled the first two stitches off the needles instead of leaving them on. The first time I did the stitch I followed the instructions perfectly and it came out fine, it was the next three times that ended up with the purl stitch. So I came back to figure it out before I did it again.

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Jan Sollis

You have most likely got the knitting the wrong way around. The front of the knitting has to be on the outside. It’s a mistake I always make, which is why I’m on this site now, to check which way round it goes!

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bekah

Thank you so much. I had tried watching a video, but it was not clear about which part was set up vs which part was the actual stitch, like you have here. You also do a good job of where the stitch ends and where to begin the repeat.

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Ann

I’ve done this stitch many times and always need directions. This is one of the easiest Kitchener stitch tutorials I’ve used. I never realized there was a “set up” (p into 1st st on front, k into first st on back leaving them on) before starting step 1! Worked perfectly first time! Thanks.

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Linda Dyett

Had never even heard of the Kitchener stitch, but it was called for in the instructions I’ve been using to knit a pussy cat hat (in pink, of course) to wear at the Women’s March on Jan. 21. This particular hat, in extra-bulky yarn, is knitted in the round, ending at the top, requiring front and back to be grafted. I tried following several Kitchener videos, which drove me nuts. The written instructions here are far easier to follow, and the photos are ultra-clear. Guess I’m not a youtube person.

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Paula Richard

What a great tutorial. I have been trying to do this for years with no success, but finally a perfect graft. Seamless. Thank you!

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Cheryl Cheong

Instead of using a tapestry needle, do you have a tutorial for knitting the stitch?

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Niki

Thank you so much. I’ve battled with kitchener stitch off and on for decades and had been using the three needle cast off instead. Decided to give it one last try so l could finish my socks nicely. Most of the tutorials l had found were videos that l hated because they went too quickly and l had to keep rewinding. Found your fantastic PHOTO tutorial and got it first time. So pleased.

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J

I’ve done this a few times—yet I never do the “set up step” of purl on knit on, since the first tutorial I learned from did not include this step. I’m curious about it now, since I can’t find any obvious flaw in the result without it… :/

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