Kitchener stitch is a finishing technique in knitting used to seam two sets of live stitches invisibly. It is essentially a new set of stitches woven from both live edges! Also called grafting in knitting, the kitchener stitch can seem a little daunting to new knitters.
Here’s a tutorial for grafting two edges of stockinette stitch together using the kitchener stitch.
Getting 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, I’m 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 your tail through a yarn or tapestry needle and perform the following set-up steps only once:
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.
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 are ready to start the kitchener stitch!
On the front needle, go through the first stitch as if to knit. Pull the stitch off the needle.
Still on the front needle, go through the [new] first stitch as if to purl. Do not pull the stitch off the needle.
On the back needle, go through the first stitch as if to purl. Pull the stitch off the needle.
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.
Finishing off the kitchener stitch
When you only have one stitch left on each needle, do Step 1, then jump to Step 3.
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!
Handy hacks for remembering the kitchener stitch
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.
Tips for knitting the kitchener stitch
Only tighten lightly as you are grafting. You will be able to 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).
Kitchener stitch on other stitch patterns
Grafting stockinette stitch 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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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2013 and was updated in February 2018.