A step-by-step tutorial on how to graft garter stitch. An easy method to close horizontal seams in an invisible way.
Are you currently knitting a cowl or maybe a little baby set in garter stitch? And now you want to create an invisible horizontal seam to finish your projects? And this left you wondering about grafting garter stitch. How do you do it?
Well, you came to the right place because this tutorial is all about it. I will show you step by step how to use a simple variation of the classic Kitchener stitch to close your seams. And the best part: it is actually much easier to remember than the original technique.
And don’t be afraid. I know, grafting sounds complicated. Some might even call it witchcraft. While it does indeed create an almost invisible horizontal seam, the technique is super simple – even if you are a beginner.
Tip: Read this tutorial on how to use the mattress stitch to close vertical seams in garter stitch. And this post will show you how to seam edge stitch to cast-on edge.
You can graft stitches to join two flat projects together or you can also finish a project knit with garter stitch in the round instead of binding off (e.g. a hat). Or use it to join your mitered squares together (see below).
So, let’s dive right into it
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How to graft garter stitch
To graft two pieces in garter stitch together, you need to make sure that you ended with a wrong side row for the part in front and on a right side row for the part in the back. Basically, this means you have to knit one row less on one piece. If you are not sure which row you are currently in, read this tutorial on counting rows in garter stitch.
If you are knitting in the round, your last row should have been a purl row.
Note: I am using red contrasting yarn for demonstration purposes only so you can see things better.
- Align the two pieces you want to join so the wrong sides face each other. The shorter piece should be held in the back. Then, thread either the tail or a separate length of yarn (at least twice as long as your seam) on a tapestry needle.
- Preparation stitch 1: Insert the needle into the first stitch on the front needle purlwise (so from right to left) and pull the yarn through.
- Preparation stitch 2: Pull the yarn through the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl as well.
Note: You only have to perform the preparation stitches once. From here, the true repeat starts. If you are grafting in the round, you may consider skipping these two foundation stitches to prevent ears from forming.
- On the front needle. Insert the tapestry needle knitwise (so from left to right), pull the yarn through, and drop the stitch off the needle.
- Insert the stitch purlwise into the (now new) first stitch on the front needle
- Move to the back needle and insert your tapestry needle knitwise into the first stitch there, pull the yarn through, and drop the stitch off the needles.
- Go through the adjacent stitch purlwise and keep it on the needle.
- Repeat steps 4-7 over and over again.
- Once you reach the end of your rows and there is only one stitch left on each needle, you only have to perform the first part of the graft. There are no adjacent stitches, and you thus cannot go into any neighboring stitches purlwise.
Make sure that you don't accidentally catch the yarn with your knitting needle as you graft stitches and switch between back and front. You always have to keep the yarn below (and not above) your needles.
Pull on the tail gently after each stitch. Don't pull too tight. If your stitches end up being a bit too loose, you can adjust them later on by going into each stitch with your knitting needle. Pull out the excess and then move to the next stitch and pull the spare yarn through it as well. Continue until you reach the edges.
Joining two finished pieces horizontally
The method I showed you above works great if your project is still on the needles. But sometimes that is not the case – mostly because it is not possible. For example, when you knit a mitered square, but also when you want to attach a pocket to a little sweater, etc. So, how do join the cast-on edge with the bind-off edge in garter stitch?
Here’s the good news: The grafting technique is almost as easy (and from a technical point of view almost identical). You only need to make sure that you go through the right kind of stitches the right way. Here’s how:
Step 1: Align the two pieces so both right sides face towards you, and thread a little length of yarn on your tapestry needle
Step 2: Go underneath one of the purl bumps on the lower part coming from below.
Step 3: Then go underneath the “V” of a knit stitch on the upper part. Note: There are two knit stitches stacked upon each other (the one from the cast on and your first row). You need to go through the second one.
Step 4: Go through the same purl bump you just went through, this time coming from above.
Step 5: Pull the yarn through the adjacent purl bump (same row) coming from below).
Step 6: Repeat Step 3-5 until you closed your seam.
Note: It doesn’t matter where your seam is located, as long as you make sure that you go underneath the purl bump on the one side and underneath the “V”s of a knit stitch on the other side.
The two parts can be upside down as well, though you will get the neatest results if you join the row below the bind-off edge with the row above the cast-on edge.
You will end up with a little ridge/welt on the inside. That’s nothing you can really prevent, except, of course, you use the first method to graft garter stitch I showed you above.
4 thoughts on “Grafting garter stitch for beginners”
Hey there, I tried to use your tutorial and I think there’s a mistake in step 4? The way you have the directions written there’s no purl stitch for any of the stitches on the front needle. It’s just knit stitch and pop off for all stitches on the front needle if you follow these instructions, which isn’t correct.
Garter stitch consists of only knit stitches. Why would you want to create a purl stitch on the front needle. I am not sure I can follow where you see a problem?
I have a question about grafting live garter stitches. Should one end finish after a RS row and the other after a WS row? I’m grafting the middle ends of a lace scarf with a garter stitch border. I have grafted simple lace patterns but never garter stitch.
Thank you for all this great information. Your time and skills are appreciated.
Thora Lee A. Johnson
Thora, kindly read the instructions again. I specifically mention right in the introduction where you need to stop.