Grafting garter stitch for beginners

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.

two pieces joined together by grafting garter stitch horizontally to create an invisible seam
The finished seam (in a contrasting yarn)

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

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).

close-up of the horizontal seam you create by grafting garter stitch
Wrong side of the garter stitch graft

So, let’s dive right into it

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How to graft garter stitch

someone grafting garter stitch to close a horizontal seam with a tapestry needle

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.

Active Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes

Instructions

  1. 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.

    aligning the two pieces you want to graft together with garter stitch so there are purl bumps visible as the last row on both pieces
  2. 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.


    inserting the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the front needle purlwise
  3. Preparation stitch 2: Pull the yarn through the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl as well.

    going into the first stitch on the back needle purlwise 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.
  4. 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.

    dropping the first stitch on the front needle knitwise after having gone through with your tapestry needle
  5. Insert the stitch purlwise into the (now new) first stitch on the front needle
    insert needle purlwise into next stitch
  6. 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.

    dropping the stitch on the backneedle knitwise
  7. Go through the adjacent stitch purlwise and keep it on the needle.

    pulling the yarn through the second stitch on the back needle purlwise
  8. Repeat steps 4-7 over and over again.

    continuing the garter stitch graft to join two pieces together horizontally
  9. 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.
    the last stitches have no adjacent stitches so you drop them knitwise

Notes

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

seaming cast on and bind off edge by grafting garter stitch - totally invisible

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

aligning the two pieces of garter stitch you want to join - cast on edge to bind off edge

Step 2: Go underneath one of the purl bumps on the lower part coming from below.

pulling the tapestry needle through the first top purl bump on the bottom piece to start grafting garter stitch

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.

inserting the needle into the first knit stitch V on the top piece

Step 4: Go through the same purl bump you just went through, this time coming from above.

going through the first purl bump on the bottom piece from above

Step 5: Pull the yarn through the adjacent purl bump (same row) coming from below).

going through the adjacent purl bump from below with the tapestry needle

Step 6: Repeat Step 3-5 until you closed your seam.

repeating these steps over and over again to graft garter stitch horizontally

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.

grafting garter stitch to seam cast on and bind off edge - two swatches connected with contrasting yarn
The finished horizontal seam

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.

backside of the garter stitch graft - just a little smooth ridge is visible
The seam from the other side.

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.

Anyway, that’s everything you need to know about grafting garter stitch. Comment below in case you still have any questions.

grafting garter stitch- step by step tutorial for beginners

2 thoughts on “Grafting garter stitch for beginners”

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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?

      Reply

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