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How to Kitchener Stitch (Grafting) in Knitting

Kitchener stitch, also known as grafting, is a technique for joining two pieces of knitting together. The result is a seamless join that is practically invisible. It is a bit tricky to learn at first, but with this tutorial, you’ll be able to master it in no time!

Scroll down for the step-by-step tutorial, and get ready to learn one of the most useful techniques in knitting!

two sets of live knit stitches on wooden knitting needles

What is the Kitchener stitch?

The Kitchener stitch is a method of joining two sets of live stitches together. The resulting join is seamless and practically invisible.

You can use it anytime you want to join two sets of live stitches without leaving a seam.

For example, you can use it to close up the toe of a sock or the tips of mittens. You can also use the Kitchener stitch to graft the shoulder seams of a sweater together.

And while this technique is most commonly used to join two pieces of stockinette stitch, you can use a modified version of Kitchener stitch to graft garter stitch and even ribbing.

The Basic Technique

If you’ve done the Kitchener stitch before and just need a reminder, here you go:

Setup:

  1. Front needle: Purl, on.
  2. Back needle: Knit, on.

Kitchener Stitch:

  1. Front needle: Knit, off.
  2. Front needle: Purl, on.
  3. Back needle: Purl, off.
  4. Back needle: Knit, on.

If you’ve never done the Kitchener Stitch, don’t worry. Keep reading for a complete, step-by-step tutorial.

What does Kitchener stitch look like?

Kitchener stitch results in a nearly invisible seam. When complete, the Kitchener stitch looks like a plain row of knitting that seamlessly blends in the stitches around it. There won’t be a bumpy seam, just a smooth transition from one piece of knitting to the other.

Why is it called Kitchener stitch?

Good question! In 1918, Vogue magazine published a knitting pattern featuring a grafted toe. They named it the Kitchener sock, after the British Army officer Horatio Herbert Kitchener. However, according to knitting historian Richard Rutt, the technique was likely invented long before – around 1880.

Other names: In the UK, the technique is more commonly known as grafting. In the US, it’s called Kitchener stitch. No matter what you call it, this is a useful technique to have in your knitting toolkit!

How to Do the Kitchener Stitch

Now that you know what Kitchener stitch is and why it’s so useful, let’s learn how to do it! The best way to learn this technique is by practicing – so go grab an unfinished sock from your WIP pile and let’s get started.

Supplies You’ll Need

The Kitchener stitch is worked with a tapestry needle and two sets of live stitches. “Live stitches” means that the stitches are still on the needles and have not been bound off.

And “two sets” means that the stitches are divided evenly between two needles. These “two sets” don’t need to be completely separate pieces of knitting. When knitting socks, for example, the two sets of stitches will be the last 20 stitches of the same sock divided between two needles.

And as far as the needles go, any type is fine. You can do the Kitchener stitch with two straight needles, circular needles, or DPNs.

To sum up, you’ll need:

  • two sets of live stitches, each with the same number of stitches.
  • a tapestry needle
  • the same yarn that you used to knit the project. More often than not, this will be a long yarn tail attached to one of the sets of stitches.

Getting Started

  1. Cut the yarn, leaving a long yarn tail. The yarn tail should be at least three times the width of your stitches, plus an additional 6 inches for weaving in at the end.
  2. Thread the yarn tail on the tapestry needle.
  3. Hold the two sets of stitches with the needles parallel to each other, wrong sides facing each other, and the needle tips pointing to the right.

The needle closest to you is the “front” needle, and the other is the “back” needle. The yarn tail should be attached to the “back needle” on the right-hand side, near the tip of the needle.

top view of two sets of stitches on brown wooden knitting needles

The Setup

Now we’re ready to start the Kitchener stitch in earnest. The first part of Kitchener-ing is the setup. You only have to do these setup stitches once.

  1. Slide the stitches to the right side of the needles, close to the tips.
  2. Insert the tapestry needle purlwise (as if to purl) into the first stitch on the front needle. Pull the tapestry needle all the way through, leaving the stitch on the knitting needle.
  3. Insert the tapestry needle knitwise (as if to knit) into the first stitch on the back needle. Pull the tapestry needle all the way through, leaving the stitch on the knitting needle.

Keep the tapestry needle underneath the two knitting needles, here. The yarn tail should flow under the knitting needles, not over.

Kitchener Technique

  1. Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the first stitch on the front needle. Slide this stitch off the front needle.
  2. Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the next stitch on the front needle. Pull the tapestry needle all the way through, leaving the stitch on the knitting needle.
  3. Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the first stitch on the back needle. Slide this stitch off the front needle.
  4. Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the second stitch on the back needle. Pull the tapestry needle all the way through, leaving the stitch on the knitting needle.

Repeat steps 1-4 until you’ve worked all but the last two stitches.

After every few stitches, take a second to adjust the tension of your work. You don’t want to pull too tightly – you want the grafted stitches to mimic the tension of the rest of your knitting.

Last 2 Stitches

The last two stitches are worked slightly differently.

  1. Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the first stitch on the front needle. Slide this stitch off the front needle.
  2. Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the first stitch on the back needle. Slide this stitch off the front needle.

Congratulations, you made it through your first Kitchener stitch!

Adjusting Your Tension

At this point, it’s very common for your grafted stitches to look a little uneven. Now that you’re done with the actual grafting, you can go back with the tapestry needle and tighten up any loose or wonky stitches. Work across the row, pulling on the yarn as needed until the grafted stitches blend in with the knitting that surrounds them.

Weaving in the Ends

Once you’re happy with your work, you can weave in the yarn end as you normally would.

How to Remember the Kitchener Stitch

The Kitchener stitch isn’t difficult, exactly. But it can take your complete concentration to keep track of where you are in the steps. One thing you can do to help is to say the steps out loud as you work them.

Setup:

  1. Front, purl, on.
  2. Back, knit, on.

Kitchener Stitch

  1. Front, knit, off.
  2. Front, purl, on.
  3. Back, purl, off.
  4. Back, knit, on.

Tips for Success

  • Before you start, make sure you have the same number of stitches on the front needle as you do on the back needle.
  • Move the tapestry needle under the knitting needles. Keep the working yarn flowing under the needles to keep it from getting tangled up. 
  • Keep an eye on your tension, but remember you can always go back and tighten up your stitches at the end. 
  • Try to finish your Kitchener-ing all in one go. Don’t put your project down in the middle of a seam. Otherwise, it can be really hard to remember where you left off. (Ask me how I know!)
  • If you get confused, try saying the steps out loud as you work. (Knit off, purl on, purl off, knit on…)

Variations on the Kitchener Stitch

As we mentioned earlier, you can use a variation of the Kitchener stitch to graft garter stitches. Look for future tutorials, including:

How to Graft Garter Stitch

How to Graft Ribbing

How to Eliminate “Ears” When Grafting

Sometimes, knitters find that working the Kitchener stitch creates little corners or “ears”

To fix this, you can try skipping the setup step and the second pass on the last two stitches.

FAQs about the Kitchener Stitch

Here are some common questions about the Kitchener stitch technique.

How much yarn do I need for the Kitchen Stitch?

You will need a tail of yarn that is three times the width of your stitches, plus six inches.

What does “knitwise’ mean?

“Knitwise” means to insert the needle into the stitch as if you were going to knit it.

What does “purlwise” mean?

“Purlwise” means to insert the needle into the stitch as if you were going to purl it.

Any other questions? Feel free to ask in the comments, and we’ll do our best to answer.

More Knitting Tutorials

Ready to learn more? Check out our other knitting tutorials and guides.

What’s Next?

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photo background of blue yarn on wooden knitting needles with the text, "kitchener stitch"

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