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How to Kitchener Stitch in Pattern [Tutorial]


Kitchener stitch has always baffled me. Avoiding it is probably one of the biggest reasons I started knitting toe-up socks in the first place. Remembering the correct steps to take has been extraordinarily hard: Was it knit, purl, knit, purl? Or perhaps knit, knit, purl, purl? I've always had to look it up. And what if you have to Kitchener in pattern? Then I'd just call it a day and do a three-needle bind-off.


Not anymore.


A couple of weeks ago while working on my upcoming The Comeback Cardigan pattern, something clicked (finally). I came up with three simple rules that can be applied when you're grafting in any pattern that's made up of a combination of knits and purls: ribbing, cables, seed stitch... anything! And the secret is this: all you have to do is look at the next two stitches on the needle and ignore the rest.

Three Rules of Grafting in Pattern

First rule of grafting: Same old, same old

For the first rule of grafting you only have to look at the first stitch on the needle. This sets the foundation for the grafting sequence. Always start with the same stitch as the first stitch on the needle. If it's a knit stitch, you go into the first stitch knitwise, that is, front to back. If it's a purl stitch, you go into it purlwise, that is, back to front.


First rule in action: the first stitch is a knit stitch -- start by inserting the needle knitwise.

This rule never changes whether you're grafting in stockinette, reverse stockinette, or in pattern.


Side note: if you're grafting in reverse stockinette, there's an even easier way called The Finchley Graft. And here's the kicker: you can turn any stockinette pattern into reverse stockinette by simply turning your work inside out. Mind blown, right?


OK, so now we know how to start grafting. But what to do with the second stitch? And what about the other needle? For that you also have to look at the stitch that comes next.


Second rule of grafting: Opposites attract

The second rule of grafting applies when the next two stitches on the needle are the same, in other words, you have either two knit stitches or two purl stitches.


Start with same stitch as the first stitch on the needle (following rule #1) and then do the opposite for the second one. Then do the opposite of the whole thing for the second needle. Here's what I mean.


How to Kitchener stitch in pattern: 2 knit stitches

If the first two stitches are knit stitches:

  • Front needle: go into the first stitch knitwise and drop it off, go into the second stitch purlwise and leave it on.

  • Back needle: go into the first stitch purlwise and drop it off, go into the second stitch knitwise and leave it on.


This sequence is of course the famous Kitchener stitch mantra you're told to remember when learning grafting. But here's how to apply rules #1 and #2 in reverse stockinette.


How to Kitchener stitch in pattern: 2 purl stitches

If the first two stitches are purl stitches:

  • Front needle: go into the first stitch purlwise and drop it off, go into the second stitch knitwise and leave it on.

  • Back needle: go into the first stitch knitwise and drop it off, go into the second stitch purlwise and leave it on.


See the symmetry?


Rules #1 and #2 are all you need for grafting in stockinette or reverse stockinette. But to do Kitchener stitch in pattern you need a third one — and it's just as simple.


Third rule of grafting: Three time's the charm

The third rule of grafting applies when the next two stitches on the needle are NOT the same, that is, you have a knit and a purl stitch or a purl and a knit stitch. Start with same stitch as the first stitch on the needle, do the same thing three times in a row, and then the opposite for the last stitch.


How to Kitchener stitch in pattern: knit and purl

If the first two stitches are knit and purl:

  • Front needle: go into the first stitch knitwise and drop it off, go into the second stitch knitwise and leave it on.

  • Back needle: go into the first stitch knitwise and drop it off, go into the second stitch purlwise and leave it on.


How to Kitchener stitch in pattern: purl and knit

If the first two stitches are purl and knit:

  • Front needle: go into the first stitch purlwise and drop it off, go into the second stitch purlwise and leave it on.

  • Back needle: go into the first stitch purlwise and drop it off, go into the second stitch knitwise and leave it on.


Finished piece of knitting grafted in a K2, P2 pattern.

And that's it. The four sequences above cover all the possibilities you might encounter when grafting in pattern. In the end you'll have a completely seamless piece of knitting. Mine's done with a contrasting color for demonstration purposes — yours would obviously be all in the same yarn.


With these three rules you don't have to remember any Kitchener stitch mantras. And if you ever get interrupted grafting, it's easy to pick up where you left off. Just read the next two stitches on the front needle and you'll always know which step comes next.

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Susanna Winter is a knitwear designer, creating timeless and elegant pieces with clean lines. She has been knitting for over 20 years, knit blogging since 2007, and designing knitting patterns professionally since 2016.

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