All About The Kitchener Stitch

the Kitchener stitch was supposedly made popular during WWII by Lord Kitchener of England. He was looking for a better way to graft the toes of socks for his soldiers (they kept getting holes in them) so he promoted the Red Cross knitting program which included a pattern for socks with grafted toes. All though this is a very nice story, you should know there isn’t really any proof that this is where the name comes from. Regardless of the history of the Kitchener stitch, it has become a standard way to seam two knitted pieces of fabric.

For myself, I’ve found the Kitchener stitch to be a great way to seam. I’ve mostly used it for the toes of socks but it can also be used to close the bottom of a bag or the top of a hat. You do not want to use this seam anywhere you want extra stability in the fabric such as shoulders. Yu should still use something like a three needle bind off for these. This seaming technique uses two rows of live stitches and creates a seamless join also known as grafting.

A lot of people get really nervous when it comes to the Kitchener stitch. You shouldn’t be. It has simple steps and can be easily mastered with a little practice. Before you know it, you’ll be able to Kitchener without looking at the directions. Have a little faith and try it the next time you want a seamless join.

Grafting Stockinette Fabric with Kitchener Stitch

 

You can practice by knitting two stockinette swatches and stopping before you bind off. Leave the swatches on the needles and hold the two swatches together with the purl sides facing each other. You will be adding another row of knit stitches with the tapestry needle to join the fabric seamlessly.

Anytime you want to Kitchener, you will need to start with two rows of live stitches. For simplicities sake, each row must have the same number of stitches. The purl sides of the work should be facing the inside. Your yarn should be coming from the last stitch on the right of the back needle and be at least 3 times longer than the seam you are about to graft. You will work all the stitches from right to left. Thread the tail onto a tapestry needle and you’re ready to begin.

Now, the set up involves two steps. You will only do each of these once.

  1. Run your tapestry needle through the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl and pull the yarn through.
  2. Run your tapestry needle through the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit and pull the yarn through.

 

Now, you can get down to business. You will repeat these four steps until all the stitches are grafted.

  1. Put your tapestry needle through the first stitch on the front as if to knit and slide the stitch from the knitting needle to the tapestry needle. Do not pull the yarn through.
  2. Run your tapestry needle into the next stitch on the front as if to purl and pull the yarn through. Do not slide the stitch off the needle.
  3. Put your tapestry needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl and slip the stitch from the knitting needle to the tapestry needle. Do not pull the yarn through.
  4. Run your tapestry needle through the next stitch on the back needle as if to knit and pull the yarn through. Do not slip the stitch off the knitting needle.

 

It helps to chant knit purl, purl knit as you go to help keep track of where you are. ‘With a little practice, Kitchener stitch becomes second nature. Try not to make your stitches too tight or too loose. You want your finished tension to match the tension of your work. Just like everything else, this gets easier with time and practice.

Grafting Garter Fabric with Kitchener Stitch

 

You can also graft garter fabric seamlessly with the Kitchener stitch. If you have been working garter in the round, you need to end with a knit row. Your last row of purl bumps need to be facing each other. If you hold the needles as if you are about to Kitchener, the last row of bumps will be behind the front needle and in front of the back needle so they will touch when held together.

The basic preparation is the same as for grafting stockinette. You need the same number of stitches on each needle and a tail of yarn three times longer than the seam coming from the back needle on the right. When working the Kitchener stitch for garter fabric you will be creating a row of purl stitches that will become the last garter ridge needed to join the fabric seamlessly.

Your set up steps will be a little different. Do each of these only once.

  1. Run your tapestry needle through the first stitch on the front needle as if to purl and pull the yarn through.
  2. Run your tapestry needle through the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl and pull the yarn through.

 

There will only be two actual steps to repeat to Kitchener garter fabric but here are all 4 steps written out. You are repeating the same two steps on each needle.

  1. Put your tapestry needle through the first stitch on the front as if to knit and slide the stitch from the knitting needle to the tapestry needle.
  2. Run your tapestry needle into the next stitch on the front as if to purl and pull the yarn through. Do not slide the stitch off the needle.
  3. Put your tapestry needle through the first stitch on the back as if to knit and slide the stitch from the knitting needle to the tapestry needle.
  4. Run your tapestry needle into the next stitch on the back as if to purl and pull the yarn through. Do not slide the stitch off the needle.

 

For this the chant would be knit purl, knit purl.

Good luck using the Kitchener stitch. If you’re nervous, be sure to practice before trying it on your finished work. You’ll be making seamless joins in no time.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Donna Hill
    Mar 23, 2011 @ 18:15:04

    Thanks Crystal, this has always been a mystery to me. I’ve copied it to a file, so I can meditate on it. I really want to do this.

    Reply

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