June 02, 2004

Grafting, grafting, bay-bee!

So. Where am I on the Rebecca 22 tutti-frutti striped Estelle Young Touch cotton sweater?

The sweater that launched a grafting party.

Okay, here's the deal. As I substituted the yarn required by the pattern, my row and stitch gauge were off. Not much, but enough to make a difference in the length and fit of the sweater, so I reworked the pattern (including armhole depth and sleeve cap shaping) to accomodate the difference. [Sigh*.]

Anyway. I managed to achieve the above successfully. See? Here are all the pieces I had completed, looking all rumpled and indecent with their ends hanging out. I'm on my way to seaming, right? Er, no. Because when I finished the second sleeve I realized that as a result of my reworking the pattern, the bottom of the sleeves had more green rows than the bottom of the front and back pieces. Argh. Just by four rows, and I know that there are people out there who would leave it like it is and not let that bother them, and to you and I say: Hurrah! But I know myself. Seeing that wee difference would have irked me into the ground, every time. Oh, if I could only add four measly green rows to both the back and front pieces!

So I did. I pulled out the scissors, some Katharina Buss, an embroidery needle, stuck Shrek into the DVD player and had myself a little grafting party this afternoon.

(And don't miss My Totally Excellent Grafting Adventure.)

Katharina Buss' Big Book of Knitting (pages 184-185) has some instructions on lengthening and shortening pieces. I didn't follow her written instructions to the letter, but I used her excellent photos as a guide. What I did was snip the selvedge of a row at the LEFT end of the piece using scissors. Then I used the tip of an embroidery needle to gently pulled out the yarn, undoing the row stitch by stitch. This separated the work in two, and I placed the open stitches of the BOTTOM piece (which contains the ribbing) on a needle so I could work the additional 4 rows in green on that piece. The row I had cut and ripped out had been a knit row, so I joined new yarn and started knitting on the right side of the work. I worked the four rows, ending with a purl row. Then I joined the open stitches of the bottom piece to the open stitches of the top piece by grafting. And just for you, here is a little photo display of my mini grafting adventure.

I've joined pieces by grafting before, but this is the first time I've taken scissors to knitting, lengthened a piece and then joined via grafting. I liked it! Seeing that little row of grafting bring those pieces together seamlessly made me want to sing like Donkey from Shrek. Danke, Katharina Buss!

*Fact: I don't particularly like reworking and/or drafting patterns. I am Lazy (yes, with a capital "L") at doing the math, which is why I love knitting from patterns. Pulling out the calculator just makes me want to yawn. Which is funny, because I have a specialization in financial tax law. Hahahaha!

Additional things worth sharing re grafting:

As in free-loop backstitch (which is just as FUN, oh yes it is!), I find that holding the open stitches down with a thumb while pulling the yarn through keeps them from stretching out.

I found it easier to keep the stitches of the top piece OFF a needle and the stitches of the bottom piece ON the needle. The stitches of the top piece didn't come undone because they had been knitted for a while, but the stitches of the bottom piece had just been added on so they probably would have come undone if I had pulled them off the needle.

Working the new rows on the bottom piece meant that I got to keep my selvedges as they are, so seaming will still be a breeze. Working new rows on the top piece would have shifted the stitches over by half a stitch.

I would only do this sort of cutting and grafting on pieces knit in stockinette stitch. Maybe garter. But anything else? No, gracias!

That's all I can think of for now, and dinner's a-callin'.

Viva le grafting!

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62 comments to this entry:

Oh my god, I'd NEVER be able to pull off that surgery. You are so talented! I can barely fix dropped stitches.

I love the colors, that sweater is going to be fabulous.

Thank you, Jackie! The book helped me a lot. And snipping that selvedge takes a bit of nerve. Hehe. I had to gear myself up to do it, but once I did I had no choice but to fix it :-)

I know someone who wants to snip, rip, and shorten the dress from The Purl Book. She's going to have quite a lot of fun. I'll send her this way for your good tips.

You are so incredibly brave. You make it look so easy, but I know better! Still, it's great to know that it IS possible ...
I love that sweater pattern. It is going to look tres chic on you, chiquita!

Hi there! Wow! Thanks for sharing about grafting. That is totally amazing and inspiring. I will chop chop chop and snip snip snip one of my sweaters soon. I adjusted the pattern a little, but now the sleeves are too full and puffy for the skinny body. I'll probably chop from above the cuffs to the armpit and re-knit the sleeves. Quite an operation, so I'll put it off till fall.

I enjoy reading your blog several times a week, and I appreciate all the technical advice you put up. Yay! Keep it up!


Such talent! Such dexterity! Such temerity! I'm impressed - as always when I read your blog. The result is going to be amazing, it's like blowing balloons from snakes and frogs (it was a snake and a frog, right?)

I'm very admiring! You must have the patience of a saint to achieve this! I had a "cutting party" once because my boy's sweater was too short and I wanted to add a few rows. But I never managed to pull out the yarn properly. So the whole thing ended up in the thrash can...I shall never try it again!
I was very happy to meet you in Paris! And course I'd be happy to visit you in Lyon if ever there should be a meeting there!
A bientôt j'espère

Wow! Your grafting is very clever AND very courageous. I'm afraid to admit that I would have just left the pieces as they were...

awesome! you are a brave girl and thanks for all the detailed photos. in case I need them someday....

Becky, you are my hero! I am SO impressed with the way you managed this! Congratulations!

Most excellent. Pics are great to see! I am working on my first sweater EVER. I figured a baby sweater would be easier then a full scale one anways..

Do you know of a pattern for a pretty tank-ish top, or sleevless top that has striped and is form fitted? I want to make a pretty top for myself but can't find a pattern I like. I think just a nice sleevless top that can be worn with slacks or kaki's would rule. But I don't want to knit in the round because I am just not comfortable yet. I have been knitting 3 weeks, but really enjoying knitting, and blogging!

Wowee indeed--and without any liquid courage to boot! I've been wavering on whether or not to buy the Big Book of Knitting -- if it could make me half the knitter you are, it'd be money well spent. Stellar stitches!

Oh, my. You're psychic. Just this lunch I was considering my AC-Defense-Stole and thinking that I didn't like the gauge of some of the sections (I'm using the spectrum of yarn weights for it) and if I should snip and rip, then re-knit and graft back the offending strips.
Thanks for the confirmation of this being a possibility. Luckily, any mistakes I make, will be lost in my busy pattern and texture. (I do have rows of pure knit and purl going on in there)
I didn't think I needed to worry about selvages, although you now make me wonder if I should? Why did you worry about them so? ;-)

surgeon extrordinaire! WOW!
I was quaking in my boots, but there's nary a scar! You are amazing, Becky!

Cor' blimey you are clever - not to mention scary ! Grafting AND financial tax law ??? Love the tutti frutti colours !

Once again, I am in complete awe! Is there anything this super knitting rabbit can't do? I'd hate to think how many kir royales I would have needed before attempting that one...

Wow! I would have cried....actually I just cried last weekend when I had to unravel and couldn't get my stitches back on my needle. No way would I venture to snip my knitting with scissors! I've known it's possible but I'm just not brave enough to do it. You are amazing! How long have you been knitting again???

Way to go, Becky, on the cut-and-knit-new-bit-and-graft-together adventure!

I made a good friend a sweater last fall that was too short, and had to do the exact same thing. It worked so well! Doesn't it make you feel so rock on, like you can do anything?!! A big Woot! to you.

I'm so impressed with this complex procedure. If only they attempted such maneuvers on ER, I might be inclined to watch more attentively! What I am most taken with, though, are your pictures! I never realized until I had to take so many of my own how difficult it is to get great shots of knitting. You'd think it'd be easy, but the lighting, composition, arrangement of the piece, color of the background...it's very complicated. Babies at Sears and Roebuck never had to sit for so long as my knitting does! You make it look so easy and have beautiful color and lighting to boot! The colors on that sweater are glorious, and the background of the light maple color? I'm thoroughly entranced! Very nice work, lady.

Wow... I can't believe you did that! Did it take forever and a day? You are a brave lady. Your hubby's sweater came out great too!

I bow deeply to la maitresse tricoteuse. Grafting - yikes. Fabulous job, too! That was the only thing to do, I totally agree with you -it'd bug me, too. But *financial tax law*? Double yikes. I hate just doing an ez tax form! Bleh, bleh -taxes! Bleh!

Sorry Becky. "Lazy with a capital L" just doesn't fly. You do realize that you have just described a fun summer top that required surgery to satisfy 4 rows too many at the bottom of sleeves, and yet you are trying to convince us you're "lazy?" You, the woman who seamed her son's sweater in sequential colors of embroidery floss to match the stripes? Maybe you can convince me you are lazy in other areas (it might take a photo of a kitchen piled with dishes or something equally implausible), but I'm just not buying it given the level of craftsmanship I see in your blog time and again. Nope. Nada. Nice try, though...

Becky, excellent work! I had never thought on solving that problem that way, and when you show it, it looks like the only right solution. Ditto on the Laziness, but I have, not only the spec. in Financial tax law, also a degree in accounting. No reason to avoid the caculations, but still, I too prefer to stick to patterns.

OMG! Wouldn´t want to do it myself. But it looks great :)

You are so brave and clever ! Well done for lenghtening the pcs without re-knit it. I never do grafting and I think I will never do it. It is too dangerous for me.

Ooh, well done. And so courageous...

Grafting is so cool isn't it. I love how it just looks like nothing ever happened! I'm not sure I'm brave enough to do the scissor thing first though!!! I'm finding that I'm becoming more of a perfectionist as time goes on... lots of ripping and re-knitting going on where I never used to. Personally I blame you!!! (My knitting looks nicer though)

Oh my Gawd!
Okay...from begining of poast...do I hear control freak? but know some things irk me the same way...which is why I redid the fireman's doll arms.
The grafting...AMAZING...you ROCK! I still don't quite get the last bit of how you joined the rows back together...but it will come to me, in the mean time lets hope I don't need to take such a task on.
BTW, the sweater is looking really good.
I also right now feel much more comfertable working from a patter and I only make texture changes if I feel like it, but when it comes to calculating, somehow I always screw stuff like that up.

My goodness. I once lengthened the body & sleeves on a knit-in-the round sweater by snipping, ravelling, and knitting downward (it was almost fun)--but I've never attempted grafting the pieces together again like that, and in cotton! I'm impressed.

Beautifully done! And far more brave than I :)

Amazing! What do you mean "Little blocking should smooth it out"? I don't even see the place where you grafted in your final shot of the grafting experience. It is grafted beautifully! I am in awe of your talent and skill. That sweater is amazing. In the photo with the pieces lying together the colors match up perfectly. Very hard to achieve over the course of a whole sweater. You always see a little fudge here and there, but not in your sweaters. Just perfection!


I would have been terrified to do that...

Now if I could figure out how to do that on the sides of a garment. Damn loosing weight, my cute tank top I JUST knit doesnt fit...

Oh well back to France soon for more yarn :)

Hi Becky,

I've just discovered your site and must say, it's a Most Excellent way of spending my down time at work. I'm so impressed with your knitting skills and witty tidbits! Very Nice To Meet You. I have to know though (and stop me if I'm crossing the knitting-blog lines of etiquette) - where do you find the time to juggle being a mom, knitting like a fiend and *tax law*???

Keep up the good work!


I'm new to your blog but had to comment on this post as I found it totally engrossing and incredible. Thank you so much for the photo tutorial as well. It will be a while (probably a long while) before my knitting skills are up to such a task, but this will undoubtedly come in handy with my perfectionist personality (read: can't leave well enough alone ;-)! Your site is beautiful by the way.

Wow...my hat's off to you. I had no idea you could do that to a garmet and it came out looking soooooooo good! The color scheme is very nifty too.

Wow, this looks good!!! So it can be done... I will have to do some shortening of the sleeves of my dad's sweater if I don't want him to look like he just put himself in a big shapeless potato bag. The pattern had a mistake in it as to when to start increasing the sleeve (and I noticed that it was weird too, but I figured they must know better...), so the sleeve is about 4-5cm too long. I am planning to reknit the base with the beginning of the increase where I thought it should be and grafting the two pieces. I have done some testing on my gauge samples and I think I will look ok!

PS: How do you rework the shoulder shaping+caps? Is there a good reference out there? This is something I have always wondered about...

Gee Whiz! That is some amazing sweater surgery. And hey, I have that book! I need to read those pages closer because the solution to my too long sweater is apparently at hand. Thanks for pointing it out. I just might be able to wear the thing after all--you've inspired me to at least *try* to fix it!

Thanks for sharing, Becky! Your step-by-step commentary and photographs are WAY clearer than what I have in my Debbie Bliss Workbook. (I love your tips page!) The sweater looks great, can't wait to see you dance in it.

Wow. I'm really impressed with your cutting(!) and grafting. I can only hope to someday attain the skills you possess!
I'm on knitting hiatus right now-- when I was knitting, I stopped reading for fun. So I'm getting back to books. When I'm through with the pile I have by my bed, I'll pick up the needles again!

Oh my lord. I have been dropping in to read your site and view your gorgeous projects for many weeks now, but this takes the cake. You are now officially my knitting hero.

Well that's certainly exteme knitting! Ingenious and courageous in the face of a knitting conundrum, classic Skinnyrabbit. Next round of kirs is on me.

Bravo, bravo on your successful surgery!!! I've had to do that... on sweaters I've finished and came out too short, too "hippy". I am one of those Lazy (with a capital L) knitters too... Just go for it, you know?!?

Funny... I was a corporate banker and had to calculate interest rates and figures for my loan books all the time... the calculator was my friend. ;-)

All of this, with SHREK in the BG?! Woman - you give a girl ogre pause...

BTW - now I know what everyone means when they say "what would Becky do?" when they hit the wall...

They would suck it up and CARRY ON! Or as they like to say in my newsroom and don't ask me why...


Thanks for sharing your knitting adventures and experiences with us. It is through your courage,
effort and attitude that everything is possible to conquer are actually going to help me through my own future knitting dilemmas or disasters. :]

Peace & Aloha!

Your bravery knows no bounds! I can barely handle frogging and tinking and here you are cutting and grafting! Thanks for the inspiration! I can't wait to see the finished sweater!

Dear Becky,

Bravo for the grafting! I used the technique from the same pages some time ago, and it worked quite well...but not so well as you! Oh, I'm so behind in the blogging world, and I'm only reading your update now. Must be confused after the great time we had last thursday...it was a real pleasure meeting you, and I'm looking forward to be able to S & B with again soon!

Wow - mucho impressive!! I am one of those that would have "left it." I sooooo admire your anal-retentivness to make it correct!! Great job!

You are a wizard(ess)! That is amazing.

I love the colors, too btw.

I can't decide whether you rate higher on the "Scale of Knitting Talent," the "Scale of Knitting Bravery," or the "Scale of Generous Sharing!" Way to go, and thank you!

(And here I thought I was so brave for cutting and re-knitting downward a sweater that I hated the bottom half of. Hunh! Live and learn, yes?)

Oh, I almost forgot to calculate your score on the "Scale of Understandable Directions" and the "Scale of Clear and Helpful Pictures."

Three cheers for the Skinny Rabbit!

Bravo! You're one brave rabbit! The sweater looks amazing. I can't wait to see it finished up.

I wish I had the chutzpah to do that!

I'm tuckered out just reading about this Everest-like effort. You left me at Base Camp baby!

I do hope the snacks were good throughout this ordeal.

Slothfully and without ambition, Kay

Actually struck dumb by this.
Genius, you.

Oh my, you are taking my breath away with the grafting story. The pictures made it extra dramatic. Go, Becky, go! What a success!

Okay, I have to ask - In a Celebrity Deathmatch (tm), which one wins, Katharina Buss or the Vogue Big Book of Knitting? I don't remember Vogue covering the re-grafting technique, but I was pretty engrossed in their stitch dictionary. And how did you know working the rows on the bottom piece would keep your stitch count correct - was that Buss too? Was it the obvious solution of counting the stitches available? In any case, the sweater is very cool!

You are whacked to do this for a four-row difference, but hey. I expect no less from you.

My mom once did this surgery on an aran sweater on which I had managed to screw up the first few rows but knit the rest of the gi-normous back anyways. An ARAN. She must really love me.

50 points for Gryffindor! (oops, Harry Potter on the brain today)

The green yarn may be Shrek-like, but your knitting skills are positively Potterific!

Rachael struck dumb?



Congrats on the cutting! It's so liberating to be brave with your knitting. I have done the same thing and was really pleased with the results. Not unlike that first fateful frog. Reclaim the knit!

VeRRRy Impressive, and with cotton, yet. That's awesome. We salute you! Woofs and Snaps!

Wow!!! I bow before thee Knitting Godess, Becky! Like you, I wouldn't have been satisfied with the missing rows and probably would have frogged it....only because I never, ever would have thought of grafting! It might have been a lot of work, but isn't it great to know it really can be done? I wouldn't be surprised if you stand a little straighter and taller when you wear it.

Thanks for sharing all your tips. I have to remind myself that I'm basically a beginner, but there's hope that some day I can be a Knitting Godess, too!

THANK YOU for such encouraging comments!

Donna: It's hard to choose. I like Katharina Buss for some techniques, and VK for others. I think I'd recommend getting Katharina Buss' first, and then VK later. VK has a great section on designing that the Big Book of Knitting lacks, but the Big Book of Knitting has other things, such as photos on sewing in sleeves, that I don't find in VK.

Laetitia and Stephanie: Merci for the fun meetup! I can't wait for the next one :-)

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