Kitchener stitch, an easy grafting technique, is a popular choice for joining two sides of knitted fabric while hand-knitting woolen garments. This stitch allows you to accomplish both the steps of binding off and seaming the edges of your fabric at once. It is ideal for joining the toes of a sock or the hooded top of a jacket as the seam produced by the kitchener resembles the knitted stitches, keeping the join invisible.
The stitch is named after the British war hero Lord Kitchener, who fought in the World War I. He provided his own sock design to a Red Cross plan so women could knit garments and accessories for the soldiers. His design later evolved into the present day kitchener stitch.
Kitchener Stitch Knitting Instructions
All you will need is a tapestry needle and a strand of yarn the same color as your project. Before starting to work with the needle, equally distribute the live stitches on your left hand (LH) and right hand (RH) needles as shown in the following diagram. Then, string the tapestry needle and attach it to the yarn on your left hand needle.
- Pass the tapestry needle purl-wise (as if you are working a purl stitch) through the first stitch on your RH needle and pull the yarn all the way.
- Then go into the first stitch on your LH needle knit-wise (as if you are working a knit stitch), pulling the yarn all the way through. Make sure to keep the yarn at the back of your work.
Now it is time to actually start joining and casting off the two rows of live stitches.
Step 1: Pass your tapestry needle knit-wise through the first stitch on your RH needle, pull through and slip that stitch off the needle.
Step 2: Then you need to go through the second stitch on your RH needle purl-wise, leaving the stitch on the needle.
Step 3: Go through the first stitch on your LH needle purl-wise, pull the yarn all the way and let the stitch fall off the needle.
Step 4: Pass the tapestry needle through the second stitch on your LH needle knit-wise and pull through, leaving the stitch on the needle.
You have now completed the first set of kitchener stitch. Repeat the steps 1 through 4 until you complete joining all the live stitches on your needle. Once you are done, the seam should look like the following picture:
As you can see, this method produces the same effect as the even stitches from the knit row and the bumps from the purl row, making it impossible to see the joining line.
Kitchener stitch is a useful way of grafting ribbing projects while it is excellent for articles knit with moss stitch, stockinette stitch, garter stitch, seed stitch and brioche stitch. Apart from hooded sweaters and socks, it is ideal for joining the round top of hats, the edges of infinity scarves as well as hand-knit lacey accessories.
Once you become a proficient in working the basic steps, you can experiment with the more difficult variations like backward kitchener, working the stitch on a loom, with a circular needle or using it in a double knitting project.
There are certain alternatives that can be worked without a tapestry needle, like the Russian grafting and the three-needle bind off, for those who find the kitchener too complex.