4 ways to join up knitting
Even if you knit everything in the round, at some point you’ll have to seal up a sock toe, attach sleeves to a jumper or join a sweater at the shoulders. Fortunately, for those of us who prefer knitting to sewing, there are plenty of ways to join your knitting.
I’m a knitter. I like knitting, not sewing, blocking, attaching buttons, winding yarn, hunting for knitting needles down the back of the sofa or darning. While I recognise that all these other tasks are necessary, I will spend quite a lot of time learning a new technique that helps me avoid them.
Making up is one of my bug bears, and over the years I’ve learned several ways to make the whole process quicker and smoother. Here are four of my favourites.
1. Three-needle cast off or three-needle bind off
I love this because it’s a super-quick, super-simple way of joining two sets of live stitches, and casting them off at the same time.
It’s great to use at the shoulders of a garment, as it creates the firmness of a seam without the effort. For that same reason, it’s not ideal for socks, as the seam can chafe.
- Knit the two pieces you want to attach (let’s say the back and front of a jumper) until they are complete. Do not cast off.
- Lie the pieces together, with the right sides facing each other and the needles with the live stitches together at the top of the work. This means that all you can see, whichever side you look at, will be the inside of the jumper, so the seam will be on the inside.
- Hold both needles together, as though they were one needle and you were about to knit the first stitch. (If one is pointing the wrong way, just slip the stitches to a spare needle to correct this.)
- Using a third needle, knit the first stitch of the front piece together with the first stitch of the back piece.
- Work the second stitches of each piece together, then pass the first stitch on your needle over the second, as in an ordinary cast off.
- Repeat this fifth step until you have one loop left. Secure it and weave in the ends.
The third needle should be the size you were using, or slightly larger for a looser cast off, but it doesn’t much matter what size the other needles are.
2. Kitchener stitch or grafting
As with the first technique, Kitchener stitch (also known as grafting) joins two sets of live stitches, so it’s a cast-off and a seam in one.
It creates an extra row of stitches, so it’s almost invisible, making it ideal for socks. You can do this with either knitting needles or a darning needle. I think the latter is simpler, so that’s what this video shows.
It’s important to note that you need a slightly different technique if you’re grafting rib. As shown in the video, Kitchener stitch creates an extra row of stocking stitch, which will obviously stand out if you’re working in a pattern like rib or moss stitch.
3. Mattress stitch
Yes, I said I hate sewing but this technique makes it much easier, so I think it’s worth knowing about. When done correctly, mattress stitch creates a nearly invisible join between two stocking stitch or garter stitch pieces.
It’s ideal for the side seams of a sweater, or for sewing up a hat you knit on two needles.
For garter stitch:
Instead of using the strands between the columns of stitches, you can use the rounded bumps that stick out at the end of each row of garter stitch. These come in pairs, with an upper and lower bump on each row.
Working from the bottom up, simply thread your needle alternately between the lower bump on one piece and the upper bump on the other. Continue in this way, (lower – upper – lower – upper) until you reach the top.
When you’re done, spend a moment or two to make sure your joining thread isn’t too tight, as this can make your work pucker. Weave in the ends as usual.
Some knitters find crochet harder work than sewing, but I think it’s great. The simplest technique is to join two cast-off pieces with slip stitch or double crochet (known as single crochet in the USA). This is done in much the same way as the three-needle cast off above and creates a similar seam-like effect.
You can do it with any side of the knitting (cast on, cast off or side) and you can even work round corners, which is great if you’re finishing a bag.
- Hold the two pieces together, with right sides facing.
- Thread the crochet hook through both pieces, as close to the edge as you can.
- Pull a loop of yarn through.
- Dive through the next available gap, and pull a second loop through. Pass the first loop over the second.
- Repeat this fourth step until you reach the end of the seam.
Make sure your tension is even. You may need a different hook size than the needle size you’ve been using. I usually have to use a larger hook than knitting needle to get a similarly loose fabric.
Last updated: August 4th, 2017.