#$%@&! Kitchener Stitch

April 17, 2012

One of the cool things about knitting is that there are fifteen ways to do everything. The more you knit, the more of this stuff you learn.  I’m talking about casting on, increasing and decreasing, making buttonholes, etc. Each way is different, and more or less suited to a particular knitter and project.

The first time I encounter a technique in a new pattern, I follow the directions slavishly, hoping that the sequence of small steps will add up to something recognizable.  If I succeed (sometimes after many tries), I tuck the technique away like a screwdriver designed for a particular type of screw. I’ll get  it back out again when I run across it in another pattern, or better yet, when I’m improvising.

(I find it nearly impossible to follow anyone’s pattern directions exactly as written, at least for the kinds of knitting I’m most familiar with- hats, socks, scarves. So I need as many screwdrivers as I can get. Luckily they don’t take up much space).

Kitchener stitch is such a useful technique that it’s applied pretty much ubiquitously whenever  two smallish pieces of knitting need to be attached along their live stitches. It’s a beautiful thing when done well.

I was fairly mystified to learn that some people detest it to the point of redesigning entire patterns to avoid its use. It is a bit labor intensive: it involves weaving a long tail of yarn back and forth through the live stitches, knitwise and purlwise, in a particular order- but the results ares sturdy and invisible.

And then I tried using it to graft two halves of a long scarf together lengthwise. (Don’t even ask about the misunderstanding that lead me to knit a scarf in two long halves). It took me hours to do a couple of inches, in part because of the time needed to pull the long-ass piece of yarn all the way through each live stitch until it was tight.

The scarf was maybe five feet long.

Eventually I decided it was no good throwing good time after bad. I took the whole snarly mess to the thrift store and hoped someone would see it as material for an art project about the role of crafts in women’s lives.

What was the lesson I took from the experience, you ask? Did I unfriend Kitchener stitch and vow never to use it again? The short answer is no. I figured it was unsuitable for really long seams and filed that information in my technique drawer for later.

Over time, when called upon to graft, I pretty much screwed up every time. A few nights ago I was Kitchenering the gift knitting.

Can you believe this shit?

See that hole right there? I missed one stitch, or pulled the yarn through purlwise when I was meant to be pulling it through knitwise, or whatever. The thought of just unpicking even a seam this tiny makes me depressed.

Call me a slow learner, but I may have to join the Kitchener Stitch Hater club.


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