How Do I Do the Kitchener Stitch in Knitting?

How to do the Kitchener Stitch in Knitting: Easy step-by-step tutorial and video!

The Kitchener Stitch is a topic of much-discussion amongst sock knitters (and other knitters, to be sure, it's simply used most frequently for the toe of cuff-down socks).

It's a technique that, once memorized, can become a knitters best friend, but is often the source of much frustration as the pattern of weaving the stitches together is not often easily memorized.

My hope is that today I can share a method with you that will make it more memorable and less frustrating! 

As an aside, if you're not familiar with the Kitchener Stitch, here is the broader definition: Wikipedia.

And if you're interested in Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the individual for whom the technique is named (despite its use before he "invented" it, you can check out the Wikipedia page

Setup Your Stitches

The Kitchener stitch (which is a form of grafting live stitches together to form a seamless join) is most often performed over a fabric of stockinette stitch.

While you CAN graft in garter stitch or in ribbing, I'm going to cover just the stockinette version today. 

To prepare your stitches, you want to divide your total number of stitches in half and place the first half of the live sts on one needle (which will be closest to you and called the "Front" needle) and the second half of the stitches on a second needle held parallel to the first (which will be called... the "Back" needle... which I bet you saw coming). 

More often than not, the working yarn is on the Back needle, "attached" to the last stitch worked. You will need to break the working yarn to a length that is approximately 3 x the length of the area being bound off. For socks I often recommend more than this, but 3 x is often the acceptable length. 

Let's break all this down into numbers. As an example, let's say you have 32 stitches on your needle. 

  • Place the first 16 sts onto the Front needle.

  • Place the remaining 16 sts onto the Back needle. 

  • Break the working yarn leaving a tail of at least 3 x the length of the width being seamed (the length after the stitches are divided onto the front and back needles)

  • Thread this working yarn into / onto a tapestry needle and follow the "Kitchener Stitch Steps" to completion. 

The Kitchener Stitch Rhyme

I have found that my most useful trick in remembering which way to insert my tapestry needle into my stitches is to think of the stitches as "doors". Sure, it's maybe a little bit campy, but it has worked well not only for me, but for previous students I've taught this method to.

We all generally end up giggling but I can almost guarantee that you won't forget because it's just THAT ridiculous:

So! Think of entering a stitch knitwise as "going through the front door" and entering a stitch purlwise as "going through the back door". 

With that little diddy in your head, if you go "through the front door" on the Front needle, you remove the stitch. If you go "through the back door" on the Back needle, you remove the stitch. HOWEVER! if you "go through the front door" on the Back needle (or "through the back door" on the Front needle) the stitch remains in place and does not come off the needle. 

If it matches, take if off; if it doesn't match, leave it on!

The Kitchener Stitch Steps

Every stitch will be processed two times, once knitwise and once purlwise before removing it from the needle.

  • Step 1: Insert tapestry needle purlwise (through the back door) into first st on Front needle, leave st on the Front needle.

  • Step 2: Insert tapestry needle knitwise (through the front door) into first st on Back needle; leave st on the Back needle.

  • Step 3: Insert tapestry needle knitwise (through the front door) into the first st on Front needle and remove the st from the Front needle; insert tapestry needle purlwise (through the back door) into the next st on the Front needle, leave st on the Front needle.

  • Step 4: Insert tapestry needle purlwise (through the back door) into the first st on Back needle and remove the st from the Back needle; insert tapestry needle knitwise (through the front door) into the next st on the Back needle, leave st on the Back needle.

Rep [Steps 3 & 4] until all sts are processed.

Video Tutorial

I know that written instructions aren't effective for everyone (I'm definitely a visual learner) so I have a video tutorial to show you how the stitches are setup on 2 needles before you begin grafting, what I mean about processing each stitch twice, stitches being considered front doors and back doors, and how to weave in your ends when all the stitches are processed so you don't end up with little "tails". 

How do you graft?

I have heard arguments for using the 3-needle bind off in place of the Kitchener stitch to graft your toes (or other items) together.

What is your preferred method? Are you a tried and true Kitchener fan or will you do everything you can to avoid the technique?

Better yet - what OTHER method of grafting do you use/have you heard about? Let me know in the comments below!