UFO Update and Kitchener Stitch Picture Tutorial

As I promised last week, I dug to the bottom of my knitting basket at the weekend in search of UFOs. I was delighted to find only the one UFO I already knew was there; a pair of socks, one sock waiting for an afterthought heel, the other in need of a spot of Kitchener stitch to close the toe.

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Having vowed to rid myself of UFOs for the year, I took out my tapestry needle to Kitchener stitch the toe closed, when it occurred to me, I could take some pictures and write a Kitchener stitch tutorial. Hopefully some of you will find it useful and hopefully it will divert all of you from noticing the afterthought heel is still unfinished.

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Kitchener stitch is one of those techniques that, for the uninitiated, is often shrouded in fear and mystery. However, whilst it’s true you do need to concentrate and it’s easy to loose your place if you get distracted, like most knitting techniques we fear, it’s really not the monster under the bed it’s cracked up to be. You just need to follow these three simple rules:

  1. Don’t attempt your first shot at Kitchener stitch unless you have sufficient time to work on it.
  2. Don’t  attempt your first shot at Kitchener stitch when/where you’re likely to get interrupted.
  3. Don’t have a glass of wine beforehand to steady your nerves.

If you already know how to Kitchener stitch, skip to the end. If you don’t, here’s the tutorial. I’m assuming you’re sewing a sock toe here – since that’s where it’s most commonly used. But wherever you use it,the principle’s pretty much the same.

How to Sew Kitchener Stitch

The setup

1.  Arrange the stitches belonging to the top of the foot onto one needle and the stitches belonging to the bottom onto another. (You may already have them arranged in this way, if you’re using the magic loop technique or tiny circular sock needles.) Cut the working yarn, leaving enough length to knit about  two more rounds, and thread it onto a tapestry needle.

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2. Hold the two rows of stitches together with the knitting facing you, as if you’re going to knit another round.

3. Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch as if it were a knitting needle and you were going to purl the stitch…

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4. Pull the yarn through the stitch, but leave the stitch on the knitting needle.

5. Thread the tapestry needle through the first stitch on the knitting needle at the back from below the stitch i.e. from the direction you would enter it with the a knitting needle if you were knitting the stitch…

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6. Pull the yarn through the stitch, but leave the stitch on the knitting needle.

You’re now ready to get going on the repeated pattern of stitching…

7. Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the front knitting needle from below – i.e. in a knit-wise direction…

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8. Pull the yarn right through the stitch and slip the stitch off the knitting needle.

9. Insert the tapestry needle into the next stitch on the front knitting needle as if you were going to purl it…

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10. Pull the yarn right through the stitch, but don’t slip the stitch off the knitting needle.

11. Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the knitting needle at the back as if you were going to purl it…

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12. Pull the yarn right through the stitch and slip the stitch off the knitting needle.

13. Insert the tapestry needle through the next stitch on the back knitting needle from below – i.e. in a knit-wise direction…

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14. Pull the yarn right through the stitch, but don’t slip it off the needle.

Repeat steps  7 to 14, gently tightening or loosening the stitched you make as you go, so the Kitchener stitch forms an invisible join between the two sets of stitches.

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When you have worked and all the stitches, you will have closed the gap between the two rows of knitting…

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Push the tapestry needle to the wrong side of the work and secure the loose end – you may wish to use this end to close any holes in your Kitchener stitch if your join is not quite invisible.

In summary

Once you’ve initially set up the first two stitches you follow a repeated pattern of..

  • Stitch 1 front – Knit, slip stitch of needle
  • Stitch 2 front – Purl
  • Stitch 1 back – Purl, slip stitch of needle
  • Stitch 2 back – Knit

Does anyone else who’s already comfy with Kitchener stitch have any tips or advice to those who are a little apprehensive about trying it?

 

37 thoughts on “UFO Update and Kitchener Stitch Picture Tutorial

  1. Thanks for the tips! I am new knitter (crochet being my thing usually) and I was super chuffed at successful navigating my first sock, and then deflated when I got to the kitchener stitch bit! I think I was trying at 10.30pm after a glass of wine, so I won’t try that approach again. Mary x

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  2. I can DO Kitchener, but I hate it, dread it, will choose a different pattern to avoid it. But, if I follow your first three rules, it really isn’t awful when I get down to it. I had to do it recently on my mittens, and I waited until I had both mittens ready for it, then sat with the book open and slowly did it. I think they came out fine! Wish I had your tutorial, your photos are better than the drawings in the book! Real yarn and real fingers. 🙂

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    1. Thank you – although my hands are so dry and my nails awful, I hope the real hands didn’t scare you. I have to say it took me a while to be happy about having to do it, but like most things you can only be scared for so long if you face up to it. I’m sure your mitts Kitchener stitch was brilliant!

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      1. Ahh, winter hands – gotta love them! it’s the price we pay for living in the north, I guess. I feel like I did pretty well with the mitts, actually, but Kitchener is intimidating still. I know I can do it, but I don’t enjoy it. Maybe someday I will get to a point where it is just another thing, like casting on and binding off. If I Do it more than once every couple of years. 🙂

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      2. I’m sure there’s a cycle we all go through with learning stuff that’s a bit hard/complicated. And I’m sure one day you’ll see it as just another thing, even if you do only use it once every couple of years 🙂

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  3. I have heard of this stitch – I think I might even have performed it – but, as with most methods like magic loop, Judy’s special cast on (or it might be cast off and it might be Julie) I don’t keep them in my head once I’ve completed the job. So, each time I knit a pair of socks I go back to the tutorial(s) I originally used and work through them again. This might be because I knit socks at the rate of one pair every one and a half years so the information doesn’t stick. My favourite way to knit socks is two at a time, toe up so I wouldn’t need the Kitchener Stitch for that – or would I? 😉

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    1. Oh yes, it does take a while for things to sink in when we do them infrequently – I won’t mention here that it might be age related, because of course neither of us are over 21, so it can’t be that. Judy’s magic cast on, but I’m sure Julie does a mean cast off 😉

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    1. Ha ha! The bathroom doesn’t sound the most comfortable place to perform your Kitchener stitch. I do have the order ingrained in my brain – after many many pairs of socks – but I still chant it in my head, and if I start thinking about something else, have to stop and work out where I am again.

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  4. Fab tutorial! If I know I’m joining using kitchener stitch and I’ve used double knit yarn (I did this a lot when making wool soakers for over cloth nappies), I found knitting the last row using needles a size or 2 smaller just helped to get a more snug join. I guess when using smaller needles this isn’t such an issue. It’s a great technique to get the hang of. 😊

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    1. That’s an interesting tip. I’ve only ever Kitchener stitched sock yarn four ply and lace weight. The lace weight yarn was awful – A smaller needle certainly wouldn’t have helped there, but I’m wondering if bigger one would have?

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      1. Could be worth a try, even half a size shouldn’t ruin the effect of your work. I found using my normal size meant the stitch didn’t look as invisible so went back, frogged a row and reknitted smaller. I’ve never ventured into using lace weight before.

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      2. Unfortunately a bit late now, but if I ever need to Kitchener stitch lace again I’ll let you know. It somehow feels right that the inverse of what you did would work, because the lace Kitchener was coming up too tight.

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    1. You’re right, it’s well worth persevering even though it’s tricky to learn the order and you do need to pay good attention when you do it. I have got it in my head, but confess to checking my tutorial against a YouTube video after I’d written it, because those good old negative voices in my head kept asking, ‘Are you sure you’ve got it right?’ – despite me having done it quiet happily without checking when I did the Kitchener stitch on the sock 🙂

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      1. Beads and Barnacles

        Yeah. I must learn to split it into 4 actions as I tend to see it as two actions which are performed in two different ways.
        You either go in to knit or purl; front or back needle; to slip or not.
        And I keep losing my place :-p

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      2. You’re definitely not alone. I split it into two in my head – I think knit, slip, purl then purl slip knit. But I also think you always have two purls and two knits together. Does that make any sense at all?

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      3. Beads and Barnacles

        So I ended up coming back here sooner than I thought I wound. A kitchener stitch bind of four the neckline of a jumper that needed to stretch a lot. Splitting it into the 4 steps helped loads but I kept losing my place still. I’m sure having vikings on in the background didn’t help much!

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      4. Oh yes, those Vikings can be very distracting 🙂 Good to hear the four steps help – I think it’s very very easy to loose you place, because you brain starts thinking of something else and the steps are so similar. Maybe the real virtue of practice is that you learn to read the stitch better, so that you can ‘read’ the stitching to tell you what step to do next when your thoughts do drift off?

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