Considering that I’ve subjected everybody else to the delight of grafting a row of both knit and purl stitches together, you might be deluded into thinking that I’m an expert at it myself. I most definitely am not. From what I recall, both Steph’s graft of the Rogue hood (which I’ve seen live) and Claudia’s (which I’ve virtually seen) were better than mine.
So, the next time I found myself wanting to have two pieces of knitting move symmetrically in opposite directions around a neckline and merge at the center back, I decided to make life easier on myself by starting at the center back and working towards the front. First the right side is worked, then the left is picked up from the first row of knitting and worked towards the front as well. The sides are joined (in the case of a pullover) at the center front by working across all stitches; in the case of a cardigan, they’re tapered towards the front band. The body stitches are picked up from the outside of the collar, then worked down, first with a series of short rows, then eventually full rows, just like any other top-down raglan.
This all works very well, until you start multisizing your collars and forget which size your sample/prototype garment is supposed to be.
I worked a collar in Adrienne Vittadini Eva for a pullover, then left it for a while. When I came back to it, I wondered why the heck the thing was lopsided. It turned out that I had knit the right half of the collar as a larger size than the left side. Whoops.
My choices: rip the whole center front point, then the right side of the collar back to almost the very beginning; or try to be clever about it. I chose to be clever. So I unpicked what seemed to be the correct yarn tail for the right-hand side, and undid enough rows to make the two sides the same length. Naturally, because the intial unpicked row had been the basis for picking up the stitches for the left side of the collar, I had two sets of loops that needed to be rejoined. Two sets of loops comprising knit and purl stitches that needed to be grafted together: just what I had hoped to avoid.
(No, this wasn’t a surprise to me–I had weighed the alternatives beforehand, and I figured that the anguish of having to graft was will better than having to redo more than half the collar.)
Grafting can be a fidgety thing to do, particularly if it’s not all stockinette. Normally, in addition to holding the live stitches in place without allowing them to drop, you need to keep the pieces being grafted in the same relative position to each other.
In this case, the live stitches weren’t that inclined to drop, because I had ripped from the first row up, not the top down. On the other hand, because the stitches led into cable twists, there was more tension being exerted on those live stitches, making them prone to shrinking into smaller and smaller loops. And while the yarn was smooth enough for grafting, the dark green colour and the twist of the plies, for some reason, made it harder to distinguish between stitches. And even though the piece was relatively small — just a collar, after all — it’s still a bit finicky to hold the pieces in place while grafting a series of knits and purls together.
Solution: grab a pillow.
I ran some thin, slippery waste yarn through the live stitches to keep them from getting lost. Then I pinned the ends in place on a throw pillow, leaving enough of a gap between the rows of pins to allow my finger to run underneath the ends while seaming, in case I needed to guide the needle from the underside.
Then I grafted. Because the wrong side of the collar would always be private (not like the inside of a hood), I could cheat; first, I grafted all the knit stitches together, then I went back and patched up the purl stitches, pulling out the waste yarn.
In some places on the wrong side, there’s a stitch or two-long float where I skipped purl stitches. It’s not a terrific job, but hopefully won’t be too noticeable since the plies in the yarn add a slight bumpiness to the fabric.