Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kitchener Stitch

Kitch-en-er v. To weave two knit pieces together.

You won't find that in a regular dictionary. I just made it up.

For what it's worth and from what I understand, the Kitchener Stitch, used to weave the toe of knitted socks together, was invented (probably unvented) by "distinguished if controversial inventor Horatio Herbert, First Earl Kitchener of Khartoum, a British military hero who developed the stitch for home knitters making socks for soldiers in WWI."* Be that as it may, here we are many years later still trying to get it right.

*From an article by Norma Bogan, circa 1986

I first learned to Kitchener (I use the word as a verb any time I want. So sue me!) when I learned to knit socks by hand. Once I got the knack of it and the rhythm and mantra down pat (knit off, purl on, purl off, knit on) it was no problem. On hand knit socks I was weaving 16 stitches together at the most. That's a far cry from the 54 stitches to be woven together from my lowest number cylinder sock machine sock.

My first sock machine was a 60 cylinder and I watched a Norma Bogan tape showing in real time how she Kitchenered the toe together using the raw stitches fresh from the scrap yarn, zip, zip, zip! You've got to be kidding, I thought. I found many references suggesting many ways to accomplish this feat from ironing the stitches so they set up hard and firm to Norma's way. I chose to pick up the stitches from the waste yarn using knitting needles. Once each half was on a needle, go into my Kitchener rhythm and mantra from handknitting and hope nothing on TV distracted me and close up my 60-stitch toes. Even my 72 stitch toes! I got good at it. TV or conversation no longer distracted me, much.

Then last July, Mary showed me how to Kitchener the toes together still on the waste yarn, without needles and from the purl side. I had seen some hint of this miracle, one that does the same thing from the knit side. I even printed out some pictures. I looked so easy. I could not do it. Well, actually I didn't try. I just looked at the pictures and read the explanations. Why mess up a good thing? I was already closing toes quite nicely using needles, thank you very much. But when Mary said it's really easy from the purl side and I knew it would not mess up my Kitchener rhythm and mantra for handknitting for all time, and Mary was right there, so I thought I'd give it a go.

She was right! It is really easy from the purl side. No more first picking up on needles for me. After a few months of not closing any toes I had a refresher in October. I took pictures of Mary's hands this time. It was that first stitch that threw me.

Still can't Kitchener? I have some great reference material for you! This latest video on YouTube, teaches Kitchenering from the knit side and is very easy to follow.

You can do it!

The Sock Lady