Grafting Queen

Completing steps 1 and 2 of the Great Vest Alteration was easy, quick, and relatively painless. In contrast, the inevitability of the next steps was simply daunting. The perfectly functional (albeit ill-fitting) vest was now in three pieces and the only way to correct this… shall we say, “small obstacle on the road to actual wearability,” was to proceed to steps 3 and 4: shortening the armholes (from the top: easy) and body of the vest (à la Operation Orange Overload: not easy).

First, there was a lot of avoidance. Of course! I’m not generally a procrastinator, but steps 3 and 4 are exactly the sort of thing you can’t do after a long day at work, or while watching TV, so they had to wait for the “right moment.” Aaand they waited a baby vest and a baby sweater’s worth of time :). Then this weekend I felt a pang of motivation, and followed it through.

The end result: it’s done. The three vest pieces are now each 5.75″ shorter, hem to shoulder, and you can’t tell that anything happened. Whoa.

Some progress pics and descriptions in the extended entry. It was not easy, but it was easier than either re-knitting the whole thing from scratch, or frogging past the armholes and re-knitting from there. Trust me when I say this: cutting a piece of fabric to either shorten or extend is a totally workable solution. Do not discount it. It’s not easy, but it’s easier and faster than the alternatives. I promise. I’m not magic (only persistent and careful), and if I can do it, so can you!


I didn’t document step 3: shortening the armholes. When I took the vest back from my mom, I pinned the shoulders to mark how much I needed to take in; it was about 2″. I then frogged that length, and re-knit the shoulder shaping: just a few row over a very small number of stitches. It was as simple as it sounds.

Shortening the body of the vest was very similar to the way I swapped in a different hem on my Filati tunic sweater, aka Operation Orange Overload.

First, I determined the length of fabric that needed to be removed. Again, this was done while I had my mom actually there, with the vest on: 3.75″ had to go. Second, I decided that the grafting line would be immediately above the ribbing. Definitely a deliberate decision: if my grafting was in any way wonky, either in tension or slant of stitches or what have you, it would be infinitely less obvious at the point where ribbing became stockinette than smack-dab in the middle of a field of perfect stockinette.

Third, I threaded a length of smooth yarn through every stitch of the first row above the ribbing. Then another length of yarn 3.75″ higher. Snip and unravel.

Graft live stitches. Unlike my grafting on the Filati Tunic, I tried to get the correct stitch tension right from the beginning: this Jo Sharp Silkroad Tweed DK does not tolerate too much nudging and pushing and pulling before fraying and becoming unmanageable.

Grafting at the edges was a little bit tricky, for two reasons. First, the portion of stockinette that was removed contained a waist decrease, so I had to add in some decreases during the grafting. Second, there are a few stitches of twisted ribbing along the edges of the vest pieces (purely decorative), and that’s not as straightforward to graft as stockinette. But no worries, it’s not impossible! Just requires a little trial and error to loop the yarns just so.

One way to make this easier is to line up the stitches, and start grafting about 1″ away from the edge, first working in one direction, then in the other. Starting at the very edge of knitting is tricky because it’s hard to see which loops need to be connected first.

Last, yank out the two lengths of yarn, and admire! See these two blue strands of yarn, maybe an eighth of an inch apart? They were precisely 3.75″ inches apart prior to the fix! Not too shabby! I think it will be virtually unnoticeable once it’s blocked.

And now that I’m feeling completely satisfied with myself for accomplishing this in such short order and with minimal cursing, where can I find the motivation for completing steps 5 and 6, reassembling the vest, and re-knitting the button band and armhole bands?

46 thoughts on “Grafting Queen

  1. lauren

    Look at that beautiful grafting! You should definitely be proud of yourself. I think you earned a stiff drink for that effort.

  2. Amy

    Congratulations – it looks beautiful and flawless. Thanks for reminding us that this is a easier way to adjust length. Works great, too, for adding length to arms, etc. for a growing kid. :)

  3. Virginia

    That is pretty amazing. Don’t feel too badly about how long it took you to get to it. Magic takes time. And, as you said, the right moment.

  4. Emily

    The slick efforts of steps 1-4 should be your motivation to finish it off – this is quite the labor of love (especially since I am still scared of grafting). Well done!!

  5. CraftyCripple

    I am so impressed with this technique and will bookmark this entry as inspiration. I have a tunic where the top half doesn’t work at all but the lovely lace skirt does ( it was knit top down). Maybe I don’t have to frog it all!

  6. ponka

    You have every right to be proud! I have a terrible tendency to abandon ill-fitting knits, so thanks for showing us the process – I want to try this now!!

    One question, though – to decrease during grafting, would I need to thread the yarn through TWO stitches on the front needle? I think I can picture the process, but I might doodle around on a grafting swatch before trying it for real.

  7. Mimi

    Wonderful job! It looks completely invisible to me all ready. Thank you for documenting it so thoroughly. It’s very inspirational.

  8. Maureen

    Hi, Kathy –

    I’ve been away and missed your posts on the baby sweaters – they’re beautiful…and what colors! Lucky babies!

    You did a fabulous job on “altering” the vest – and are far more courageous than I! I would rather make something from scratch than alter anything…sewing included! You are a very creative problem solver and have given me a different way to look at this problem. You are forever “the teacher” – thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Mary K. in Rockport

    It looks great, and you know I admire your precision and persistence, but – wouldn’t it have been easier to knit the ribbing downward? I’m guessing there is a technical reason why not that you didn’t disclose.

  10. Samina

    Thanks for the excellent walk-through. Your project seems like a daunting task until I see you break it down into manageable steps. As you said, still a lot of work, but less than reknitting the entire vest. It looks fantastic!

  11. June

    Great tutorial – esp the tip about NOT starting grafting at the very edge. I too have encountered the WTF moment when I suddenly see that I was off by 1 while grafting. The join looks flawless!

  12. Amy M

    Looks great!

    I have a top down cotton top that I designed as I went. I love it from the empire waist to the hem, but the bodice is ill-fitting. You’ve reminded me that I can reknit the bodice and then graft it to the already knit waist. Hurrah!

  13. Maryanne

    This looks awesome.

    If I’m doing sock toes, I start grafting at the edge because I want to use the yarn that’s attached instead of having extra ends to tuck in. But then I wind up with wonky stitches at the ends. I think you’ve convinced me it’s worth the extra ends to be able to graft in both directions.

  14. Laura B.

    I’ve done this before, it is a handy skill to have! Everyone should knit a swatch and try this, because practicing on something you aren’t going to wear is a good idea.

  15. sallya

    I am blown away. Totally. I think you are a miracle maker. I could never have done this in a million years. Congratulations. Awesome job.

  16. martha marques

    I’m so glad that you posted this. What’s the point of being that clever and accomplished if you’re all alone in your house? The world needs to know and admire. Woop! Woop!

  17. rachelerin

    This is motivating me to get out a UFO with too deep armholes. It now sounds super simple as I only need to do 1 and 2 of your six step process.

  18. Seanna Lea

    Terrific job. I know it isn’t over yet, but you deserve a pat on the back even if the job was more meticulous and tedious rather than super difficult.

  19. Shelda

    That’s lovely! And as usual, a wonderful photo essay on how you managed it. That was particularly astute placement, with the row right above the ribbing.

    It’s always fun to follow your adventures!

  20. Karen

    Wow! That’s perfect. You did an amazing job. I’m a little giddy with knitting today too–I just published my first design.

  21. Judi

    I am soooo impressed! Very nice job. I have been doing some procrastinating of my own, now I have no excuses.

  22. marilyn

    You are amazing! Thanks so much for that lesson. Perhaps one day I’ll be brave enough to try it. You really are an awesome knitter. And blogger! Thanks for sharing both!

  23. van

    It looks perfect! I had an opposite problem with one of my daughter’s sweaters. She grew taller too quickly and it was one of her favorite sweater. So I snipped and knitted a more few inches, then grafted it back. She could wear it for another year or so. It was much less work than what you’re doing for your Mom’s sweater because it was just the length.

  24. Jessica

    Wow, this is great. I imagine your mom will think to herself that she did something right, when she gets that vest back. :)

    I wonder if it’s easier to graft from two needles (what I’ve always done), or from waste yarn? Your method looks far easier to me.. no stitches would slip off in an unplanned way. I love the magic moment when you zip that blue yarn out! Hoorah!

  25. Geri

    Thanks for the info. I’m about to cut a Dale of Norway sweater just below the chest pattern to add another ball of yarn’s worth of length. Fortunately, it is medium grey sport weight wool so I don’t think the graft will show that much, expecially right below the chest pattern.

  26. Sharon

    Any tips on threading the waste yarn consistently along the same row? When I do an afterthought lifeline, it invariably wobbles over several rows.

  27. =Tamar

    Remember, the button band(s) will also be 3 and a bit shorter, so less to knit.

    Good tip about starting an inch in and grafting both ways. Thanks.

  28. Pat

    Congrats! Thank you for sharing. Your persistence is encouraging. There are things that I can push on through (knitting and beyond!)

  29. emy

    The lifeline thing is a good idea.

    I usually snip to release the first stitch then unravel a few stitches at a time on both pieces, and sewing them as I move along.

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