Want smooth underarms? And no, this isn’t an ad for hair removal. When you make a seamless sweater from the bottom up, with a raglan or circular yoke, you deal with the underam sections in the finishing stage of the sweater.

During the knitting, a few stitches, about 1.5 inches worth (depending on the finished garment size) are set aside from both the sleeve and the body. These stitches are later joined and form a horizontal line at the underarm and help to minimize bulk under the arms and to give you a better fit.

You can bind off these stitches at the body and sleeve, and sew them together later. Or, you can set them aside on holders and join them with a 3 needle bind off. Or finally, you can set them aside and graft them using Kitchener stitch. That’s the method we’re going to look at.

The advantage to grafting the underarm stitches is that you get a smooth join with no bulk. It also feels true to the spirit of the truly seamless sweater. The challenge with the graft is partly the technique itself; not everyone has learned Kitchener stitch, and many of us (me!) can’t remember it. The other problem is that the graft is a little delicate (especially compared to a seam) and tends to have gaps at the beginning and end.

In this tutorial, we’ll go over some tips for dealing with those gaps, as well as Kitchener stitch, step by step.

You will need scissors, matching yarn for grafting, 3 double pointed needles or 2 circular needles in the same or slightly smaller than you used for the body, a blunt yarn needle, and a
Kitchener stitch cheat card (optional).

Step 1:

Arrange the underarm stitches, right side of the work facing you. Move any loose ends out of the way. If you used scrap yarn as your stitch holder, cut it carefully.

 

Step 2:

Transfer the stitches from the sleeve side on to one needle, and the body side on to the other needle.

 

Step 3:

Take a look at the first and last stitch. Carefully trace the path of those stitches and find the neighboring stitch in the sweater. I’ve highlighted those neighbour stitches for you.

 

Step 4:

Pick up the neighbouring stitch…

 

Step 5:

at each end… Do the same for both the body and the sleeve side. You have added 2 stitches to each needle.

 

Step 6:

Before I begin the graft, I like to slip the stitches, one at a time, to a 3rd needle. I do this to check the mount of each stitch (the right “leg” of each stitch should be on the front of the needle) and also to adjust the tension of each stitch. Those underarm stitches, if they have been sitting on a holder for a while, may have become distorted.

 

Step 7:

Line up your needles parallel to each other, with the stitches across from each other. Count the stitches and make sure you have the same number on each needle.

 

You’re ready to graft! Continue to
Part 2

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