Grafting in knitting, and other places, is the simple process of joining two pieces of knitting together. You can graft the toe of a sock closed. Or graft a provisional cast of of a piece of lace to the end. It can be absurdly easy, or require careful thought, but I always feel a little sad when knitters talk about grafting as if it were, well, hard graft.
Generally, instructions for kitchener stitch (a type of graft most commonly used to close toes) ask you to cut the end of your yarn and use a darning needle to weave the remaining live stitches to give an invisible, seam free join. What’s actually happening is you’re using the needle to insert a row of stockinet stitching between the live stitches. It’s genius, really!
Of course, there are a lot of different ways to actually execute this manoeuvre, depending on the stitch pattern you’re trying to graft, individual preference, or whether or not you remembered to pack a darning needle in your checked luggage. Techknitter, always wonderful and inventive, has done a whole series of options so you can have your pick.
Here she explains how to do “vanilla” kitchener with her usual clear diagrams, and handy flow charts, for both stockinet and garter stitch.
Here she gives some tips for shaping as you graft, to avoid getting pointy corners on your otherwise shapely sock.
Here’s the method that is useful when you find yourself sitting in a hotel room in Prague with no darning needle.
And finally, here’s a particularly interesting take. Sometimes juggling all the steps makes it hard to keep track. With this method, an extra step, with contrasting coloured yarn, is added to guide the graft. Since the whole idea of kitchener is to mimic the stitches already on the needle, you can do an extra row in your contrasting colour and then with your working yarn, just follow the path of the coloured yarn to graft your toe closed. Seriously, follow the link, it has pictures and explains it so much better than I can.
While I was searching for those posts, I found this awesome pinterest board, full of instructions and examples of grafting. Time to go see if I can learn something new!