Grafting: A Tale of Toes and Trees and Gentiles

sock toe prior to grafting, courtesy Silver's Sock Class

sock toe prior to grafting, courtesy Silver’s Sock Class

the process of grafting the toe of a sock, courtesy FaveCrafts.com

the process of grafting the toe of a sock, courtesy FaveCrafts.com

I came across the first article in a series of articles on grafting. Grafting in knitting is the process whereby the knitter uses a tapestry needle to create new knit stitches to “graft” together two live ends. For example, when knitting top-down socks, you start with the cuff and end with the toe, but you have two “live” edges (see picture left)–that is, two edges of free stitches that will unravel unless stabilized. You can either bind off those edges, in which case you will have a huge hole in the toe of your sock, or you can graft those edges together. The process of grafting traditionally utilizes a kitchener stitch placed via a tapestry needle through the loops on back and front edges of free stitches. In other words, you basically take a huge, blunt needle (“tapestry” needle) and sew the ends together (see picture at right) with the remaining yarn you used to knit the rest of the sock. If it is done correctly, you sometimes can’t even distinguish the stitches made with the tapestry needle from the stitches made with the knitting needles.

Outside of knitting, the term “grafting” generally just means to insert or fix or join one thing to something else, such as a tissue (e.g. hair or skin) transplant. I’m told that one problem with learning Japanese from English is that the grammatical structures of the two languages are so different that you can’t simply “graft” English onto Japanese. For example, the Japanese language uses tiny words called “particles” which identify what you’re talking about, as in: “わたしわ日本語がはなせません。” (“Watashi-wa Nihongo-ga hanasemasen.”) In this case, the literal translation is “I [subject particle] Japanese language [direct object particle] am not able to speak.” But the particles have such different roles in Japanese than they do in English that simply calling the first (わ) the subject particle and the second (が) the direct object particle doesn’t really fully encompass their roles. You basically would be better off starting from scratch, learning what each particle means without trying to find a translation for it in English.

a grafted tree branch, courtesy Now Arise Ministries

a grafted tree branch, courtesy Now Arise Ministries

One of the most common uses of the word “graft” is for the grafting of a tree branch onto an unrelated tree (see picture at left). Derek and I recently went for a long walk around two adjoining parks, one of which had historic pecan trees, a few of the remains from a pecan grove created by a pioneer in the late 1800s. This particular man grafted the branches of a different species of pecan trees that produce sweeter pecans onto the native pecan trees he found in the area. Thereby, the local pecan trees produced the sweeter pecans found on the different species of pecan tree. Grafting involves cutting into the new, “recipient” tree and placing the cut end of another tree’s branch into the cut area of the recipient tree, then wrapping it securely so that it stays put. Over time, the recipient tree and the new branch will grow into each other, and the new branch will receive nourishment from the recipient tree and produce fruit of its own kind.

In Romans 11, the Apostle Paul uses this example to explain a theological concept. He explains in chapter 10 that the Messiah came first to the Jews, but they rejected Him.

But to Israel He saith , All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. (Romans 10:21)

So now He has offered His hand to the Gentiles. Using the image of grafting, Paul (a Jew) explains that the original branches–the Jews–were cast off because of their unbelief and the new branches–the Gentiles–grafted onto the root (i.e., God) because of their faith. But he warns the Gentiles not to boast of their status, reminding them that the branches do not bear the root, but the root bears the branches, and that if God cast away the original branches, He can certainly cast away the grafted branches. He concludes with hope: if the Jews will restore their belief, God will graft them back in.

To what are you grafted?

じゃあまたね !

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