Posted by: jinniver | January 8, 2010

Afterthoughts: A Tutorial

Last night, I stayed up late to finish knitting Misty Seacoast, a jumper for Lexie.

Tonight, I frogged it.  Well, half of it.

The jumper pattern I’m knitting is Missy by Berroco.  It’s a free pattern, and really cute…and seemed to be the perfect way to use up the rest of the Springvale Bulky I had left over from the hooded sweaters I’d knit Jeffrey and Lexie.  I was pretty excited to get it done, and since it’s knit with bulky yarn it was a pretty quick knit.  So it wasn’t long before I had almost the entire skirt knit.

That’s when I realized I had a problem.  I was knitting the size 4, since the next smallest size was 2.  Lexie turned 2 in November, and since the soonest she’d likely wear this is next year, a 2 was going to be too small.  But the skirt I was knitting up was huge.  I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law could have worn it as a miniskirt, and although she’s fairly thin, that’s still a bigger skirt than a 4-year-old needs.  But there wasn’t much of a stitch (and therefore size) difference between size 2 and size 4, so in addition to reducing the stitch count I also went down a needle size.

I was much happier with the skirt I ended up with, size-wise–I stayed with the size 4 length but the skirt didn’t feel nearly as huge.  When I got to the bodice, I opted to reduce to the size 4 stitch count but stayed with the same (smaller) needles.  The bodice went quite quickly, I finished it up last night, and seamed the shoulders this morning to try on Lexie.

It was immediately obvious that I had a problem.  The skirt was big on Lexie, as I would have expected…but the bodice was tight.  Since I hadn’t changed the needle size back to the original size (which I wouldn’t have wanted to do; the weight of the skirt required a thicker bodice fabric to avoid droopage) I really needed to keep more stitches.  What I should have done was measure the bodice around Lexie before splitting out for the armholes, but it was too late for should-have-dones.  Now I was left with a have-to-fix.

I decided to frog down to just before the last buttonhole on the skirt.  It was actually supposed to be on the bottom of the bodice, after the stitch reduction, but I hadn’t read far enough ahead in the pattern to see that.  Not a big deal, but since I was frogging anyway, I might as well fix that.  And I did want the skirt a little shorter.  I’d realized that while Lexie was only a middling good model for a jumper that was supposed to fit a 4-year-old, I did actually have a 4-year-old at hand (even if he’s tall for his age).  Jeffrey was less than thrilled at the idea of wearing his sister’s dress, but the prospect of getting the Wii all to himself won him over.

I used to hate frogging.  I mean, I still hate having to frog, and all of the wasted knitting, but the actual act of frogging really isn’t a big deal, especially with a simple stitch pattern like I had here.  The key to quick and successful frogging?  The afterthought lifeline.

Using an Afterthought Lifeline

This can be done with needle and scrap yarn, but I prefer using the cable of my interchangeable needles, with a needle smaller than the one used to do the knitting.  That way, when I’m done frogging, all I have to do is change out the needle tips and I’m ready to start knitting; I don’t have to then get the stitches back on the needle.  The key is to have a very flexible cable–I love my Knit Picks cables.

The first thing to do is figure out where to insert the needle.  This is the back of my stockinette stitch, stretched out so you can see the stitches better.

Afterthought (1)

In the rows with the alternating bumps, you can see that the top ones loop down and the bottom ones loop up.  The top ones are the top of a stitch.  I’ve outlined the stitches below and drawn some arrows pointing to the top of some of the stitches:

Afterthought (1a)

I insert my needle into that top loop from the bottom up.  If I were to insert the needle the other way (top down), the stitches would end up twisted on the cable.

Afterthought (2)

I can generally collect several stitches on the needle before I have to pull the needle all the way through and put the stitches on the cable.  You can see in the picture below how the stitches lay on the needle so that the front leg is to the right, just as they should be when knitting.

Afterthought (3)

Here you can see stitches on the needle, as well as (if you look closely), stitches behind the needle on the purple cable:

Afterthought (4)

Once all the stitches are on the cable, I’m free to start frogging with abandon.  The nice thing is that I can frog as quickly as I want to without having to worry about accidentally dropping a stitch, since they’re already on a cable.

Afterthought (5)

Frogging done; now all I have to do is change out the needle tips and I’m ready to start knitting!

Afterthought (6)




  1. hmmm…. don’t let the NAVY find out Jeffrey is wearing jumpers! LOL!

    great tutorial –
    I never thought of using cables for a lifeline! BRILLIANT!

  2. stupendous idea! thank you for posting it!!!


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