On Frogging

Plum Heather Wool of the Andes after frogging.

When I first starting knitting, I scoffed at frogging. I’m a huge believer in the 80/20 rule, which means that I tend to look for the 20% of the work I can do that will produce the 80% of the desired result. My mother would call this lazy, my husband would obsess over the 20% that isn’t perfect, but my mother-in-law and I agree that life is less stressful when you’re satisfied with “good enough.” In knitting, this translates to forgiving myself for the mistakes and assuming the non-knitters I give things to won’t be able to see the problem anyway, so why waste twelve hours of work undoing something?

Frogging is a bit silly. Except when it isn’t.

Plum Heather Wool of the Andes after frogging.
Time to knit a Seeded Cables Cardigan: 6 months. Time to frog the same: 1 hour.

In the last few months, I feel like I’ve been a frogging machine. And I’ve come to realize that, had I accepted sooner that frogging isn’t just for folks with OCD, I could have saved myself a fair amount of time and energy. What have I frogged?

  • An entire sweater that didn’t fit right.
  • A fifth of a sweater that was knit incorrectly and by a different knitter.
  • The first few rows of a sweater I messed up the shaping instructions on.
  • The setup on a shawl design that wasn’t coming out as I hoped.

All of this has me thinking of general questions to ask myself while I’m working on projects in order to catch the need to frog as early as humanly possible.

  • Is the yarn working with the pattern stitch? (Esp. with cables or lace or unique color runs)
  • Can I actually take over someone else’s project or are our gauges too different?
  • Will it fit properly by the time I finish?

The full sweater that I frogged was really the worst of it. I knew from the first few inches that the yarn and the pattern were not soulmates, but hope kept me moving forward when I should have cut and run. I spent MONTHS on a sweater that ended up sitting in my closet unworn for the better part of two years before I finally decided that it was a crime to let good yarn go unworn just because I couldn’t stand to undo all that work on those finicky freakin’ cables.

How about you, dear readers? When do you make the heart breaking decision to rip out your work?


The First Real Rip

I don’t know what it is with me and socks, but man! I am not having an easy time with the sizing this year. I made my husband a pair of super-soft alpaca socks for Christmas, and given the fact that I had ten thousand other things to make, I decided to go with a crazy simple stockinette sock.

I was following a pattern for the heel and the toe, since I still haven’t quite mastered the geometry of (a) how far across you work for the first and second rows of the heel turn and (b) when to start decreasing for the toe relative to your gauge.

Apparently the designer who worked up this pattern was still struggling with that herself, because even though I measured my gauge perfectly and the size she indicated for the pattern would have fit my husband, the first sock came out about 4cm short in the toe.


Trying not to despair that I hadn’t measured it before grafting the toe and weaving in the ends, I made the other sock and used the length of the decrease from the first sock to figure out when I should start decreasing. You can see in the top sock what I was aiming for.

Alpaca yarn is not cheap, and this was a no-dye-lot handspun from a local craft fair, so buying more and making extra socks to match these two was not an option. (Believe me, I considered it.) So I had to do something that I do not do: rip back.

Never before have I trusted myself to set the needles up at an earlier point in the work. Never. I have tinked a fair bit, to be sure, but if I’m more than two rows beyond the mistake, I generally hold with the Amish philosophy of, “Well, there’s the evidence that no human can create perfect work.”

Long story short: I’m going to have to do a photo tutorial on ripping back, because once you do it the first time and realize it’s not that scary, it’s incredibly liberating. Sock number one will no longer cramp my husband’s style, and I…I can rip back.

I’m Not a Hooker

Not anymore, anyway, unless under extreme duress. Sometimes you just need a bit of edging and I must acknowledge that for edging, crochet is often the easier tool. Since I began knitting, the only crochet project I have worked on was the afghan I was already working on when I learned to knit.

The reason for this is that I have a chronic inability to count stitches in crochet. Once I lose track, I’m done for. Finished…at least when I’m working flat. Working in the round has always been easier for me, which is perhaps odd, but hats always seemed to work out better than afghans.

Afghan number one was a very simple zig-zag pattern. Not much to mess up, right? Except that I consistently managed to drop a stitch on one side of the afghan, so it has a strange tail. That project is where I set the precedent that I don’t rip back…even if it means I have a mutant on my hands.

Afghan number two was actually quite a pretty lace number, but my (unswatched) gauge was very loose, which meant that (a) it turned out to be ENORMOUS, (b) the lace was too open to make it useful for keeping a person warm, and (c) it’s disconcertingly fragile for a blanket made of a tough acrylic yarn. It’s also the only one currently not in storage or in someone else’s house, so you can see just how unintentionally open it is…

Afghan number three almost started a war between my aunt and mother (not really) because I made it for the fun of it and gave it to my aunt on a whim, since she had admired it. That led me to make afghan number five–same pattern, Mom’s yarn choices. It was a pleasant, easy lattice pattern, but I began with an absurdly large number of stitches, which led to a need for extra length to make the thing proportionate…which took years. Five, to be approximate.

Afghan number four is where my love of crochet really died. I had a combination of not particularly attractive grays and greens that I was working in strips that would need to be sewn together. My gauge was all over the place, but I didn’t check the strips against one another until I had worked all eight of them…. Goodwill got eight extremely ugly scarves for Christmas that year and I packed away my hooks in disgust (until Mom bought the yarn for afghan number five, anyway).

So when I saw an adorable giraffe that I just HAD to make for my sister Joy, you can imagine that I might have felt an inkling of dismay when I realized it was CROCHET. Shudder. Still, it’s impossible to not fall in love with Gigi Giraffe. She’s just SO CUTE! It took me half an hour of digging to find one of my crochet hooks, but I unearthed the rusting (okay, not literally) tool and braved the excavation of my dusty crochet knowledge.

Keep tuned for part two, in which I reveal whether my hapless hooking creating an adorable fuzzy thing or a horrible monstrosity…