Saving the Tricky Bits for Last

Knitting from the bottom-up can be tricky. It gives you the false sense that you know what you are doing.

Beginning a top at the bottom and working your way up to the neckline can be risky business, especially if you are like me and decide to knit bottom-up patterns (like Dolores and Waterlily) that start out all stockinette and roses before turning into some complicated swamp of lace at the top. Knitting round after round of stockinette at the outset leaves one with the false reassurance that everything will be okay–the project will be easy, even. The truth of the matter is you are facing a Real Life challenge not unlike Matt Damon stranded on Mars in The Martian. That is, you are likely screwed and facing Certain Death. Strangulation by yarn. Stroke from stress. Stabbing by needle. Something not at all good.

You just don’t know it yet.Bottom up knitting: saving the tricky bits for last.


Waterlily started out rough for me because I chose to knit it in linen against my better judgement. I quickly discovered I don’t like knitting with linen. But I stuck with it anyway. I am persistent like that. Once I got into the swing of things, the project went swimmingly. A few rounds of (twisted) stockinette here. A few rounds of (twisted) stockinette there. Until: bam! Time to figure out the Latvian Braid and start on the lacy bit.

Now, the Latvian Braid didn’t go as bad as I had feared, which was comforting. Furthermore, while slow at the outset, the lacy bit didn’t go too horribly either.

At first anyway.

Then came that fateful night when I just wanted to be done and move on to other projects, like Rosemont. The end was in sight. I had been staring at Waterlily since last July, and it just seemed to be taking FOREVER. I figured I had a couple more nights of knitting to wrap things up. There I was, happily sitting on the sofa, the house quiet as everyone slept and I caught up on Downton Abbey, knitting the lacy bit for the front and ACTUALLY THINKING that the tricky thing about knitting lace isn’t the right side rows with all the yarn overs and k2togs and such. No, no. The tricky bit is the wrong side. That is when all those yarn overs like to sneak off your needles lickity split the way a teenager sneaks into the freezer for the container of ice cream. Poof! They’re gone.

Just like that.

I must have manifested my own knitting purgatory because just as I was thinking this very thought: POOF! The darn yarn over jumped off my needle like an Olympic pole vaulter and exploded down a few rows. There I was: glancing between Lady Mary and my Exploding Lace Disaster (again! gosh darnit!). I won’t rant further on the matter except to say I considered unraveling. I considered abandoning ship and moving to Tahiti. I considered it all. In the end, I tinked back (for three hours, mind you) and did my best to fix the whole mess without unraveling further. It doesn’t look quite right, but I am hoping it looks passable.

See. Certain Death.Dangers of bottom-up knitting: saving the tricky bits for last can be regretful.That’s not all.

I know you are supposed to read the whole pattern through first before you start, and I do. The thing about saving the tricky bits for last is that the final tidbits of instructions never seem to make sense in the beginning. It’s like those school days past when you’d open up a fresh math text book on the first day and all the chapters in the second half looked like Greek on steroids.They just didn’t make a lot of sense. Sure, the symbols were familiar. You recognized the digits. But it was all new. Uncharted. All you could hope for was that if you took the lessons one by one and paid attention, the jibberish toward the end of the text book would fall into place when you got there.

This is how I feel about these bottom-up tops with the lacy bit saved for the yoke. I read the whole pattern and just hope the instructions at the end will make more (some) sense when I get there.

Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.

Or sometimes, as the case may be, I can’t tell left from right–a problem of mine my entire life. To this day, I hold out my two hands to see which one makes the L when I extend my thumb to indicate the left-ward direction. And I still get it wrong half the time (just ask my poor husband). Or, when I was 16 and took my driver’s test, I actually wrote L and R on my two hands to make sure I didn’t flub the two up.

You would think I would have that figured out by now. But I don’t.

I think this was a contributing factor in the neck line I knitted backwards before realizing it didn’t look quite right, unknitting the neckline (1 hour), and finishing it off properly (another hour).

I understand that top-down knitting has its critics (something about seaming and structure), not that I am among them. I have decided I would rather face the tricky bit first. Get it over with. Abandon ship sooner rather than later, should it be necessary.

This way, in a worst case scenario, I would have avoiding spending six months working on the bottom half before realizing I was too directionally challenged to figure out the tricky neckline finishing. Quit while you’re ahead. That’s my policy, and I am sticking to it.

Joining Ginny’s Yarn Along and reading The Japanese Lover.

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