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.

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply pumpkin sunrise February 24, 2016 at 5:30 am

    who reads a pattern all the way through??? (slinking away in shame). Seriously though, I find I knit and read as I go, frequently the meaty part of the pattern is just easier to knit as I go line by line with yarn in my hands. I adore your knit and your yarn 🙂

    • Reply Andrea @ This Knitted Life February 25, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      Thanks Karen. I agree, sometimes you just have to take the pattern one-liner time and figure it out as you go. But it is risky business.

  • Reply Heather (@TownsendHouse1) February 24, 2016 at 5:58 am

    You are supposed to read the pattern? What?! It looks beautiful! I tend to stick it out with yarn I don’t like too…not sure why. I am already a slow enough knitter, no need to slow it down more with yarn I have trouble with!

    • Reply Andrea @ This Knitted Life February 25, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      There is something to be said for persistent her. I hope it comes out good, and I’m wishing you the best with your knitting this week as well.

  • Reply Sarahd February 24, 2016 at 7:31 am

    I had the saaaame problem with the cardi I just finished!! Those yo’s would just slip away and disappear several rows down and there was nothing for it but undoing! At one point I did rip it back several rows and cried for a moment before gritting my teeth and getting it done. Happened several times and mostly I could tink back a couple rows and fix it. I’m getting better at fixing mistakes which I am becoming convinced is the definition of a skillful knitter.

  • Reply Katie February 24, 2016 at 8:47 am

    I’m so glad to find out I’m not the only adult who still can’t tell left from right half the time. My family has made fun of me for this for years. I just recently discovered your blog and am thoroughly enjoying your knitting adventures. 🙂

    • Reply Andrea @ This Knitted Life February 25, 2016 at 12:27 pm

      Oh honey, you are not alone. I’m so glad you’ve discovered the blog. Come back often and read more.

  • Reply Talya February 24, 2016 at 10:54 am

    I don’t read patterns all the way through. I’ve tried it before, but there’s always something that sneaks up on me, either way. So I’ve stopped reading the pattern all the way through, before I start it. Because either way- I’ll still end up googling a term to figure out how to do it. So why not be surprised? lol

  • Reply carolinehauf February 24, 2016 at 11:58 am

    “holding hand up” guilty over here as well. I’m just so anxious to get stuck in that some of the details get lost. It is a gorgeous colour that you’re using!

  • Reply woolythymess February 24, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    i totally get the love/hate relationship with linen….love to wear it, HATE to knit with it. But…I know it’s going to be worth it in the end. I have a couple bags setting in the stash holding linen yarn for tops I really really want to own and wear, but just dread knitting. grrrrrrrrrr.

    • Reply Andrea @ This Knitted Life February 25, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      I’m eager to block it up later today and see what comes of it. Although I hope it doesn’t wrinkle because I have a personal preference that does not agree with using an iron ever.

  • Reply Stefanie February 24, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    I usually forget to read the pattern all the way through but when I do, sometimes it makes me get more wrinkles and is like alien until I’m actually up to that part.

  • Reply Beth February 24, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    I’ve always had issues with right and left, I’d forgotten the old L trick, I usually look to see which hand my wedding ring is on. Trouble with that is if I forget to put it back on after lotion or some such. Then I just look like the elderly village idiot, pointing one way and saying the other. Linen and lace? Love it, until the inevitable happens and I’m cursing my yarn selection and pattern choice, only to repeat it the next time I visit my LYS….

  • Reply Christine February 24, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    I entirely agree with your statements about knitting with linen. Yes it’s the nicest fabric to wear during summer – if you forget about the ironing issue- so it seemed the right choice for a summer shawl. I knitted half of it and just abandoned the whole project that would clearly end in another knitten “thing” so hideous I would never wear it . And I gave the yarn away to get it definitely ou of sight.

  • Reply Alina February 25, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Ok, you broke my heart! You don’t like knitting with linen?!! Noooo, it’s one of my favorite to work with 🙂 The color is absolutely beautiful! Please, don’t give up on it!

    • Reply Andrea @ This Knitted Life February 25, 2016 at 9:08 am

      Don’t worry, I won’t give up yet. Is it true I just put it in the washer machine to block it?

      • Reply Alina February 26, 2016 at 7:40 am

        I’ve heard it does the magic, though I never dared to put anything handknit in the washing machine. I wash everything by hand with the hair conditioner to soften the fabric.

  • Reply Dartmoor Yarns February 25, 2016 at 9:33 am

    Another one here asking ‘You’re supposed to read the whole pattern first?’ I know that feeling when lace stitches jump off the needle and make a run for it – I could cry. Linen is stronger when wet so a nice aggressive wet blocking should be good for it

    • Reply Andrea @ This Knitted Life February 25, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      I think I’m in a put it in the washing machine today and hope for the best. Wish me luck.

      • Reply Dartmoor Yarns February 26, 2016 at 1:07 am

        To be honest, I’m always for put it in the washing machine if I think I can get away with it. Good luck! Look forward to seeing the result.

  • Reply Caroline March 1, 2016 at 7:43 am

    Oh goodness, I remember doing a crochet shawl that you joined the squares (and half scquares) as you went but because I didn’t read the whole pattern at the beginning I missed that bit! Thankfully I could use the remaining squares to join up those I had already done and didn’t need to rip any back, but it tought me to look for those 4 little words ‘AT THE SAME TIME’.
    I hope you’ve managed to fix the dropped YO, I get so mad when this happens!

  • I would love to hear from you! Please say hello.

    %d bloggers like this: