These words jump up at you from the page, and if you’re like me, they can make your stomach sink almost instantly. If you’re a newer knitter you may be aghast–how can you perform two knitting actions simultaneously?! If you’re a more experienced knitter, it more likely that you’ve confidently forged ahead with one side of your shaping and completely skipped over the other shaping you were supposed to be doing, that’s right, AT THE SAME TIME.
Why are these words usually capitalized? It is so they jump off the page, hopefully flagging down the eager or careless knitter who might skim right by without noticing. This instruction is just one of the many reasons you should make a habit of reading a pattern, or at least a pattern section, before getting started. You can identify all sorts of things: techniques you might be unfamiliar with, supplies or notions you might need to have handy, areas you might need to modify and in this case, concurrent shaping directions that you need to be aware of. Norah and I would like to show you when this direction comes into play, as well as our tips for keeping track of it all.
I’ll use this week’s free pattern, Botany, as an example. AT THE SAME TIME crops on in the directions for the back, when you’re shaping the shoulder and the neck:
Shape Neck and Shoulders: Next Row (RS): Bind off 1(3-3-3-5-6) sts, k until there are 7(7-9-11-11-13) sts on RH needle, join another hank of yarn and bind off center 36 sts, k to end. Working both sides at once with separate hanks of yarn, bind off 1(3-3-3-5-6) sts at beg of the next row, then 2(2-3-4-4-5) sts at beg of the next 4 rows. AT THE SAME TIME, bind off 2 sts at each neck edge once, then dec 1 st at each neck edge every RS row once.
I like to make a list, or in this case a table (I have terrible handwriting and it wouldn’t help to show you my list):
I read through the pattern directions and list what needs to happen on each row for my size (first, I noted that I’ll need to bind off 3 stitches once, then at the beginning of the next 4 rows, a total of 5 times). I’ll also need to bind off 2 stitches at the neck edge, on the left neck edge on the RS rows and the right neck edge on the WS rows). After I’ve completed these rows, I need to decrease once at each neck edge but only on the right side rows, which is reflected in my list. I just cross off everything after I’ve done it and before I know it, I’m done! Easy.
I like to make a diagrammatic representation of AT THE SAME TIME. I make a quick sketch of the piece I’m working on, especially when 2 or 3 things are happening at once – like armhole, neck and shoulder shaping. This way, I don’t have to keep searching in the written instructions for the the armhole shaping or the neck shaping, which I might easily get confused if I wasn’t reading carefully. I can glance at down at my sketch and know what’s next.
Anais, the pullover sketched above, has armhole and front neck shaping happening at the same time and then shoulder shaping pops in at the top, when you may or may not have the neck shaping completed. I very roughly drew an armhole, neck and shoulder, and then wrote in the shaping, using my own short hand. On the armhole, 5 means Bind off 5 stitches, and -1 x 8 means I make the one stitch decrease 8 times (the every RS row is implied because that’s normal). We all have our own quirks, so you use a notation you understand.
I think of the edges of my piece separately while I am knitting and take each edge as it comes. So, on the pullover above the first thing that happens on a RS row is the armhole. I look at the diagram, do what it says at the armhole. Then I work to the neck and do a neck decrease on one side, then the other side, then finish the row. The neck shaping and armhole shaping are symmetrical so I didn’t bother to draw out the second side of the neck or the second armhole. You could cross out or check off each bind off or dec as you do it so you’ll know what you’ve done already and know where you are. I never seem to have a pencil handy, or I am too lazy to get up so I always look at my work to see how many decreases or bind offs are already completed to determine where I am in the shaping. Sure, sometimes I need to look back at the written pattern to see just how I was supposed to work that decrease , but my diagram speeds things along and helps me keep my head straight. –NG
I hope these methods will help you in developing your own note-taking habits. A little bit of paper, a pencil and some planning can prevent a LOT of ripping.