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.

Norah’s notes:

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.



25 thoughts on “AT THE SAME TIME

  1. thank you, ladies! i was at a knitting group on saturday and one of the women had this amazing little peg board from susan bates, of all companies, that let you keep track of not only what row you’re on but how many decrease rows you’ve already done, etc. there were probably four different peg sections. i thought it was brilliant for helping keep track of AT THE SAME TIMEs and am going to go google it now!

    1. Marri,

      I am so interested in this! I have not been able to find it, have you? Please let me know if you find this tool!

      Thank you soooo much!,

    2. My mom gave me one of those pegboards for a gift one year – it’s been a lifesaver, especially for lace projects!! I don’t know why I never considered making a diagram…it makes so much sense…I think I’m going to start doing that too.

    3. I don’t usually have a problem with doing several knitting instructions at the dame time but never thought of the list/diagram thingy to keep track of them. Great idea! Thanks for the suggestion.


    4. that is a really nifty little tool, but I’ve never felt the need for anything like that. I simply read through things a couple of times. Somehow, I get a mental image of how it all works, and then I can just go ahead and knit. Of course, I don’t do this while watching “Lost” or anything else that requires really close attention – I save it for the commercials – but it works for me.

      Of course, since I’m teaching my sister to knit, this article, and maybe even the peg board might be useful. After all, she can’t seem to get the shaping right on a crocheted hat without my input. What if I’m not around? She’ll need tools.

    5. please let us know, (to all the ones who are interested in this tool) if you already found it. I think it will make my knitting more easy. Thank you so much.

  2. I agree! It’s the best little tool out there! Keeps your pattern going in the midst of life’s constant distractions!

  3. Though I am an experienced knitter, I found these to be very helpful suggestions. One thing–Cirilia, check your counts. I think you missed one BO3 on the wrong side. See how easy it is to miss a step!

  4. Thank you for your suggestions to make this easier! I gave up knitting a sweater for my granddaughter because I tried three times the “at the same time” instructions and just could not get it right. Now I feel like I have the tools to try again.

  5. I have been working on a top(I won’t say how long) and now I understand what they are trying to get me to do. They don’t call it “AT THE SAME TIME” but that is what I am doing. So now I’ll go make myself a mini chart and then I can see what I am suppose to be doing. Thanks!!

    1. I’ve had my Susan Bates peg counter for at least 25 years. It is a wonderful thing but I’m not sure they still make them.

    2. I have used a peg board for years. It is easy to find one. Most stores that carry yarns have them. They are plastic and they come with several pets to keep track of rows decrease sand what not. I can`t get along with our mine.

  6. To marri. Lauri, and any others interested in the Susan Bates “Peg-it” Knitting Counter: I agree this is a great tool; in fact I have four that I use all the time! Unfortunately I don’t think they are being made any more as I found my last ones on clearance but, I keep looking and hoping. I think you could very easily make a similar one with a piece of foam core and a little ingenuity. If you would like more info, just e-mail me.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am making my first top down sweater and came to the directions AT THE SAME TIME had to put it down for a minute. Received the email from Berroco and there was your article concerning my problem. Charting out the increases worked wonders for me. Thank you again.

  8. You always come up with such helpful suggestions. But I am also commenting here about your new afghans book. I already have so many patterns/books I almost was going to breeze by it. I am so glad I didn’t! Such original patterns, color choices, ideas. I am so excited to get this book and get busy making more afghans. By far my favorite is Marrakesh….absolutely gorgeous. So many of these are works of art! Great job ONCE AGAIN ladies!!

  9. I wasn’t sure where to submit this comment but WOW. The Comfort Afghan book looks fabulous. I can’t wait to get a copy. Again, WOW.

  10. When I see “at the same time” I get out a piece of lined paper and then map out what has to be done on every row. It takes time but it’s well worth it in the end, esp on a project where there are decreases at either end on some rows plus you’re cabling in there and who knows what else. Plus, I’m more verbal than visual so I like seeing the instructions right in front of me.

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