Not Martha

I’m knitting a sweater: a stupid noob mistake and a grandiose demand

the sweater: Ribby Cardi by Bonne Marie Burns
the yarn: Cotton-Ease in charcoal

Somewhere between the last sweater update and this one I’ve managed to finish both halves of the front, start a sleeve, and discover I’ve made a devastating stupid noob mistake. The mistake caused me to create extra wide ribs along the center front of the cardigan. Here you can see the top of the right front panel with the sleeve and neck shaping. That rib on the right edge (where the zipper will go) is supposed to be only four stitches wide:

The mistake came from knitting while sipping wine and watching Dr. Who in the evenings, this combination obviously does not serve me well. With some help from far more experienced friends I figured out that I was reading the pattern incorrectly.

This is something like the line in the pattern:

Row 1: P2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8), [K3, P1] 5 (5, 5, 6, 6, 7)
times; [K2, P2] 5 (5, 5, 7, 7, 9) times; K2.

For the size I’m making I was reading the beginning to myself as “purl 2 four times”. I thought this was a complicated way of saying “purl 8″, but what do I know? I figured it was the standard way of communicating directions for different sizes. With that decided in my head I forged on, all the way through both front pieces before I discovered that mine was the only Ribby Cardi in the whole wide world with larger ribs at the center front. In fact I didn’t really suspect anything was wrong until I was getting ready to cast on for the first sleeve and my brain was getting bruised trying to figure out this line – P0 (0, 0, 0, 1, 1), which of course I was reading as “purl zero: zero, zero, zero, one, one, times.” But, my head screamed, zero multiplied by one is zero! The whole thing doesn’t make sense!

Yeah, duh.

To recap. I was reading this:

P2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8)

As though it were written like this:

[P2] 2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8) times

I was probably further confused because cast on directions are written ever so slightly differently in the same format. Here is my confusing-making line and the same line written as though it were a cast-on line in the same pattern:

P2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8)

CO 2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8) stitches

For whatever reason that cast on line doesn’t confuse my poor little head.

And here is where we get to the grandiose demand. This little incident has made me feel quite sheepish and instead of laying that blame squarely on myself where it belongs, I hereby demand that we change all knitting pattern writing standards immediately and forever so that this:

P2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8)

Will instead be printed out as this:

P 2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8)

This slight change will save me from any further embarrassment. One teensy extra space makes so much more sense to me, and therefore to the rest of the whole world, and is therefore Law.

Calming down a little from my white hot desire to be the ruler of the universe I find that Knitty publishes such lines as P2[4, 4, 6, 6, 8] and peeking inside of Stitch ‘N Bitch I find it would be written p 2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8). So, it might just be the way it’s written in this pattern that so managed to confuse me. And I would like to emphasize that, it wasn’t the fault of the pattern, it wasn’t the fault of the pattern writer, it was me. Me being a noob knitting her first sweater and being confused by all the parentheses, brackets and commas. Are there standardized pattern guidelines somewhere? Anyone know? In any case, it was the type of lesson that will render all further pattern reading crystal clear to me and I’m not unhappy I went through it. Learning things the hard way: the only way I know how.

There is no chance I’m going to rip out both center front pieces and start over. I think they’ll look fine. If they don’t, just don’t say anything about it.

Notes to (mostly) self:

– For all the parts around the neckline I’ve bound off using #8 needles, normal bind off. Would a tubular bind off be better, even though I’m going to be picking up stitches and knitting a collar?

– I had detailed notes about the 2×2 tubular cast on for the left and right front pieces which in light of the big, silly mistake above they are rendered moot. But for the record, for both sides I cast on the number of stitches and did p2, k2 to the end then p1, k1, and then started with directions for Row 1. I did the same cast on for the sleeves, again ending with a p1, k1.

– Further considering the big, silly mistake above: how in the world did I get the correct amount of ribbing and the correct number of stitches and still end up with one extra wide panel??

– I determined that what I would be doing most while wearing this sweater was sitting down – to eat, to sip coffee, to relax on a ferry. So I made the body as long as a sweater I own now. I did 103 rows before I started the armhole shaping and followed that for both front sides. I also decided to add two inches to the sleeves. While the prescribed way of adding sleeve length is at the part in the pattern that says something like “work until the sleeve measures so long” I want the length to be at my hands and I don’t want the increases to start too early, so I added two inches, 13 rows, before I started the increase rows.

– For the increases in the arms I’m doing make one left and right slant on the appropriate sides for knit ribs, and a simple bar increase for the purl ribs. I’m at the point in the knitting of a sweater where if I flub an increase I just keep going. If it were earlier on I would probably rip back, but now, eh. Besides which, I’m thinking ahead to a version knit in as many solid pieces as possible and I’ll save my perfection energy for that one.

– I’ve been leaving very long tails at the beginning and end of each piece, this gives me reassurance that if I need to rip out at least I won’t be running out of yarn.

– So far the back took two balls, and both the front pieces took one ball. In all three cases I have a small yarn balls worth of yarn left. At some point in the past I worried I hadn’t bought enough yarn so I have a total of ten balls of the Cotton-Ease. If the sleeves take four balls total, I might have gotten away with eight balls but I’m glad I bought more.

– I’m planning on doing a mock-length collar. I’m hoping the zipper will help it stand up.

– Hey, I might have this sweater ready to wear by October!

– Links to keep: Chic Knit’s page on inserting a zipper, and page of Ribby Cardi notes.

Previous sweater entries: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth.

· comments [35] · 08-21-2007 · categories:knitting ·

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Alyson // Aug 21, 2007 at 7:36 am

    OK, I am going to ask again…….what is it about knitting and Doctor Who? I know about the famed Tom Baker Scarf, but hey, that was over 20 years ago. I don’t know how many knitting blogs I have read where the blogger confesses to reading while watching Doctor Who. I do it all the time (watch DW and knit, that is), I get some of my most productive knitting done then. But obviously, I am not alone. What is is with us?

  • 2 megan // Aug 21, 2007 at 7:49 am

    I have no idea. Though, I am surprised there has not been a new popularity in the Dr. Who scarf pattern.

  • 3 Laura // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:08 am

    Good call on making the sweater longer than the pattern says – my ribby cardi is too short for my taste and I would wear it more if it was longer. I think the best method is to find a sweater or shirt that is the ideal length and make the ribby cardi to match. It’s a great sweater though, and who knows, maybe once it’s all put together your extra-wide ribs will look like they’re meant to be that way!

  • 4 rebecca // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:19 am

    hi – don’t know how far you’ve gotten on the sleeve but you might want to consider knitting both sleeves at once… cast on for one sleeve w/ one ball of yarn and then cast onto the same needle for the other sleeve w/ a second ball of yarn… that way both sleeves will be *exactly* the same length… I think your wide ribs will be fine – that will make the sweater uniquely yours.

  • 5 megan // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:26 am

    Rebeca – I considered it. However, the constant untwisting of the two strands of yarn was too horrible to bear. I count my rows very carefully so I will make both sleeve the same number of rows. I figure I knit pretty consistently and the sleeves will stretch lengthwise and they will be the same, enough to make me happy.

    Thanks for the tip!

  • 6 Emily // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:37 am

    I think you should do the sleeves in the wider rib pattern too. I made my Ribbi Cardi with the rib sleeves per the pattern and they are too ribbi. I think a wider flatter rib would be great for the sleeves. I’m very jealous that you made your sweater longer because I didn’t and don’t wear it ever. I never even put the zipper in because I’m so disappointed with the length. Maybe some day I’ll attack it again and see if I can make something usable out of it. Oh and I laughed out loud at your pattern reading problems. Laughed with you not at you of course. :)

  • 7 sarah // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Just so you don’t feel alone: I would have been confused by this also (I’ve been knitting for 3 years but still consider myself somewhat of a beginner). “P2″ without any space between makes it seem like the purl and the “2” can’t be separated. I think your suggested standard is clearer, or the Knitty way with no spaces.

    I think your sweater will look great anyway. Just pass it off as a unique design feature! :)

  • 8 Kimberly // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:53 am

    I was great at math. I do web programming at my job. But looking at the knitting notations in this post scared the bejeezus out of me. Even the beginning knitting books at the craft stores leave me stammering.

    Cheers to you knitters. You all do fabulous things, even if you P2 instead of P 2 or whatever. :)

  • 9 kahreen // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:56 am

    i’m a complete rookie at reading knitting patterns- what exactly did p2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8) actually mean then?– to pearl 2 (OR 4 or 6 or 8) depending on the size? i thought i was following you until you said that you were reading it “As though it were written like this:
    [P2] 2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8) times

    wouldn’t that mean to pearl 4 (OR 8 or 12 or 16)? now i’m confused…

  • 10 Lisa // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:56 am

    The Doctor Who scarf is not enjoying a surge of popularity because it is the World’s Most Boring Project. 50,000++ garter stitches in ugly 80s colors. How do I know this? Because I knitted one this year. Wine does not help.

    About the 0 (2, 2, etc) pattern format: every time I have a pattern that’s written that way, I have to photocopy it and highlight “my” numbers. If I try to read it on the fly it always ends in woolly tragedy.

    But then, I’m the sort of knitter who agrees to make a Doctor Who scarf. Not the sharpest DPN in the set, eh?

  • 11 Caren // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:58 am

    I can completely relate to your mistake, I have had quite a time learning the new language of knitese.

  • 12 megan // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:59 am

    Kimberly – You mentioned web programming which reminded me, when I was attempting to explain to Scott where I really became confused — the “P0 (0, 0, 0, 1, 1)” line — he suggested that perhaps the pattern was written in binary.

    The more I look at it the more the knitting pattern looks like PHP code to me. (For the record I do not know PHP, but I use it in my site template so whenever I edit something it’s a lot of try and see.)

  • 13 megan // Aug 21, 2007 at 9:09 am

    kahreen – You’ve almost got it.


    P2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8)


    Purl two, or four, or six, or eight, stitches (depending on which size you’re making).


    [P2] 2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8) times

    Is completely made up, bad knitting pattern instruction. But, if it were real it would be read as:

    Purl 2, two, or four, or six, or eight
    times. (Aka, purl four or eight or twelve or sixteen stitches.)

    However, that second example would never be found in a pattern, I just put it up there to try to explain how my brain was reading “P2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8)” incorrectly.

    The square brackets [] are used when there is a set of stitches that will be repeated a certain number of times. So if a pattern ever wanted you to repeat a p2 a few times (which it wouldn’t) it would be written like the second example.

    Does that help to make sense? I’m sorry I confused you with the fake knitting code I put in this entry!

  • 14 megan // Aug 21, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Emily – It’s too late for this one, but I’ll consider 3×1 ribs on the sleeves it for the next version I make, thanks.

  • 15 StowmarKate // Aug 21, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    bah – I wish I’d read this before watching Dr. Who reruns tonight – I created some…er…character in the blanket I’m knitting. Oh well, it will forever remind me of David Tennant. Can’t be all bad.

  • 16 Valerie // Aug 21, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Aah, do be careful when adding length…gravity does a number on heavy sweaters. I thought the stitch number confusion was funny. When I first learned to knit, the pattern told me that each number in the brackets corresponded to what size I was making. They ought to explain that in every pattern.

  • 17 MadCarlotta // Aug 21, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Hrm, if it were still on the needles, I’d tell you to drop the offending stitch(s?) and work it back up the right way with a crochet hook.

    You probably don’t want to go to all that trouble at this point though :)

    I wouldn’t worry about it – it looks fine, you did it on both sides, and it couldn’t have happened in a better area of the sweater.

  • 18 megan // Aug 21, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    MadCarlotta – You know, it wouldn’t be a whole lot of work for me to do that. I might fix the pieces yet, thanks for the suggestion!

  • 19 Courtney // Aug 21, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    All I really want to know is what do you think of David Tennant as DW? Are you still upset that Chris Eccleston is gone?

    I got over it pretty darn quickly=P

  • 20 megan // Aug 21, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Courtney – I think David Tennant is a better Doctor Who all around, but I still like Christopher Eccleston as an actor better. I liked that Eccleston was able to make me feel creeped out — like when he called Rose a stupid monkey, or how well he was able to pull off that “Do you want to come with me? Cause if you do then I should warn you.” promo speech. That quality, to turn from menacing to excited and curious, for whatever reason, is appealing to me. Though, Tennant has far better chemistry with by Billie Piper, which helps a lot.

  • 21 Alyson // Aug 21, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Loved Eccleston, I want to marry DT (but my husband has some silly objection). As a result of the new Doctor Who, I have gotten completely hooked on BBC America and British Films from Netflix (although most of Tennant’s stuff isn’t available). I saw Eccleston’s Shallow Grave, usually don’t like creepy stories, but it was great (creepy and funny). Second Coming, also starring Eccleston is brilliant – hugely funny one minute and then heartbreakingly sad the next. And Craig Ferguson movies! Oh my gosh! Saving Grace and I’ll Be There are a hoot. Somebody else watch I’ll Be There for me and tell me if Ferguson is channeling Richie Sambora or Joe Perry in the film.

    I can watch Dr. Who, two weeks before it shows in SciFi, but watching it on CBC on Monday nights. I have seen both parts of the one where the doctor becomes human (Human Nature and Family of Blood), oh my gosh!! Doctor Who made me cry!!

  • 22 megan // Aug 21, 2007 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks for the recommendations Alyson!

  • 23 Bonne Marie // Aug 21, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    That –– P2 (4, 4, 6, 6, 8) –– is the current standard for giving multiple size numeric instructions (no space).

    Grab a Vogue Knitting or Interweave Knits and check it out :)

    Anytime I’ve written it differently, a tech editor has changed it to the above.

  • 24 megan // Aug 21, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks Bonne Marie. Do you happen to know if there is an official style guide for knitting patterns?

    Again, the mistake was all me reading through something too quickly. P2 shall never confuse me again.

  • 25 Hanna // Aug 21, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    I also make photocopies of multiple size patterns and highlight the size I’m using, but sometimes I cheat with internet ones and copy the text into word and delete the numbers for the sizes I’m not making. It kind of forces you to work through what the knitting would be doing in your head.

  • 26 Alyson // Aug 21, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    Hanna – That is a way clever idea. I get tons of patterns off the ‘net ( Rocks!), but I never thought of doing that with the patterns.

  • 27 Jessie // Aug 22, 2007 at 3:47 am

    It’s issues like that which cause me to rip out and re-start every project I start at least once or twice. Although, If I had gotten as far as you, I definitely wouldn’t tear it out. It looks fine with your “edit”.

    I really like working with the Cottonease yarn – I’m using it now to make a sweater for my niece – even if it is only half cotton.

  • 28 Emily Cartier // Aug 22, 2007 at 4:04 am

    Any of the standard technical references (Katherina Buss’s Big Book of Knitting, Vogue Knitting etc) should cover pattern directions. I tend to recommend a new knitter pick up a copy of one of ‘em, so they’ve got a good reference for all the confusing techniques that get thrown at them. They’re not fun, glamorous books, but they make up for it by being useful on every project.

  • 29 Amanda // Aug 22, 2007 at 4:28 am

    Because I am a terrible perfectionist- I would probably drop that column of stitches that should be a purl row and use a crochet hook to fix the error. It just takes a lot of bravery, and an even smaller ammount of skill. The “Fixing a run/dropped stitch” video here might explain what I would do…

  • 30 Karen // Aug 22, 2007 at 5:10 am

    so glad to see the cardi again, yay for you for getting through this! it makes me want to try a project that is not just a small cozy for some small object. if you are lazy like me you could just fold back the dang edge on each side and sew it down. too bulky maybe.

  • 31 megan // Aug 22, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Emily and Valerie – My issue wasn’t so much that I didn’t know how to read the pattern (I did), but that my brain was refusing to read that one line correctly. Especially in the context of end of day tired + wine + Dr. Who. When my brain has shifted into that space even consulting reference guides wouldn’t help because I simply didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong.

    I guess what I’m saying is I need big detail pictures all over my patterns, and stitch counts at every transition point, and importantly, lots of explanation as to why each action is taken. Of course, these things aren’t in knitting patterns because all the extra paper and ink would be very expensive. But, oh boy, I’d be willing to pay more for a pattern with them.

  • 32 Alyson // Aug 22, 2007 at 10:35 am

    I totally understand the “processing of what you read” part of reading knitting patterns. I often go to my knitting gurus at Cultured Purls in Issaquah to “check” on my pattern. I read it, think it means one thing, but am just not sure, so I check with someone who knows more than me. If they confirm my interpretation, I know I’m not a total idiot!

  • 33 Emily Cartier // Aug 23, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Evil nasty trick: rewrite the pattern in your own words after the first readthrough. Only include the numbers you need for your particular size. If things like inches confuse you (or you know that 1″ washed does not equal 1″ just knit), write it down in a way that matches your yarn. I often end up using a whole lot more words, but the pattern makes more sense to me. Plus, then I can incorporate dirty tricks like invisible cast on, 3 needle bind off, and short rows where I need them.

    And yeah, I have braindead moments all the time, tho mine are usually dyslexic. 31 and 13 are Not The Same. And YO, k2tog is not the same as YO, k2…

  • 34 Jennifer Smit // Sep 8, 2007 at 9:25 am

    I doubt anyone will read this because I’m sure this is a very old page. However I have a query and was hoping someone could help me out.

    You guys mentioned Dr Who and knitting…Well my boyfriend is absolutley dieing for a Dr Who Jumper. He’s going to hate me cause I can’t remember which doctor it is but it’s the last doctor of the old series, the one with Ace. Anyway, he wore a sweater. Kind of creamy with stipes and Red Question Marks all over it. As hideouse as it was he really wants one and we can’t seem to find a pattern around anywhere. Would any of you guys have a clue? I’m even looking into hiring someone to knit one for me by aid of photos but can’t find anyone who knits!!!

    Any ideas? Anyone think they could do this?? Let me know. My email is

    Thank you, Jennifer

  • 35 megan // Sep 8, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Jennifer – I found this on Ebay.

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