Knitting trouble – Help!

Collar trouble - this is not how to make a shawl collar

Collar trouble – this is not how to make a shawl collar

Sympathies to anyone who feels life is too short to bother reading this post.

This jumper should have been finished well before the one I blogged about 2 posts ago. I had raced through the back, front and sleeves with no trouble at all. I knew the inset collar would be more difficult but thought if I doggedly followed the instructions, all would be fine. Oh dear. Well, for a kick off, I couldn’t even workout how to “with a circular needle … pick up and knit 36 stitches up the right side of the front  neck …” I had a go with a lot of  muttering “for goodness sake”  which was no good at all, did a bit of Googling (helpful about the circular needle), ranted at the vicar which was very cathartic but it advanced me not an iota … and eventually I just gave up and stowed the knitting away out of sight.

Debbie Bliss striped jumper (Baby Cashmerino Bk 4)

Debbie Bliss striped jumper (Baby Cashmerino Bk 4)

Loop’s website suggested they had an SOS session on the second Sunday in the month. I rang and they said come in any time. Bless their warm palpitating human souls. So, last Friday I decided to dedicate the whole day to a Loop visit – that is after popping into Liberty (some lovely new Tana Lawns), Muji (where I was told my favourite photo albums had been discontinued) and Paperchase  (for their plain brown card lever arch files).  Sitting in a steam of evaporation (it was very wet and I no umbrella except those big unwieldy non foldable ones that drip everywhere) and looking like a bag lady, I collapsed on the very comfortable and well cushioned Ercol sofa feeling more than vaguely embarrassed as if an exam paper in a completely unknown language had been put in front of me. Fortunately an elegant swan-necked beauty gave me and my pattern full attention without a hint of condescension and got me going.

Debbie Bliss striped jumper (Baby Cashmerino Bk 4)

Debbie Bliss striped jumper (Baby Cashmerino Bk 4)

About an hour and a half later, having taken ages spacing out, picking up and knitting my 36 stitches up the neck, casting on along the back and then repeating what I’d done up the front down the other side (surprised that I didn’t need to pick up every stitch that offered itself), I had the right number of stitches on the needle. Having caught her eye,  my ministering angel then broke off her shelf stacking, returned to me and explained the next conundrum thrown up by the pattern ” knit … and then turn” (i.e. not knitting to the end of the row).  Ok, I think I got that, the turning mid row helps to shape the collar. More confident but with a concentration headache brewing, I was, however, delighted to be interrupted by a phone call from daughter No 1 inviting me up the road for  tea, carrot cake and a session with the Duplo.

Home and Monday, I set upon what I thought would be a short jog to FINISH the jumper.

But, even understanding  the turning mid row bit I find I don’t understand how:

The second row you can knit rib [k1,p1] 45 – i.e. 90 stitches when you only have 78 stitches on that needle (and so on for each subsequent row).

Further how is it that:

The 10th row tells me to rib 69 times (138 stitches) when I only have 111 to begin with (and no suggestion of increasing)?

I include a photo of the page from the pattern. I am doing the second size (the first one in the bracket) just on the off chance that someone out there knows exactly what’s required without having to spend too much of their time explaining it to me.



I can’t visit Loop again until next week so if anyone is able to shed light on my ignorance I will be utterly overjoyed.

I have lost a bit of confidence in Debbie Bliss’s patterns after seeing how many corrections there are to this book on her website, including one for this pattern. (I have, of course, lost the addendum sheet that came with the pattern book!) When finally I found an email address for the company I emailed them but received return mail saying it would take up to 21 days for them to answer. The jumper may not fit him then! I think it is such a lovely style with that neck caressing collar that I’m sure  it would become a favourite – if  only I can get it finished. I dread to think how many hours I’ve spent on this already.



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  1. Lydia S
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    So not sure how helpful I’ll be, but I checked on Ravelry, the on-line knitting/crochet community, and the only errata is the addition of the instructions for sewing down the collar. []. When the pattern says rib 69 times, I would take that to mean rib stitch over 69 total stitches, not 69 pairs of stitches if that makes sense. That would be my approach to the instructions.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Aaaah, I did wonder about the 69 single stitches. Now, I’m going to pick up my needles again and have a go. Thank you so much for taking the effort to check Ravelry, etc. for me. That was so kind Lydia and I’m really grateful – and you were really helpful. Now I feel I might actually get this jumper finished.

      • Lydia S
        Posted September 28, 2015 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        So glad to help! Look forward to a finished picture soon,

        • Mary Addison
          Posted September 29, 2015 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

          Coming soon, Lydia.

  2. Rachel
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    It looks like you are doing short rows to shape the shawl collar. Look at this web page for illustrations

    You are knitting part way across a row, turning around to go back a certain number of stitches (usually 3 more then before). You continue this way until you are knitting the full length of the row again.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      Oh gosh Rachel, this link is most helpful – it’s always good to have visual images and my searches didn’t turn up anything as good as this. Many thanks.

  3. Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    I can give you no practical help atall, but will add my sigh of exasperation to yours (or perhaps by now more a groan of despair??). It is incredibly frustrating when patterns (or recipes) make instructions that are almost impossible to follow. When this happens with recipes, I always suspect they have not been properly tested, or have been thrown together by some ‘back room team’ rather than by the person whose name appears on the front cover. I wonder if the same applies to knitting patterns? x

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Yes, yes, yes, Penny, instructions should be clear for even the uninitiated to follow (and I agree about recipes) yet I have to wait till up pops Lydia to tell me single stitches, not a rib pair of k1 p1 and for Rachel to direct me to a clear diagram. Thanks for your sympathy Penny – it’s much appreciated.

  4. Becky
    Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi. I agree with both the comments. Short rows seem very strange until you know what you are doing and then you realise how clever they are. Just always think of it in terms of all of the stitches that you have available to knit not just the ones you knitted on the previous row. I wish I could pop round and show you! Bx

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

      I wish you could just pop round too – 2.30 am last Monday would have been good for me!
      Thanks for telling me you agree with the other comments – it gives me great confidence that this jumper is do-able.
      There are so many little knitting techniques to get used to – I should have begun when I was younger.

  5. Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    I’m so glad you’ve had help, I’m as bewildered as you were!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 25, 2015 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      That’s kind Rachel, thanks for your empathy and for sharing my bewilderment.

  6. Posted September 25, 2015 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    Oh yes – I’m familiar with this sort of frustration! I find that Debbie Bliss patterns often leave a bit *too* much to the imagination. When I worked at a yarn store, I helped troubleshoot her patterns more often than those from any other designer.

    I’ve found that the website is a really good resource when I’m struggling with a technique or just need a refresher. They have comprehensive video tutorials for almost every technique, including short rows. Possibly the best thing is that you can replay them as often as you like without worrying about annoying the teacher/shop assistant/friend who is helping you – and they’re available any time, even at 2 in the morning.

    Looking forward to seeing the finished sweater!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 26, 2015 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      Interesting about the Debbie Bliss and I can’t say I’m surprised after what I’ve read on my internet wanderings.
      Thanks for the link – specifically the short rows – this will be very useful both now and in future and especially when I’m so irritated with a problem that I can’t sleep.
      Thank you so much for bothering to comment with such comforting and useful information.

  7. marge
    Posted September 26, 2015 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Yes to all of the above, but also I find the increasing use of the American ‘knit’ instead of ‘knitted’ adds to my confusion at times (sometimes think I’m permanently confused but…) as seen in the otherwise helpful link above – ‘In the yarn over method for knit short rows’. Yes, I accept the vagaries of our English language, and what a nightmare its irregularities can be, but ‘I knit a jumper’ still makes me wince.
    Good luck with the lovely shawl collar Mary.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 26, 2015 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Oh dear now I’ve got to include linguistic confusion to all the other things I’m finding difficult! You have a moan, Marge. It’ll make you feel much better. (I find the American use of Math for Maths jars in the same way)
      For me moaning about my knitting on the blog have been marvellously effective as I’ve received excellent help and links to brilliant resources which would have taken half a lifetime of visiting shops to achieve. Now – this morning- I’m going to return to the collar. Fingers crossed!

  8. Posted September 27, 2015 at 1:40 am | Permalink

    I would count how many stitches remain unworked on your left needle just before you make the first turn. The short rows ought to be symmetrical, so your second turn ought to leave the same number unworked at the opposite edge. I agree that “Rib x” must mean single stitches. And it looks as though each subsequent row wants you to work 3 sts farther than the last turning point. This means you need to look up how to resolve your short rows — there are a lot of different short row methods and you haven’t said which you are using, but they almost all require some further action to avoid a hole when you meet with them again. I will recommend yarnover short rows as amongst the easiest to master.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 27, 2015 at 5:08 am | Permalink

      Thank you for leaving your comment, Sarah. I’m beginning to see the mathematics behind what’s happening which falls in with what you’re saying. My big mistake was the ‘rib x’ being single stitches which now seems utterly obvious. From then on following the pattern was ok so I’ve no idea what short row method I’ve followed. There is so much new to learn but without people like yourself answering my plea for help I might have been forced to give up on this one. Now the collar is advancing well and I’m avery happy knitter.

  9. Penny Cross
    Posted September 27, 2015 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    No, life is never too short for your lovely blog, Mary, but sometimes it is a little too short to comment and do it justice. I sympathise hugely with this one – and am not surprised by all the reactions – as you would not believe the number of patterns I’ve hurled across the room, cursing the pattern writers with my armoury of colourful phrases. The best help I think is to have someone sitting beside you – hooray for Loop – and if you were to put up a ‘Help!’ sign on the church notice board you’d possibly have no end of competent folk queuing up to untangle unnecessarily difficult instructions. Good luck.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 27, 2015 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      I think I’m getting there, Penny – greatly supported by so many brilliant comments which have been a fantastic help technically and a great comfort emotionally. I may not even have to visit Loop again with this jumper – except to browse, buy wool or take them some biscuits to say thank you.
      Thank you Penny for your empathy – how easy it is for a few lines of ambiguous instruction to reduce common sense to a faint vapour trail glimpsed departing in a prolonged sigh?

  10. Posted September 27, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    Something I’ve come to believe is that it can’t hurt to complain about what you can’t figure out.

    Out loud, in public. 🙂

    So many people love to help. When your problem becomes known by others, the chances are greater that someone who knows the answer (or even part of the answer) can step up.

    — Vicki, agreeing heartily with everyone who is exasperated with Big Names who publish directions without first running them past non-experts!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted September 27, 2015 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

      We British are getting better at complaining but sometimes it’s hard to find to whom the complaint should be addressed (my Wednesday email to Debbie Bliss has not been answered, though to be fair I was informed it could take up to 21 days!). However, it is true that we do tend to moan more than complain constructively.
      But hooray for the blog community and all the helpful comments that have led to me solving my problems with short rows. 2 rows to go and this jumper will be finished apart from the side seams and a couple of buttons. I should get on with it tonight but I’m just too tired to knit another stitch, so I’m off to bed now.
      Thanks for what you say, Vicki.

  11. Lydia Over Here
    Posted September 30, 2015 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Mary, I have been remiss by not checking before. Have you found your way yet? What you are now learning is short row shaping – I only wish I was there to help you. On row 10 you are asked to Rib 69 – that means 69 stitches and then turn… you are knitting within the row and will not be reaching the end of the row. Does that help? You only need the 111 sts that are on your needle.

    I feel that many patterns forget that new knitters do not know the basics and become so frustrated with stitch counts, ribs etc etc and have no one to ask. I wonder if you have a friend who is an excellent knitter nearby. The only way is to be shown – online tutorials are good too, but the very best of help I think still comes from a knitting companion. I only wish I could be there to help you.

    It seems you have another Lydia and so I will now be called Lydia Over Here…

    • Mary Addison
      Posted October 1, 2015 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Lydia, I have found my way, although progress has not been uneventful. I even had to undo my casting off which I realised had to be very, very loose for the shawl collar to fall over the jumper in the right way. Not at all sure that the buttons were necessary – am going to try it on the recipient tomorrow and will blog it … and hope all will be well.
      You are spot on about the new knitters bit. Thank goodness for people who helped me with comments on my blog and hurray for you all.

      • Lydia Over Here
        Posted October 2, 2015 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        There is a very handy technique for creating a stretchy cast off – called Judy’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off. You can look it up on You Tube… I use it all the time for socks, necklines etc I think it would have been useful for you here…

        • Mary Addison
          Posted October 3, 2015 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

          This sounds like a good idea. Thanks Lydia, I shall certainly be using it.

  12. Jackie is confused
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    Hello – I realise I am a little/ very late to the conversation, but I am stuck at exactly the same point on the same pattern.

    I have picked up and knitted 36 up the right side, cast on 39 and then
    Knitted 36 down the left collar.

    I now have to start the rib row and I’m very confused as to whether I knit back up the left collar, which wouldn’t leave me enough stitches to turn and come back down with an increase of 3.
    Or do I start the rib row going up the right side, in which case I don’t really understand either as I think I would have the same issue with not having enough stitches when I have to turn…..

    I really hope someone can help.

    Confused, Islington!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

      Jackie, I sympathise and understand your confusion. I will try and look again at the pattern soon but if you are very desperate and you do live in Islington, just pop down to Loop in Camden Passage and they will give you hands on help. I once spent a whole Friday afternoon sitting on the sofa in the room upstairs and received all the help I needed as I worked through the bit that confused me – which was I think the collar you are having trouble with at the moment. I’ve made the jumper twice now and once you are clear about what you’re doing, it is surprisingly simple.

      • Jackie is confused
        Posted July 11, 2017 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

        Oh thank you!
        I popped into Loop this afternoon and I think they have explained it!
        They said I have to knit 39 to me k1,p1 – 78 st in total.
        I’m going to trust them and hope it works ?

        • Jackie is confused
          Posted July 11, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

          Sorry – auto correct on my phone changed that!

          It should read that they told me to do k1,p1 39 times.

          • Mary Addison
            Posted July 11, 2017 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

            Fingers crossed – just go back if that’s not it. Loop used to advertise sessions one day a week for people to come with queries. I phoned up to book a session and they told me they no longer do them as they were quite happy for people to drop in with their needles in a twist and that they would try to help. I think on the notorious Friday that I occupied their sofa I must have been helped by two or three people at least once each. I realise now that I was being particularly thick but by Jove it wasn’t half useful.

  13. Anne-Marie
    Posted December 12, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Thank you all for your posts. Some 2 years later I was stuck at same point not understanding they had switched from pairs of stitches to single ones. That combined with the errata not mentioning the collar stitching down had me confused what went where.

    Have unpicked back to start and am now on the right road. Even the circular needle added to he confusion. Had visions of it needing to be done in the round.

    Thanks all. My grandson’s Christmas jumper is back on course.

  14. Anne-Marie
    Posted December 12, 2017 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Thank you all for your posts. Some 2 years later I was stuck at same point not understanding they had switched from pairs of stitches to single ones. That combined with the errata not mentioning the collar stitching down had me confused what went where.

    Have unpicked back to start and am now on the right road. Even the circular needle added to the confusion. Had visions of it needing to be done in the round.

    Thanks all. My grandson’s Christmas jumper is back on course.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 13, 2017 at 2:27 am | Permalink

      I’m glad you found my posts helpful.
      I’ve just looked back over the comments and found those helpful all over again.
      The stretchy bind off mentioned there is the best – you should use it for the edge of the collar, it’s stupendous.
      (Sorry not to go back and tell you whose comment this was but it’s 2 in the morning. I’ve just finished making a cushion and will be off to London first thing.)

  15. Janet
    Posted December 9, 2021 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    How can I contact you? Please can you send me your email address?

  16. Jeannie
    Posted January 27, 2024 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Hello – it is 2024 and I’m stuck at the same point! I have read the above conversation several times and am still not clear. Are you still there? Please respond!

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