5 things I learned while frogging my sweater

Ever made a project that you weren't super happy with and hoped you would learn to like but never did? You know, that one where you made some mistakes but didn't correct them as you went and weren't brave enough to just start over to make something better that you knew you would love?

This sweater is that project for me. There is so much I don't like about it, where should I begin.

Failed Project

First off the yarn choice for this sweater style was not a good match. I used 100% organic cotton which has no stretch, is actually very heavy and isn't great with stockinette stitch. The collar ruffles fell flat, the armholes are too tight, and the yarn created weird stripes when knit in the round (which I didn't like to begin with, see post linked above, but tried to pretend I was ok with it).

Since it was done top down, I should have tried on the sweater as I went to make sure the empire waist hit in the right spot below the bust... well it didn't so it just looks awkward and I should have taken it out and kept knitting further down to correct it... but I didn't so I ended up with a project I didn't love and never really wore.

Frog an Old Sweater to Repurpose Yarn

Ten years later and I'm finally admitting this was not a good sweater, but I'd love to be able to repurpose the yarn for something better! The yarn is discontinued but I have 1-1/2 skeins left along with what I used in this project. I decided it was time to BE STRONG and frog the sweater and make something new I know I will love out of this fun cotton yarn.

What is frogging? Well when knitting just isn't going your way, maybe your garment size is way off or you don't like the style or the way the yarn is knitting up, you need to take out a large portion of what you have knit to redo or just plain start over. When you take the knitting off the needles you can start pulling the yarn, undoing the stitches, ripping out what you have done. You RIP IT, RIP IT, sounds like RIBBIT hence the term frog. It's very efficient, and sometimes you just gotta do it, no matter how sad it is to see all your hard work disappear so fast.

The empire waist tee was knit as a raglan sleeve top-down sweater, so to frog it I worked in reverse, starting with the collar, then the sleeves to the underarm, then from the bottom up. I used scissors to gently undo any tucked in ends and cut any knots I couldn't get undone. Each section I pulled out I then wound up using my ball winder aka cake maker so I could easily reuse the yarn for my next project.

I've put together a video of the whole process, with some fun time-lapse sections so check it out!

Lessons I learned while frogging my sweater

While I was going through this process, I made a lot of observations and learned a few things along the way. I've never frogged an entire project like this, so it was exhilarating to just let it go and unravel the whole thing. You can find lots of resources if you need help getting started frogging, so instead of a how-to, I want to give you some tips and insight into my experience with frogging.

1. I am very good at tucking in ends

I've always been worried when I tuck in ends that they aren't secure and my project will unravel with wear and tear. It was so difficult to get these ends out there is no way it would have unravelled on its own! I can rest assured, my triple back technique keeps those ends nice and secure.

2. This is way easier and takes significant less time than actually making the sweater

Once you get those ends loose, the yarn pulls out so easily and since I'm not trying to pick back up stitches, I only have to focus on winding up all the yarn. Putting an end straight to the ball winder made life super easy! Just a gentle pull from the winder released stitches and wound the yarn, no need to have loose yarn that would likely end up tangling on me while trying to wind up. Make sure you connect it directly to your ball winder! It really is sad that it took me months to make the sweater but an hour to take it apart, but at least I can be reassured that taking apart an old sweater is an easy process and can have new recycled yarn ready to cast on.

3. The ripping sound is very satisfying - 'rip-it' 'rip-it'

I can see where this term comes from. Yes you are ripping it out, but it also makes this soothing ripping sound as well. You can catch some of it in one of my clips within the video above. My husband suggested making a loop of just that clip to have the soothing audio sound. It's less stressful when you are distracted from the idea of losing hard work with the calming sounds of pulling yarn out of loops.

4. Fix your mistakes during the project, not after

If I would have been brave and ripped out the portions of the project I didn't like at the time, I could have saved myself a lot of extra effort and the disappointment of this end result. It's really not that scary to frog items, so since I knew at the time I wasn't crazy about it, I should have stopped midway and frogged then. Instead I stuck it out thinking I might learn to like it, but that never happened. I even tried blocking the heck out of the sweater to get the empire waist in the right spot with absolutely no luck (cotton does not block out by the way). Isn't this a great metaphor for a lot of experiences we have in life?! If you know you don't like it, don't waste your time thinking your opinion might change later or that you could 'learn' to like it or that you could fix things later. Give it up sooner and move on! Fix things as you come to them to save yourself from headache later, and know yourself well enough to say that's not for me and get to something you know is better for you. When it comes to my style, I've learned enough to know what works and what doesn't work for me so I'm making much better choices about designing knitwear I like and will wear.

5. Patients, patients, patients

Every knitter needs patients. Knit projects take time and this has been difficult for me to grasp at times. I'll see a sweater I want to wear and start to make it but takes me longer than I expected, so I end up finishing it when it's out of season or even out of style. Or I end up not finishing it at all! I have to keep in mind when I start a project to have patients with it, take my time to get every detail right, know that I won't be able to wear this for a little while BUT by taking the time to make it perfect I can wear it all the time after I finish it. I should have had more patients with this sweater, but me 10 years ago didn't have much patients at all. I must say I have learned a great deal of patients over the years through my career as a teacher and my life as a new mother. And that patients has carried over to my knitting projects. Reflecting back on how much I've learned and changed and grown, I am proud of how well I've learned this invaluable skill. If you want to work on your patients, take up knitting!! 

So there you have it, frogging isn't as scary as it seems and can be quite satisfying. You may even learn a few things about yourself along the way. I encourage you to have patients with your knitting, fix mistakes along the way, make sure you truly love what you are making and if you don't, have the courage to rip it out and start over!

Is there a project that you should have fixed but kept going anyway, only later deciding that you really don’t like it?! Ever deconstructed an old hand-made sweater to repurpose the yarn? Tell me your stories of failed projects so I don’t feel alone. Let me know in the comments below!


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