Thursday, 25 September 2014

Avoid Second Sleeve Syndrome–Don't Work by Halves!

Counter up to the 78th row
Decisions, decisions!

What to do next for this cardigan!

Some patterns are organised as one single process. The rows begin at 1 and count up until the end at Row x; e.g. Rows 1, 2, 3 … Rows 99, 100, … x.

The Belcarra Cardigan pattern is organised into sections; e.g. Back, Sleeve Shaping, Neck, Front, Cuffs etc.  and the row numbering restarts in each section at Row 1.

This 'modular' approach has many benefits, but I know that duplicate row numbers within a pattern is guaranteed to confuse me and encourage mistakes, especially when under the influence of fatigue.

How will I work out which row I am up to without having to read right through the pattern each time?  

Should I work the cardigan sections in a different order?

This post discusses different approaches to working in sections, the pros and cons of each, and the management of row numbering.

Organising the rows
Back panel and start of sleeves up to (my) Row 42.

I prefer to start at the beginning of the pattern and  renumber all the rows in order. I don't care if they get past 100 even if my row counter only goes to 99–the size of the work will tell me whether I am up to Row 101 or Row 201.

Select pattern size & check repeats

Eventually, there will be sections of the pattern that are repeated. For pattern brevity, it will list various numbers of repeats depending on the size but because of this variance, no row numbers are listed.

Without specific row numbers, it is easy for me to lose track of which repeat I am up to, and then it requires time and energy to review the pattern and work it out again. How much of this forgetfulness is fatigue and how much is due to my actual illness I don't know but it is mighty frustrating!

I hate to be bound to a piece of paper and pencil, constantly checking the pattern while working because a lot of my crochet is done out and about. I rely on my row counter and the knowledge of where to stop; e.g. work even until you finish Row x.

Work out how many rows I need to make for each section:

Sleeve shaping and beginning of neck shaping
up to (my) Row 69.
More detail about this photo can be found here.
If there are repeats (e.g., rep rows 2–5 eight times) I will work out the total number of rows required for that; e.g., rows 2–5 = 4 rows, 4 rows x 8 = 32 rows. If I am on Row 4 and then need to work this repeat, I will add 32 to the row numbers; i.e., I will work a total of 36 rows for that section.

Of course, this usually involves re-numbering the relevant rows. This is where previous pattern notes come in handy such as circling, underlining or highlighting all the instructions for my size. I just need to go through those marked instructions and write the new row numbers in place of the old ones.

At this point, I am just noting how many rows are needed in each section and I will re-number them from the start of the pattern once I have organised the order of sections.

My abbreviations based on pattern sections (from top):
Left & Right Front Shaping, Left & Right Fronts,
Left & Right Sleeve Shaping, Left & Right Neck Shaping,
Sleeve Shaping, Back.
Organising the sections

I do like the way Robyn Chachula has divided her pattern into different sections.

Although I don't want more than one 'Row 1' in a pattern, by restarting the numbering in each section, it means each section can stand alone as a pattern instruction – useful for swapping sections around between sizes.

It also provides some flexibility in the order of working them.

Here is a schematic of the basic cardigan shape, minus the cuffs and ribbing, showing the different sections of the cardigan.

The original pattern suggests working sections in the following order (my abbreviations):
Belcarra Cardigan Pattern Order
Follow the sections by numbers!


  1. B - Back
  2. SVS - Sleeve Shaping
  3. RNS - Right Neck Shaping
  4. RSV - Right Sleeve Shaping
  5. RF - Right Front
  6. RFS - Right Front Shaping
  7. LNS - Left Neck shaping
  8. LSV - Left Sleeve Shaping
  9. LF - Left Front
  10. LFS - Left Front Shaping
  11. CUF - Cuffs
  12. RIB - Ribbing

Have you ever heard of 'Second Sock Syndrome'?
That is where you complete the first sock entirely and then work on the second sock entirely. If your tension should vary between the start of the first sock and the end of the second sock, you may find yourself with two socks of different sizes! This is most likely to happen if you have a lengthy break between each one.

What about 'Second Sleeve Syndrome'? I was concerned about that danger if I were to follow the Belcarra Cardigan in its original order outlined above.

Did you notice that the entire Right Neck and Right Front sections are crocheted first before doing the same for the Left Neck and Left Front sections?  This scenario led me to envision a lovely cardigan where one side at the front was shorter than the other!  That will never do!

I prefer to work both sides simultaneously row by row to avoid an uneven outcome but that requires a re-ordering of pattern sections:
Belcarra Cardigan Alternative Order
I made it this way to avoid 'Second Sleeve Syndrome'


  1. B - Back
  2. SVS - Sleeve Shaping
  3. RNS + LNS - R+L Neck Shapings
  4. RSV + LSV - R+L Sleeve Shapings
  5. RF + LF - R+L Fronts
  6. RFS + LFS - R+L Front Shapings
  7. CUF - Cuffs
  8. RIB - Ribbing

I went through the pattern and wrote out the row numbers for the new order of working.

Where there was a right and left section (mirror images of each other) I would number them as Row 1R and Row 1L to indicate that these rows should be in line with each other. By doing the left row straight after the corresponding right row, I could easily compare the two halves to make sure they were symmetrical.

It also made the second side easier to work because the mirror image was still fresh in my memory.

I am very glad that I did re-number the entire pattern because I discovered that some sections had odd numbers of rows. That meant that some sections had every even row number on the right side and other sections had every even row number on the wrong side–more potential for confusion. Re-numbering the rows consecutively across all sections removed this odd:even/RS:WS issue.

A closer look at the neck shaping up to (my) Row 78.

Disadvantages of working row by row, both sides simultaneously are:
  • it requires joining in a second ball of yarn (one ball each for the right and left sides respectively) which may be inconvenient. 
  • slower working due to regular swapping of the hook from one working half to the other, together with the fastening and unfastening stitch markers.
If in a hurry, it is quicker to work one full front side and then the other with only one ball of yarn at a time; but I know myself and my crochet weaknesses and have chosen accuracy over speed with this project.

My final conclusion is that it is best to work row by row symmetrically and not work 'by halves'!

Related Posts on Lupey Loops

"From Swatches to Sleeves", 10 September 2014:

"Design Characteristics of an Easy Pattern", 28 August 2014:


  1. Almost done! Wow! You need to post a picture of you wearing it soon!

    Take care

    1. Yes, Anne, it is getting there. More photos soon. :-)
      I hope you are making good progress on your projects too.
      Jodie xx

  2. Hi Jodie! You could photocopy the pattern page/s and then write onto your paper which row/s you have finished, keeping track by writing it down. That is what I would do. Sometimes doing a rough sketch/drawing of the pieces will also help to visualize what goes with what.
    Hope this might help?!
    Happy crocheting!
    Ingrid xx

    1. Yes, I usually photocopy the pattern and then highlight the bits that are relevant to my sizes and make all sorts of notes all over it!

      When out and about it can be impractical to have papers out at the same time but I do agree with you that keeping notes is definitely the way to approach anything but the simplest of patterns.

      Like you, I prefer a visual reference such as a sketch, schematic or stitch diagram. With this particular pattern, I have been working off the schematic with my measurements and stitch counts written over it.

      Thanks for the helpful suggestions, Ingrid. I can tell you are very experienced at working with patterns.

      Jodie xx

  3. Coincidentally, I just discovered that Laurinda Reddig's blog "ReCrochetions" has an article about managing pattern repeats too this week. It is a guest post by Carissa Reid who is a contract crocheter and proofreader. (I used to be a proofreader too until MCTD took over.)
    Read the article at Laurinda's blog:
    Carissa Reid's blog is:
    I hope this is helpful to you!
    (If any of you know how to change URLs into active links in the comments, please tell me! For now, we will just have to copy and paste.)