Vocabulary for Muggles: Frogging

One big reason for not posting my oldest WIPs yesterday was that I think they may require frogging.

No, I don’t mean I need to venture out into the night and start capturing unsuspecting frogs with my bare hands, though I hear that is a lot of fun. Frogging refers to the action of unravelling knitting, because you “rip it, rip it, rip it”. Get it? Knitters love their puns.

“Frogging” can refer to any type of unravelling in knitting, though more frequently it implies a sort of wild abandon while pulling on that thread. Some use the term interchangeably with “tinking” which I feel is a completely different act altogether. “Tink” is “knit” spelled backwards. To tink something, you leave the needles in the project and very carefully “unknit” the project stitch by stitch back to whatever point you were aiming for.

“Ripping back” is another phrase commonly applied to frog-like deconstruction. When a mistake is several rows back in the knitting and tinking may be too tedious, one could pull the needle out of the knitting and carefully, slowly, pull on the thread and unravel a few rows until you reach the mistake and then place the live stitches back on the needle. This process is scary, as those live stitches could go haywire and start retreating further down in the fabric. It’s exactly like getting a run in your stockings, except more heartbreaking because those stitches were not made by a machine, they were made lovingly and painstakingly by hand.

pic from memoiblog.net

There are ways to make it less scary though. If you were thinking ahead, you could have put in a lifeline which will allow you to rip back to a certain row without fear of live stitches getting ahead of you. If you lack the gift of forethought, you can still thread a needle or waste yarn through a previous row in order to create a lifeline after the fact. I have never tried it before, but knitty has a great article on how to do that.

If you need to steel your nerves before frogging, Ravelry has your back. They sell pint glasses to fill with your alcohol of choice.

Another gift idea…
pic from the Ravelry Mini-Mart

Sometimes the mistake is so huge or so early on in the project it’s just easier to frog the whole thing and start over again. Because it’s such a heartbreaking thing to rip out all those stitches, I don’t enjoy the process at all when it’s my own project being unravelled. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to do it though, you probably know that the act of unravelling a piece of knitting, whether made by hand or by machine, is REALLY FUN. When I need to frog something I usually hand off the project to my sister or boyfriend and let them gleefully destroy my work. At least someone gets to have fun with it.

I had never encountered the word “frogging” before Ravelry though, so for me “frogging” as a verb and “Frogged” as a descriptive term have very different meanings. In Ravelry your projects each have a status. There are four status options to choose from: In Progress (those are WIPs), Finished (those are FOs), Hibernating (WIPs that haven’t been touched in ages), or Frogged. In that context “Frogged” implies that the entire project has been scrapped. The item has been unravelled, the yarn has been salvaged, and you’re never looking back. I have ripped things back to the very beginning and cast on all over again, but since I haven’t given up on the project it’s still “In Progress” in the eyes of my Ravelry project page. I may have done some “frogging” but since I haven’t given up I would never call that project “Frogged.” I’m very stubborn when it comes to my projects, and I will usually insist on finishing them long after they have ceased to be fun (see previous post). To frog something without the intent to start again is to admit defeat. I have only had the heart to classify three projects as “Frogged” on Ravelry. Two weren’t really that emotional for me. One was a toy elephant I was trying to crochet, but I was having trouble following the pattern and the yarn was too thin for me to figure out where I went wrong, so I just gave up. The other was a very simple scarf that I used a completely inappropriate yarn for and when that became clear I frogged the whole thing.

The only one that stung a bit was another one of my earliest projects. It was from the skirt-making days when I was trying to experiment with more advanced and fashionable patterns. I fell in love with a pair of embroidered gloves in the Fall 2005 issue of Vogue Knitting and was determined to make them. I hadn’t yet learned the art of substituting yarn and chose a viscose/linen/silk/cotton blend yarn in place of the recommended wool. The resulting fabric was…odd. I only got through the arm of the opera-length gloves, but already I could tell it wouldn’t be stretchy enough to comfortably pull over my hands. After letting it sit for 5 years, I finally admitted they were never going to work and frogged it. Here’s the before picture:

That pattern + this yarn = complete nonsense.

And here is the result of my frogging:

So, there you have it. Frogging. I will now leave you with my favorite frogging song.

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