after thoughts about double knitting

I have been knitting these cute little monkeys with snaps on the hands and legs. I love them in the larger size but the minis really tickle me. They snap together and I find them hanging about doing all kinds of acrobatic tricks and getting into mischief.The monkeys are fun and knit up in about 6 hours. I use double pointed needles for the appendages. The tail is easy you can make an i-cord for it. But the arms and legs would be too skinny using an i-cord but knitting a small amount lets say 8 sts on 4 needles would be awkward and fiddle-ly and drive a person insane. But  you can learn to double knit and finish the legs and keep all your marbles in the process. BUT (I know I am using the word BUT a whole lot here) including all these instructions in a pattern would drive my Chief Pattern Writer & Editor  insane. And I wouldn’t want to drive my daughter to the brink. So I promised to write up a some instructions here to explain the process.

Then I talked to my sister who is the Chief Pattern Test Knitter Extraordinaire. I know that is a lot of words but test knitter just doesn’t cut it- not when that person is your sister and you spend an hour on the phone with her telling her that the way it is written is right and she is wrong. And then knitting it together over the phone line a dozen times and suddenly in a small voice you have to say –damn it you are right ,I am wrong. It might not seem like a big deal to the Fish Tickler but there is a world of difference between a k1 and a pslip1. After hanging up the phone I had a good belly laugh because while we were knitting together I cast on 8 sts and then started in double knitting them but my little sis had picked up her sts on a spare hat that was lying around. and I could picture the arm growing out of one of her kids hat with a hand at the end of it. The way my brain is working or not working I think I could use a pair of hands on my hat – they could cover my ears to keep the grey matter in my head instead of leaking out.  BUT for this demo I thought I would make a little animal…..

 So I cast on a whatzit that

looks a little like a light bulb

or maybe a hot air balloon

BUT it is a practice knit to demo

double knit legs. When it is

finished it will be a cute toy.

As I knit I thought maybe the legs

on an octopus would be a neat place

to do some afterthought knitting.

After all I like the afterthought technique and the whole purpose of the octopus is just to make a sample that I can demonstrate double knitting.

The afterthought heel(thumb, pocket) is a great way to create an area for sts when you are done with an article of clothing without putting stitches on a holder and casting on stitches to continue knitting. I first learned about afterthoughts in a book by Elizabeth Zimmermann. It also makes a cleaner line than casting on more sts I think.

The Yarn Harlot wrote a great post about adding an afterthought heel to a sock. It is a fun read and she took excellent pictures of the process – check it out.

There are other ways to do this too. And like some people you might get nervous seeing scissors cutting into the knit item that you have spent so many hours on.  If you have a scrap length of yarn in your knitting bag and you know exactly where you want the afterthought knitting to occur you can knit those stitches on scrap yarn and then back up and knit over those stitches with the yarn you are using and continue knitting until you are done. Now here I could insert pictures of my octopus and the afterthought legs but why when so many great tutorials exist out there. I just googled and found a blog I really love with great pictures of the after thought heel with scrap yarn. Check out Knitting up a Storm and look at her great socks – her pictures and her writing explain the after thought knitting very well.

So this is a real cool trick to have up your sleeve and even better those afterthought leg openings are going to be where you can learn to double knit legs just in case you don’t need a hat with hands.


So here is what I wound up with.

I have 8 afterthought slots knit into

my sphere so I will be able to knit

8 arms. Oops well that kind of gives

it away. This sphere will be an octopus

when it is finished. Then I started

knitting the legs and taking pictures

and suddenly it occured to me that it

would have been great if I had written

down directions to the sphere  so that a knitter could follow along and make one of their own octopuses to practice double knitting on. Because really who wants to knit a swatch when you could knit something really useful like an octopus.  So I thought some more and knit some more legs and finally after 6 legs decided I just needed to back up and knit a second octopus and write a recipe for it as I knit. 

so if you want to follow along grab a scrap ball of yarn out of your stash and an appropriate set of double pointed needles. But I will warn you it is a rather wordy recipe because I am not going to have my daughter edit it.

set up row : cast on 4 sts. knit  back

row 2:  k1,m1    4X      distribute  8sts on 3 needles as follows 3sts on needle 1 & 2, 2 sts on needle 3

row 3:  knit round

row4: k1,m1   8X     needle 1 & 2 –  6 sts   needle 3 –  4sts    now you have 16 sts total

some people might already be asking what kind of m1–well that is really knitter’s choice I use my favorite increase or m1. I knit one then pick up the st in the row below it and knit it for my increase. If a yarn over is your favorite increase you can use it but I would caution you that you must twist the yo as you knit it in the following row to close up the ‘lacy hole’ so you don’t see the stuffing.

row5:  knit round

row6:   k1,m1, k1  8X   needle 1 & 2 -9 sts  needle 3 – 6sts      24 sts total

row 7:  knit round.

row 8:  k1,m1,k2 8X  needle 1 & 2 -12 sts  needle 3 -8sts     32 sts total

row 9: knit around

row 10: k1,m1,k3 8X   needle 1 &2 – 15sts  needle 3 10 sts     40 sts total

you have may notice that I am increasing in 8 equal segments. I think this is appropriate for a octopus and it will be easy to divide into 8 legs so I will continue increasing until the head is the size I  want. But I want the top of the head to be round not flat so I need to start putting extra knit rows in and spacing the increase rows farther apart to do this.

row 11 &12: knit around

row 13: k1,m1,k4  8X       needle 1&2 18 sts  needle 3 12 sts    48 sts total

row 14 & 15: knit round

row 16: k1,m1,k5 8X      needle 1 & 2- 21 sts   needle 3- 14 sts     56 sts total

so you can definately see a theme going on in the knitting here. like I said above there are 8 segments in my octopus head. and each time I start a segment I  k1 and then m1 and then knit the rest of segment. and each time the segment will have one more stitch in it.  And after a couple of round I also increase the number of rows between the increase round so that the head has a nicer curved shape. You can keep increasing and make a real large octopus or you can go smaller and make a small one. You could even use this formula to make a top down hat for yourself increasing until it is big enough to fit your head and then knitting a ribbed band and casting off.

row 17 & 18: knit round

row 19: k1,m1,k6  8X    needle- 1 & 2 24 sts   needle 3- 16 sts   64 sts total

row 20 & 21: knit round

row 22: k1,m1,k7 8X   needle 1 & 2- 27 sts    needle 3-  18 sts    72 sts total

row 23 – 25: knit round  *note 3 knit rounds this time

row 26: k1,m1,k8 8X  needle 1 &2- 30 sts  needle3- 20 sts   80 sts total

row 27 – 35: knit round

now this is the area where the eyes of my octopi will end up. you might want a longer head – if you do this is where you would add more plain knit rows. or maybe you want a really big octopus well just keep doing the increase rows until the head is as wide as you want it. Or maybe you want an elongated head that tilts to the back if I wanted that I would add in some short rows here. Oops I am getting really distracted here by all kinds of ideas and want to cast on another just to try out that head but I better just get back to this octopus I have in hand.

after making the head the size I want its time to start decreasing.

row 36: k2tog, k8  8 X   needle 1 &2- 27 sts  needle 3- 18 sts     72 sts total

row 37 – 39 knit round

row 40: k2tog,k7  8 X   needle 1 & 2- 24 sts   needle 3- 16 sts   64 sts total

row 41& 42:  knit round

row 43: k2tog, k6  8 X    needle 1 & 2-  21sts    needle 3- 14sts     56 sts total

row 44:  knit round

row 45:  k2tog,k5  8 X   needle 1 &2- 18 sts   needle 3- 12 sts      48 sts total

row 46- 51: knit round

row 52: k1,m1,k5 8 X    needle- 1 & 2- 21 sts    needle 3-  14 sts     56 sts total

row 53 & 54:  knit round

now it is time to throw in our after thought row.hopefully  you have  read the afterthought links that are in the beginning of this post but if you haven’t you can still grab your scrap of yarn and follow along cause it really isn’t that hard to do. I like to use a scrap of yarn that is bright and contrasts with the yarn I am knitting with so it is easy to see.

row 55: using the scrap yarn k6, slip 1 with yarn in front  8 X   I like to have the ends of the scrap yarn on the outside of the head when I am finished with this step to make it easier to pull them out later.

row 56 & 57: knit round   * note you aren’t using your scrap yarn any more you are using the yarn you have been knitting the head with

row 55: k2tog,k5  8X   needle 1 &2-  18sts     needle 3-  12sts           48 sts total

row 56: knit round

row 57: k2tog,k4  8X   needle 1&2-   15sts     needle 3-   10sts          40 sts total

row 58: knit round

the opening at the base of the head is getting smaller and smaller so this is a good time to stuff with fiber fill. I like to stuff it almost full and then just before binding off knead the body a little so that the stuffing is distributed nicely and then add a little more if it needs it.

row 59: k2tog,k3  8X    needle 1&2-   12sts    needle 3-  8sts         32 sts total

row 60: k2tog,k2  8X    needle 1&2-  9sts      needle 3-   6sts          24sts total

row 61: k2tog,k1  8X     needle 1&2-   6sts     needle 3-   4 sts        16sts total

row 62: k2tog   8X       needle 1&2- 3sts needle 3- 2 sts    for 8 sts total

actually you have to kind of fudge here taking a st from the 2 needle to decrease on the first needle but that is what happens when you get down to a small number of sts and it gets harder and harder for me to tell you how many sts on each needle. we have one more decrease row and we are done

row 63: k2tog  4X   and then cut your yarn and thread it through the 4 sts

finished- thats a whole lot of words so if you don’t mind I will leave off here and start a new post to explain  the legs or should I call them arms.




  1. Curls & Q said,

    September 14, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    Too fun! I have a grandson who would like this.

    • whatzitknitz said,

      September 15, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Octopi are fun. I love toys for trying out new techniques and experimenting with color. It sure beats making swatches. I have an octopi on the needles now cause I want to play with a few short rows and a new idea for eyes.

      • Curls & Q said,

        September 15, 2012 at 3:30 pm

        What a clever idea! Thanks for the tip!! I really do love short rows. To me its as if I’m preforming magic!

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